When Is a Review Not a Review?

So I’ve been following the issue with the latest release by Stardock, “Ashes of Singularity” which has been receiving relatively average reviews in terms of standard video game journalism. However, there was one notable outlier, GameSpot, which gave the game a 4/10. Now not being an expert in video game journalism or a video game journalist, and having never been paid for any review it’s hard to be called a “professional”. Though what that word means in relation to video game journalism is quickly becoming less clear these days. All this aside one has to ask, how often is it a video game reviewer has the person whose game they are reviewing blocked on social media, and also can be clearly seen as not having some form of bias?

Now I am not accusing Daniel Starkey, the reviewer in question, of having a bias against Brad Wardell. I am however saying that we would probably be hard pressed to find reviewers that block people involved in the development of a video game, who then go on to review a game from said people involved. This just does not feel like the normal practice of a games journalism outlet to let this happen, so why wouldn’t we look into everything surrounding this after seeing something so unusual?

Looks Pretty Solid To Me From the Trailer

Let’s be real here, as a games journalist, your job should be to inform us. We are the potential buyers of said video games, and we need the most accurate, and fair reviews as possible to help in making our buying decisions. If you are in fact giving the game a lower score and a poor review due to a personal dislike of one of the many people involved in the creation of a video game, you are actively doing a disservice to the public. Let’s take a look at someone who worked on the game, and their breakdown of the review on Gamespot. Going into this, we know that the person worked on the game, and we can establish that they will have a clear bias for their own game. However, looking at it, we can see some clear differences between the reality of the game as stated by one of the developers, and the review itself. Supposedly he played through the entire campaign without encountering the fourth resource, though the developer mentions that it is likely not a required resource if the mode of the game is set to easy. Considering Daniel Starkey’s profile tells us he is searching for the perfect Real Time Strategy Game, the idea that he would have played this on easy would strike me as incredibly odd. Unless the controls were horrible, which the review does not mention in any capacity.

Trees, Mountains, Grassy Fields, and Brightly Colored Lazer Action

So this is where we come to a conundrum. You see we can’t trust the review at GameSpot, assuming the inaccuracies are as FrogBoy claims, Daniel clearly did not play the game in the capacity he claims. On top of this, we can not necessarily trust FrogBoy either as he has a very clear bias for his own game. This has failed us as gamers and we have no way to absolutely trust either person without playing the game ourselves. Most of us simply don’t have forty dollars to give it a two-hour go in order to return it if we don’t like it, and then say we gave the game a fair go using Steam’s return policy. Though you might be delighted to know that Stardock Games offers an extremely generous return policy for its customers.

For a Change of Pace We Enter the Cold Arctic

Really the only way to view GameSpot’s review is that it is not a review. The job of a review is to inform us accurately, and correctly in the very minimum and GameSpot’s review fails at that level. Even if despite everything here mentioned, Daniel did, in fact, give his “honest opinion” and has no bias. He still would have failed to tell us about specific details of the game while simultaneously claiming to have done so. So even if he lacks that bias against the game due to a personal issue or dislike of any of the developers, he has failed his job as a reviewer, simply based on him describing specific details of the game inaccurately. It is in fact entirely the right of the developers, and the general gaming community to put GameSpot under heavy scrutiny because too many things are out of place to feel like a mere coincidence.

Are the Maps Really That Dry and Lacking Character?

Does this mean the review is unfair? At the end of the day, an opinion about a game is just that, an opinion, but a review is meant to inform buyers and factual inaccuracies on basic information are unacceptable. It is not just a matter of “difference of opinion” it would be like him telling us one of the reasons he disliked StarCraft is because it only had one race to play as. Coming from a person claiming to be in search of “the perfect RTS” this would leave the average reader questioning the credibility of the review when basic information on the game is wrong. He also does appear to have a bias against Brad Wardell. Blocking people who could answer questions you might have on something you are writing a review on is not just extremely unusual it also gives the appearance of having a conflict of interest. With the review being factually wrong as we have read, and the highly unusual nature of Daniel’s actions on social media for a reviewer to take part in, would be buyers of this game should be informed that this review due to all the things surrounding it, should not be trusted as a review meant to inform but an example of being not a review.

Screen shots and gameplay trailer courtesy of Stardock Games and the Official “Ashes of Singularity” Website.

Joshua Wiitala

About

Just a man who has been playing video games against doctors orders for nearly 30 years. The 80's was filled with idiots. Want to reach me? @JoshuaWiitala on Twitter.