Oh boy. What am I taking on? I am in no shape or form able to comment on pixels and graphics besides what I read online and the very nuanced opinion of “looks good to me”.
So to set expectations, I will not be discussing optimization of graphics cards or system requirements or anything like that beyond the scope of does the game run well. And for me, well means can I play this without rage quitting? That seems to be a low bar but trust me, patience is a virtue I do not possess.
What I do have some credibility in (if my minor in creative writing means anything–which it doesn’t, not really) is story and characters. This chapter will touch upon these two main themes of art and how I’ll incorporate it into my reviews.
Ah, the buzzword of buzzwords. Let’s break it down because it’s a good, punchy two-word phrase that describes a lot. What I consider to be a prime user experience encapsulates the following components:
- Intuitive UI (Max: 18 points)
- Appropriate level pacing (Max: 20 points)
- Sensory realness (Max: 25 points)
I’m talking menu design and controls. The blisters on my hands from too much Mario Party should be a testament to the importance of proper controls. And I’ll readily admit here that I will only play one version of the game. But I will note what system and encourage discussion on how that may change depending on you console of choice.
As for menu design. Ah…menu design. Though I can often overlook something like this entirely as a game progresses, the UI of Persona 5 is beautiful and needs to be recognized as such. On the other hand, games with a TERRIBLE interface need to be penalized.
So how do I change this qualitative mumbo-jumbo into points? Ask no more:
- Intuitive and Beautiful: 18 points
- Easy to learn and Beautiful: 15 points
- Easy to learn and Pretty: 12 points
- Hard to learn and Beautiful: 6 points
- Hard to learn and Pretty: 3 points
- Hard to learn and Ugly: 0 points
The ranges ignore Intuitive and Ugly and that’s done purposely. In my experience, intuitive design is built from something seamless, and even if the design choice of controls or menu isn’t my aesthetic, they’ll middle to easy to learn and pretty. I value intuitive design over pretty. That’s just how I roll.
Appropriate Level Pacing
There was this one time when I was 10 when I beat Kingdom Hearts without changing keyblades, and I thought it was the hardest game known to man. Sorry, that’s a digression, but that game with its unskippable cut scenes and my naivety of equipment changes is what I think about when I think of level pacing. There will only be two things I consider when assigning points for level pacing: is it appropriate and are there levels for all gamers?
- Appropriate level pacing and varied difficulties: 20 points
- Appropriate level pacing: 13 points
- Inappropriate level pacing and varied difficulties: 6 points
- Inappropriate level pacing and no varied difficulties: 0 points
Like Intuitive UI, I value level pacing more than level optionality. If a game is appropriately paced, it should be rewarding for both beginners and hardos. Hence the lean towards level pacing in the point designation. What I will also be doing is judging if the varied levels are actually varied. What I won’t be doing is penalizing games for having a level of play that’s “too hard” unless they are virtually impossible. I always like a challenge.
This is graphics and bugginess. This is voice acting (when available). This is world building and music and does everything fit the aesthetic of what this game is trying to say? One important note, because I will most likely be reviewing games across my years as a gamer, context of when the game was released has to be considered. Quality of Life will be knocked down in UI, but FF7 will be considered a masterclass in graphics in all it’s LEGO-building-block glory.
Points for this category will be determined by how real I find the game, taking into account game type, console generation, and time of release:
- Too real. Is this a game?: 25 points
- Beautiful for its time: 18 points
- Par: 12 points
- Missing Components: 6 points
- Ugly Monster: 0 points
Bonus points for Easter eggs because I love Easter eggs.
Okay, real talk. If I were making an un-reputable blog or something (which this probably is. Don’t comment, please), story and characters would get all the points. I mean it. Every last point would matter in this subsection and this subsection alone. But in an attempt to nerf myself, story will only get a sixth of the points in my control. That’s as fair as it’s gonna get. One important note is I will evaluate story in the context of proper comparables. As in, I’m not gonna compare an RTS to an RPG. They’re inherently too different.
Story components will be evaluated based on the following:
- Plot (Max: 40 points)
- Characters (Max: 22 points)
You may have gotten the hint by now, but I’ve played a lot of JRPGs. That basically means I’ve played through a lot of nonsensical garbage.
Plot will be evaluated on the simple basis of: does this make sense within the context of the game? Which means, I don’t want to play one and a thousand spinoffs to understand what’s going on. However, I don’t mind if a spinoff reveals more of the plot. A nuance, but an important one. A superb plot will also be original and not riddled with holes.
- Original, logical storyline: 40 points
- Original, sometimes illogical storyline: 30 points
- Unoriginal, logical storyline: 20 points
- Original, illogical storyline: 10 points
- Unoriginal, illogical storyline: 0 points
That’s it. I can’t write any more about this because it’ll end up being another 1000 words. Oh! Maybe just one thing to note is that I value logic over originality as we start to middle. In my eyes, it’s much easier to make an original mess than you’d think.
Oh! And one other thing. No spoilers…most times. This is a spoiler free zone for any game released in the past 10 years. That’s the cap, but I’ll try not to spoil more than I need to in ALL scenarios.
If I could make a blog of character studies…wait, no. I don’t need ideas. To reiterate, I won’t judge different types of games the same way. I’ll expect the silent protagonist to be silent and the random barbarian scout to be, well, a random barbarian scout. Similar to plot, I will judge how original the characters are within the context of the game. Some games will be held at a higher standard in terms of character arcs and development and all that good stuff. It’s all about their universe of peers.
- Original cast of well-developed primary and secondary characters: 22 points
- Original cast of well-developed primary characters: 11 points
- Basically pixels on a screen: 0 points
Two things you may note: (1) That’s not a lot of ranges and (2) if I love characters so much, why is the max only 22 points? Well, to be quite honest, 22 makes the points equal to 125 (so there’s that), and also, I plan to discuss cast and diversity of characters in the next chapter.
Yeah, may have unnerfed myself. Shhhh.