Today, on my commute to work, I was listening to The Reformed Gamers Podcast – Episode 197. The host of the podcast, Logan, had on Colin Moriarty. Now you may now Colin from his work at IGN or from his podcast Sacred Symbols: A PlayStation Podcast. Anywho, Colin was talking about how for years he had passionately argued against review scores. How ultimately a review score of 8.5 or even a 9.0 doesn’t tell you a lot about the game in question. This got me thinking about review scores in general.
Here at JohnnyBGamer, I used to score games on a 1-5 system (1 being awful; 5 being the absolute best thing ever). For example, Josh and I rated Firewatch a 4/5:
4/5 – Plot holes mare what could have been a revelatory narrative experience.
We talk, in the review, about the game. What we liked, disliked, and what resonated with us. It is a fine review (wow, wrote that in 2016!). I even stand by the review score. But, sometime within the last year, I have decided to let the review scores go. I want to present what we like, dislike, and what resonates or doesn’t resonate. I ultimately want to be able to review a game without attaching a review score to it (see Biomutant review).
I realize, by listening the Colin today, that I do not have any sort of weight on Metacritic (nor do I want to). I want to:
Experience the games I play
Write about them
Share how they feel / play
I won’t be attaching a review score any longer. I realized that this is a decision I had already made but felt it was important to share.
For well over a decade, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has entertained millions around the globe. Allowing us to follow characters such as Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America as they ultimately triumph over evil. That cinematic universe has expanded into television with WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki (I won’t forget ABC Television’s Agent Carter either). All of which position Marvel as a household name and powerhouse brand. Now branding can be a tricky thing, especially when a product doesn’t live up to the gold standard the brand has set.
Tabitha, Wyatt, and I decided to give Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power a shot this past weekend. We borrowed the game from friends, after they couldn’t quite figure out what was going on with it. Having played Disney Villainous, we thought we were set to do battle against the Avengers, right? What could a few do-gooders do against the might of Thanos, Ultron, Killmonger, Hela, or Taskmaster?
First, we had to pick our villains:
Tabitha picked Hela.
Wyatt picked Ultron.
And I picked Taskmaster.
We each took turns playing our domain (our game boards); getting to know our individual characters, their cards, etc. If you haven’t played Disney Villainous, each turn consists of a player moving to one of four spaces (as shown below). In the “Reconfiguration Base” space, for instance, you can:
Play a Card
Draw 2 Power Tokens
Vanquish an Opponent
Once you do the four things the space requires, your turn ends. If the space has a Fate Card icon on it, like the “Manufacturing Array”, you draw from the Fate Deck. This is where the similarities with Disney Villainous ends and Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power begins.
The Fate Deck
In Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power, all of the Fate Decks are shuffled together. (Note that in Disney Villainous, this shuffling is not a thing. You keep your individual Fate Deck that other players draw from/play against you.) So in our case, the 15 common Fate Cards were shuffled together with our characters individual Fate Decks. This makes for one large pile of cards that can impact your turn by:
Someone sending an Ally
Dropping a Hero on a player (who then has to deal with said hero)
When a player draws an Event Card, the game is impacted until that event is dealt with. For “Helicarrier Alert”, you can only draw up to 3 cards at the end of your turn until players have sent enough Allies to deal with the 6 points of damage.
For the Event Card “Stolen Antiquities”, this card only directly impacts Killmonger. However, all the the players are free to Relocate Allies until the card is vanquished.
“Perfectly Balanced, as all this should be.” – Thanos
In the End
Perfection, balance if you will, Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power fails to bring anything of value to the Villainous formula. The addition of having one large Fate Deck, in combination with Event Cards, does nothing to the game but bring misery. Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power takes an already complicated game and makes it even more complicated (and longer, time-wise). The game feels like it needed a few more months of plotting before execution. Because of this, I will be sticking with Disney Villainous.
However, Wyatt loved it! Did I mention he won? He told me that the characters actually make sense within the context of the game, unlike Disney Villainous.
I have tried to put my finger on the reason developer Experiment 101‘s Biomutant does not gel with me. I know that it has nothing to do with Biomutant feeling like a AAA game made by a small design team on a limited budget. If anything, Returnal, developed by Housemarque, shares this indie game turned AAA game feel. Indie game developers being given a AAA game budget is a fantastic development. The size of the studio does not limit perfect execution on a core gameplay concept. The problem is when the story, which ties everything together, needs more time in the editing oven.
Into the Fire
Anytime Biomutant pauses the gameplay to further the story, told through static cutscene, I found myself wanting to skip it. Sure, there is the Narrator, who does a good job reading what text he is given. But even he cannot save what amounts to two 3D models standing next to each other, doing nothing, while he narrates. I cannot think of another game I’ve played, in many years, that has chosen to convey story in this manner. While I commend developer Experiment 101 for their cleverness in using a narrator, I wish they had chosen a different way to share their story with us.
On that note, I find the humor to be off… way off. At first I thought that it was a dark humor sort of thing. The more I played Biomutant though, the more I realized that the humor needed more time to bake. With a bit more time in the editing oven, I think Experiment 101 could have had a solid winner here. Alas, the way the story is presented with its humor, I 100% don’t get it. It’s not only odd but off-putting.
What I Loved
The handcrafted feel of Biomutant‘s open-world.
The way Björn Palmberg’s score blends so seamlessly with this post-apocalyptic Kung-Fu RPG.
The responsiveness/quickness of the characters movements.
The way the character runs.
What I Disliked
The way that combat is executed. I hate having to memorize combos. Square + Circle + Circle + L2.
Anytime there is a cutscene. Ugh.
In the End
There is a market for Biomutant. You might be the perfect candidate for it! I’m just not it. I need a compelling story to go with my Kung Fu. I need a reason to play.
Title:Biomutant Developer: Experiment 101 Publisher: THQ Nordic Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 MSRP: $59.99
Review by Bryan Hall
*Biomutant was reviewed using a code provided by EvolvePR.
I played this Biomutant flashback segment many times. Dying over, and over, and over again. After dying a few times too many, I finally noticed what the game was asking me and rapidly hit the square button. Problem solved. I could now get to my Mooma.