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Gauging the Critical Reception

William Murphy Posted:
Editorials Bill Murphy 0

I think it’s safe to say that Carbine’s WildStar will not be as divisive of a game as Elder Scrolls Online has been. But earlier this week, I and some other team members here at MMORPG were trying to guess just where the game would land in terms of critical acclaim.  We were pretty evenly divided into two camps.  One side believes that WildStar will sit in the 80s because, despite its old-hat questing, it’s still a very fun and polished game hitting all of the check-list areas of what a theme park MMO should have.  The other side of the argument thinks that Carbine’s freshman game will fall somewhere in the mid-70s due to backlash that other recent MMO releases have been receiving.  Let’s dig a bit deeper into both sides of the discussion.

It’s easy to see why the 80s group feels the way they do. Like it or not, most critical reviewing is done with the idea that a 70 is a C, 80 is a B, and 90 is an A. Games tend to be rated on a scale that’s more like American education system’s grade scale, rather than using the full 1-10 range. This will never change, no matter how many people wish a 5/10 was average and not an immediate “do not buy” score. With this knowledge it’s plain to see why some of us think WildStar’s Metacritic average will fall in the mid-80s.

There may not be a lot new to WildStar.  Instead the game seems to be taking the “Improving the Wheel” approach by adding tweaks and fresh ideas to existing proven systems in the MMORPG landscape.  Movement and Combat are both refreshing new takes on how to interact with the world. Housing is a deep and layered experience. Every single system for PVE and PVP that most MMO gamers would want from their theme park is in WildStar at launch. And above all, the game has character and a personality all its own.  The camp of us that thinks WS will end up with a compiled score of 80+ think that the only real detractor to Carbine’s game is the fact that it tends to have a “More of the Same” feeling to its general questing and gameplay. By not trying too hard to reinvent the wheel, is Carbine limiting their game?

Every critic will agree.. Chua rule.

This is where the other side of the argument comes in.  The group of us who thinks the game will wind up in the mid to high 70s on Metacritic is actually the group of writers who enjoy the game the most. The reasoning for the lower prediction? If you look at many other recent AAA MMO releases, it seems that the only one who scored high marks was Guild Wars 2, a game that tried very hard to do away with the typical MMORPG mechanics. This group of writers thinks that by adhering to a lot of the gameplay standards made famous by Blizzard in 2004, Carbine’s game might get hit with the “also ran” syndrome and reviewers will say something along the lines of “Why not just play WoW?”

Now, I know… who the heck gives two bantha poodoos? Personally, I loathe scores. I hate having to give them out with our reviews, but it was long ago decided that we would use numbers for a lot of player and writer metrics on the site and let’s face it: people love to argue numbers.  Most people will skip the written portion of a review, read the conclusion and the score, and head to arguing their stance in the comments.  Scores matter because they inform purchases. There may be plenty of people who don’t care what a review’s score says about a game before they buy it, but for others the scores from their favorite outlets and the average review on Metacritic will determine if they buy a game, wait for a sale, or pass altogether.  Those silly numbers that differ in their meaning from person to person, also have a commonly accepted meaning of good or bad.  80 to 100 is immediately worth a buy for many consumers, while 79 and under means you need to do some more detailed research before buying in.  This is ridiculous, and yet proven truer and truer with every game released. 

The artwork will be the least divisive topic.

MMOs are a unique beast in that a lot of people will pre-order before reviews come out, based on hype, their own experiences in beta, and love of the IP in general.  But there’s a large segment of the market that doesn’t buy the game on day one, and instead checks their favorite media outlet like IGN and Gamespot for new games and their reviews before buying.  It’s these people that Carbine wants to have a score of 8 or higher for, not you or me. 

So where do you think WildStar will land on the Metacritic score? I’m not asking what you think the game deserves, but rather where you think the critics will place the game based on recent releases and WildStar’s own merits.  I have my own thoughts, but since I’ll be reviewing the game in June, I’d like to hold onto them for now.  Leave us a comment and let us know your predicted metascore out of 100, and tell us why you think it will end up there.  

Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.