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Previews and the gaming media

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Previews and the gaming media

Editorial - posted by Vault Dweller on Fri 21 September 2007, 16:52:01

Tags: Loki

Epigraph:

...and more importantly, the designer points out that regarding these issues, he "will probably fix it before you put up the preview".

That sort of misinformation is fine, when you're not costing anyone their jobs in the immediate or long-term. Put up a preview talking about problems in a game that never actually show up in the final game, or worse yet that you're just wrong about, and you haven't just hurt someone's feelings. You've cost sales of the game, for something that isn't actually the team's fault. It isn't even real.
Patrick Joynt, a GameSpy journalist

EUROGAMER CONVINCED BY LOKI!

After a dedicated press tour in the United Kingdom, Loki seems to have convinced most of UK journalists, starting with Eurogamer which has posted today a very nice preview.
Loki website



Let's look at the preview practices of the gaming media, using Loki as an example. Loki is yet another "epic" action RPG, yet another attempt to capitalize on Diablo 2 success, yet another spectacular failure. Reviews tore apart the game's weak mechanics and dull gameplay, describing it as "less entertaining than watching someone else watch TV", but hands-on previews showed complete ignorance of Loki's numerous faults. Why? Because to journalists these faults, according to Patrick the GameSpy journalist, weren't "even real".

GameSpot's Loki Hands-On Preview:

As you develop your character, you'll gain experience levels. Each one allows you to allocate a number of points into various statistics, ranging from strength and dexterity to intelligence and vitality. These have a direct impact on your character's ability to fight and cast spells, as well as influence other aspects, such as your number of hit points.
Fascinating. I'm really glad I read this very informative preview. Keep up the good work, GameSpot.

ActionTrip's Loki preview:

Loki also features a solid variety of foes such as skeletons, giant spiders, centaurs, mummies, harpies, wild animals, different types of soldiers, etc. In time, however, players must face up to likes of huge bosses, which are a lot deadlier than the random opponents you meet along the way. (The revolution in action RPG gaming is at hand! - Capt. Sarcasm) According to the development team, bosses were bestowed with an enhanced AI, to further increase the challenge. As you progress, you'll eventually get to fight against legendary creatures such as Medusa, the Minotaur, Fenrir the wolf, Fafnir the dragon and more. Although they are smarter and harder to kill than ordinary opponents, each of these bosses has a weak spot and it's up to you to discover what they are.

(On paper, this game sounds so incredibly generic, it's not even funny. Maybe Vader was unable to identify the game's real strong points. On the other hand, maybe it's all about the execution, and what sounds mediocre in theory might play very well. We won't know until we've played it obviously. - Uros "2Lions" Jojic
It's interesting to note that Uros, the founder and editor of Action Trip, could easily see both the game's and the preview's similar faults (mediocre and generic), so it's not just me. It would have been better if Uros requested a rewrite, reflecting Loki's strengths and weaknesses and actually *informing* ActionTrip's readers, but I guess that's not what previews are about.

Jolt's first impressions:

Anyone who has played a similar action RPG will be immediately at home, which is to say the game follows the Diablo template quite closely.

Although there is currently a glut of hack’n’slash RPGs, most of which are pretty mediocre, Loki’s offer of not just one but four fantasy settings is an intriguing one. Hopefully the interface and some of the dialogue presentation will be cleaned up in time for the game’s release at the end of September.
That's the most descripting quote I could find. The previewer was guarding Loki's gameplay secrets with his life and the preview could be summarized as "come on, guys, it's a game. You install it and play it. What more do you really need to know?" Jolt's review, however, spared no words describing the game's poor design:

Jolt's Loki review - 4.7/10:

Ah. Another let-down. Again, it’s not that they are bad, but there are dozens of games out there that look better and do much the same kind of thing, so why would you bother with a second rate substitute? Loki firmly belongs in the ‘seen it all before and now want to see it done better category’.
...

So that’s Loki, an okay game that could have been good. Taking solid features from other games and adding in an online mode should have been a winner. It certainly should have been a finished game that was far better than just about scraping average. Admittedly Diablo 2 and Titan Quest are so much better than this that Loki doesn’t even register on their radar of competitors, meaning that if you haven’t played those two games to death then stop reading now and go and buy them, especially as they are both on budget labels now. Even if you have, there are more enjoyable alternatives out there lurking. This game has basically been done before and been done better. Even for hardened action RPG fans who are looking for their next fix before Diablo 3 hits, it would be difficult to recommend much about Loki that would provide them with any sort of new buzz.
...

Admittedly Diablo 2 and Titan Quest are so much better than this that Loki doesn’t even register on their radar of competitors, meaning that if you haven’t played those two games to death then stop reading now and go and buy them, especially as they are both on budget labels now. Even if you have, there are more enjoyable alternatives out there lurking. This game has basically been done before and been done better. Even for hardened action RPG fans who are looking for their next fix before Diablo 3 hits, it would be difficult to recommend much about Loki that would provide them with any sort of new buzz.
And you just realized it? Or did you hope that all the flaws would somehow disappear by the time Loki hits the shelves?

EuroGamer's preview:

So far, then, Loki is looking very much like a solid, likeable and extremely polished hackandslash RPG, with some lovely mythological elements and a few nice touches to the gameplay to give you a warm glow as you march through a few-dozen hours of play. ... looks well-pitched for any of the PC's many fans of hackandslash gameplay.
At least EuroGamer had the decency to admit that they fucked up:

Eurogamer's Loki review - 5/10:

When we previewed French developer Cyanide's action RPG title Loki at the start of last month, our conclusion was that the game was shaping up to be pretty enjoyable and entertaining, without actually contributing anything new or particularly interesting to the action RPG genre.

We used words like "solid" and "competent", which is a bit of a shame; in retrospect, we'd prefer to have saved such phrases for this review. Perhaps we'd qualify them a little, though. Loki is fairly solid. It's quite competent.

The problem, as you may have gathered, is that there's not a lot to actually like about Loki. Our primary fear, when we previewed the game, was that its shameless aping of previous games in the genre would overpower the general competence of its execution. This is indeed the case; and the results are deeply, deeply, almost crushingly average.

There's much to be said for games which simply polish an existing formula to a shine - but Loki, sadly, doesn't even quite accomplish that. It's solid, and it's competent, but unless you're absolutely crazy for point and click action RPGs, we find it hard to recommend a game on the basis of competence alone.
I wonder what would have happened if most previewers who actually had a chance to play Loki openly shared their concerns about the game. Most likely it would have forced the developers to improve the mechanics and deliver a better, more polished game in the end, while generic positive previews failed to do anyone a favor.

Gamers Europe's review:

This game is so flawed, so monotonous and deathly, deathly dull that I'm struggling to think of any reason whatsoever to waste your time and money on it.


NZ Gamer's review:
The gameplay itself is, in a word, dull dull dull. I know that’s technically three words but they’re all the same so I figure that’s close enough. There’s nothing interesting happening, you don’t care about the robotic, jerking townsfolk that the monsters are threatening and the super boring, no-AI-whatsoever enemies are quite possibly the single most boring (they’re all the same, they just look different) enemies ever imagined. Ever. EVER. They don’t even look very good – from the default camera view, you often have no idea what it is you’re fighting. Indistinct, boring, no-AI, bland enemies do not a compelling experience make.

So, should you buy it? Absolutely not. ... If someone offers you this game for free, I suggest you refuse.
Next time someone offers you a generic, non-informative, but surprisingly positive preview, I suggest you refuse it too. For the sake of the game you're waiting for.


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