I’ve been playing, or rather mostly watching my wife play, Children of Zodiarcs, a really great tactical RPG which reviewed well (81% metacritic) but is inexplicably poorly rated on Steam. It’s got a “Mixed” reviews there, and I assumed it was a buggy version or had some period when it didn’t work right, but going through the negative reviews I just see a lot of bullshit criticisms (often from people with such low times played they could have refunded but did), which show that the person is just… bad at tactical games. I’ve never really see this before on Steam reviews. One review for example said a party member you got was useless - in fact they’re kind of overpowered! Others complain bitterly about the story - which is, at worst, fine and unintrusive. One particularly demented complaint said it was “like visual novel with battles in-between” - I’m really mystified by this one, given that there isn’t a huge amount of story whereas VNs are all story.
I guess it must be three factors:
The audience for the game is not the same as people who buy the game. You see this in both directions on any place where people can review media. If a niche product has only a niche audience, it tends to be reviewed really well. If a niche product gets a mainstream audience, it’s review scores often drop off a cliff.
The game, once it gets going (but pretty early one), even on Normal, demands a lot of ability to be flexible and roll with what you’ve got in terms of cards and dice rolls, and to not try and force “default” strategies (an approach which can work in a lot of tactical RPGs). You have to actually appreciate/understand probability (which most deckbuilder fans do in their sleep, of course, but not all tactical RPGs ask you to).
You can’t just overlevel stuff because it scales. Which I can see from a couple of reviews is definitely a source of some of the well… butthurt.
I mention this particularly because on Steam I’d looked for Final Fantasy Tactics-style games a lot, never been presented with this, probably because of the review scores. I only came across it because I saw it on Switch. It probably doesn’t help that the most upvoted review - from a man who played all of 1.4 hours of the game (so, the first two battles?) proclaims that it isn’t for people who want an FFT or Tactics Ogre-style game, which just a massive lie of the dumbest kind. It’s certainly different to those games, but equally is clearly a modern relative in the same way that Dead Cells is a modern relative of a lot of Metroidvanias (and Zodiarcs isn’t even Roguelike/lite, it’s a “normal” game!).
I notice that a lot of people seem to have been “discovering” the game on Twitch and the like over the year or so, so there’s that. But totally bizarre and butthurt Steam reviews like these are a novelty.
Talking of butthurt, Total War Warhammer 2 is currently being review-bombed… because Total War Three Kingdoms is stopping updates… Thanks Three Kingdoms players. Three Kingdoms is stopping because whilst the base game got excellent sales, the DLC sold poorly, and the population playing dropped pretty fast. But the fans are very keen to solely blame Creative Assembly (the devs) for this. So you see some hilariously twisted logic, where people are, literally in the same post or review-bomb saying “3K sold poorly because the DLC sucked but we want 3K to continue because there’s DLC they hadn’t added yet!!!”. It’s like, wouldn’t that also logically suck and not sell? But review-bombers are not known for their common sense or rationality I guess. And Warhammer 2 is catching because it’s a CA game and popular.
Anyway myself I’ve been playing a little bit of Monster Hunter RIse, which, somehow, looks better than Monster Hunter World on PC does… and seems to play considerably better too. I have no clue how they managed this. The framerate is obviously not as good, and there isn’t the same post-processing or whatever, because it’s running on a goddamn Switch, but it still has a better looking, and plays more smoothly. Damn. I hope they bring it to PC or make a Monster Hunter World 2 which learns from it.
It also has hilariously relentless character creation where the first thing you do is create and name your character, then you have to create and name your riding dog then you have to create and name your cat-person companion… all of them with detailed character designers - then you finally get into the game and you think you’re safe, but they almost immediately ALSO want you to name your helper owl… Christ guys.