Last month, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was released and raised a rather important question after famed video game critic, Jim Sterling, gave the title a harsh score after encountering a rather rare game breaking bug.
This action did receive a lot of coverage after the title received favourable reviews from both critics and the general public, with many stating that it did live up to the idea of an “independent triple AAA game” the developers of the title (Ninja Theory) had been touting.
Despite the fact that Sterling later amended his score after finishing the game to one that was more in line with that of other review scores, it did ultimately get me thinking about the question of how bad bugs in a particular game need to be in order to warrant giving it a bad review.
In an attempt to answer this very difficult question, I did go through a lot of pages and comments, and it doesn’t seem as if there is a general consensus with regards to which sort of game-breaking bugs are annoying enough to warrant a bad score.
It seems like there are a load of factors that gamers seem to take into account in determining this. As there are so many different factors, I decided to list the three points that I encountered most frequently.
1. The Frequency At Which A Game-Breaking Bug Occurs
It seems as if many gamers don’t feel that a game should receive a bad review if the bug in question isn’t really something that occurs very frequently, meaning that only a handful of players may ever actually encounter it.
Perhaps, a very good example of this whole idea can be seen in the whole Jim Sterling situation, where many felt that the bug encountered wasn’t important enough to warrant giving Hellblade a bad score as he was one of very few to actually encounter it and the game provided an otherwise relatively good and polished experience.
It may be important to consider the fact that it may be quite difficult for anyone to remain impartial if you are the person dealing with the game-breaking bug that may take some time to fix (if it ever actually is).
However, if ever in such a situation, instead of writing negative reviews or publishing hate comments about a game, it may be important for one to take a step back and actually analyse whether one’s feelings of the game at that point really do represent the whole experience.
2. The Game’s Developer Or Publisher
Many do believe that sometimes it is actually the name of the publisher that will determine the amount of criticism a particular title receives from the gaming community.
One such example that many gamers do tend to point out is the general reaction towards Bethesda and titles in their Elder Scrolls and Fallout series, which have previously been released with a load of bugs in them.
Some have suggested that Bethesda has gotten off lightly in the past and if other publishers released titles with the same level of problems in them, they wouldn’t get the same treatment.
This is an idea that I have thought of quite frequently since the release of Assassin’s Creed: Unity in 2014; a game which is largely remembered for being an unplayable buggy mess by the gaming community.
Some at the time did suggest in discussion areas that one never saw Bethesda receive as much backlash for releasing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim with the sheer amount of problems it had, particularly on the PS3 version of the game.
Well, this whole idea is certainly is open to interpretation (you could probably find a lot of different discussion pieces criticising Bethesda for Skyrim’s state at release all over the internet), any sort of leniency in this situation does seem to be based more on the overall genre and ultimate aim of the game.
This can be seen in the fact that Bethesda has indeed received criticism from the gaming community in the past for releasing games in a terribly buggy state.
A good example of this could be seen in Dishonored 2 last year, which supposedly had a PC port that ran absolutely terribly, with some gamers stating that they were not even able to start the game for some reason.
3. The Genre Or Aim Of The Game
As a whole, gamers generally tend to be more lenient on titles that fall within more ambitious genres, such as open world RPGs, or games that simply attempted to provide newer or more fulfilling experiences.
Continuing with the Bethesda example, one could perhaps see this with Skyrim or Fallout 4.
There seems to be a divided opinion on these two games with regards to the idea of bugs. Some feel that it is expected to see games with such a large scope with several bugs (some even being game-breaking) and others who feel that Bethesda shouldn’t release such broken products and leave it up to the modding community to fix it (which incidentally many believe they have been treating very badly as of late.)
The fact that there are some players willing to overlook such problems does suggest that overly ambitious games containing some bugs, even if game-breaking, is not really a big enough problem for some to warrant a bad review.
So, Should All Games With Game-Breaking Bugs Receive Bad Reviews?
Despite these three factors seemingly playing some sort of role in some gamers’ process of determining whether a game-breaking bug in a game warrants giving it a bad review, it may not fit everybody’s criteria.
I tend to believe that if you had a good experience with a game until you encountered a game-breaking bug, it should not always necessarily hurt your overall view of the game despite it being very upsetting, especially if it is something that developers can ultimately rectify in the long run.
It is important to note that bad reviews may ultimately hurt a game’s overall sales performance, which could actually mean that a specific title doesn’t get a sequel or even perhaps the death of a particular developing studio if the financial ramifications are bad enough.
This whole idea has raised questions about the manner in which the whole reviewing process is conducted. Recently, many have been asking whether or not a video game reviewer should be good at video games (a gaming journalist was recently recorded struggling to get past the Cuphead tutorial at Gamescom) and developers do often patch bugs, in turn making for a more fluid gaming experience, but these are debates for another article.
There are games with game-breaking bugs out there that deserve bad reviews due to their bugs, but that is not really the case with every single game.
All we can do is hope that games aren’t frequently released in messy, buggy states that render them unplayable.
So, what do you think? Are game-breaking bugs enough to warrant a bad review for a game, regardless of the circumstances? Have you ever encountered a game-breaking bug that has changed your opinion about a game? Please share in the comments down below.