ISKMogul will at times review games and/or products for the purpose of distributing the information to our readers. We strive for fairness and balance in our reviews, but we acknowledge that at times the context of a given game and its review could be misunderstood. So if you as a reader or developer of a reviewed product have questions, please ask us.
We will judge games based on five criteria: Design, Execution, Functionality, Value and Enjoyment.
Since we’re moving away from scores, we’re dropping certain considerations and trying to instill more of a consistent mindset in our reviews. The listings below will strive to communicate this for our users and reviewers.
It cannot be stressed enough that context will be taken into account in all reviews. In practice, no one should expect a budget or mobile title to possess the same level of graphical fidelity or mechanical polish as a AAA title from a major studio; We don’t have that expectation either and attempt to take into account those subtle and not-so-subtle differences at all times.
This is, simply put, the vision a developer had when creating their product. The reviewer will try to understand this vision to better gain insight into the type of game they’re playing and how it’s meant to be played. The goal here is to better understand what kind of audience the game is aimed at, and who will enjoy playing it. Considerations for both the gameplay and writing will be taken into account here. There will also be thought given to how well-designed UI and levels are, and how intuitive they are to play. A well-done UX is key to a good game.
The execution for a title is a continuation of its design, but deals solely with practical elements. The reviewer will strive to apply a more practical and less abstract determination of a game’s overall quality here. How well does a game remain consistent and coherent in both its gameplay and narrative style? Consider a title like Undertale, a game that is very consistent in both areas, even when it’s messing with the player. Or maybe take into account how well an open-world game immerses the player without leading them by the nose.
Functionality is the purely technical side of the game or product. Bugs, performance issues and crashes will be noted here. The review will also strive to illustrate what things can be changed, if any, to make for a better experience. Are there framerate issues? Are there patches that need to be applied to make a game even playable? These kinds of things will be pointed out.
Value sections will act as a simplified metric illustrating whether a reviewer felt as if the price paid for a product was “worth it”. Reviewers will strive to measure this in the least subjective way possible. A measure of how many hours of enjoyable play were had with the product is our goal here, as this is purely a value proposition aimed at people who know the type of game they want, and just want to know if they should spend money on a game that lands in their preferred genre or style.
This is the truly subjective element to a review. Enjoyment will act as the catch-all for personal taste in a review. Elements that don’t fit into other categories in terms of negative impact may end up here. This section will act as the final summation of the reviewer’s personal feelings about that product on a personal level. This is less the reviewer trying to feel out the target for the game, and more how they felt playing it on an individual level.
Who Is This For?
This is a unique section being added to effectively replace the Scores of older reviews. There’s a big gulf of style in both gameplay and narrative between one game to the next, even in the same genre. The Command & Conquer and Starcraft series’ occupy similar genre spaces, but are vastly different in tone, style, and even certain elements of gameplay. This section of a review is meant to illustrate how the game ultimately achieved its goal of satisfying its target audience. The reviewer will attempt to place themselves in the right headspace throughout their time with a game to make this determination. For example, if an RTS is objectively broken or unbalanced, unfun to play, or severely lacking in features, it will be noted in summation here.
Let’s make a comparison to be more illustrative of the idea we’re going for in reviews.
Consider two games; Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Undertale, both incredible games that many outlets have given near-perfect or perfect scores to. Both of these titles could not be more different. And before we get into this, we’re not intending to bash either game, simply using them as examples of how our reviews are being reworked to accommodate the move away from scores.
Undertale as a game is something of an enigma. With deceptively simple graphics, compelling music, and well-written characters, the game has managed to capture hearts and minds across generations. The moments where the game shines are on repeat playthroughs because you continually appreciate both the world and its stakes. The stark differences in tone between Pacifist and Genocide runs are reflected in both narrative and gameplay. Think of that final battle with Sans and how the game literally messes with the player, for someone invested in the story, even the journey to that point is heart-wrenching.
The one major flaw that most will note with Undertale is its dexterous difficulty. Some people genuinely won’t be able to enjoy the game in full because the more difficult bosses of the Genocide runs are extremely hard to manage without good reaction time and coordination.
In comparison to Undertale, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has one fatal flaw, the game is very predictable in its gameplay style and narrative. That’s not to say it’s bad just that there is a very predictable structure to everything it does. The player is given an overarching narrative to work within, and a bit of wiggle room, but not much variety in terms of gameplay. There’s a series of points of interest with quests in them, but it all starts to feel the same, especially if you ever start to break immersion. The NPCs aren’t all that unique or interesting, the quests are largely the same (Go to point A, fight boss A, go to point B, find item B, etc)
This linear structure works for this game in part because of all the graphical, audio and writing accouterment that’s attached to the game itself. In practice though, this structure leads to a major problem where the player spends more time immersed in objective markers than they do the game world. There’s no appreciation of what’s happening, as it feels nothing has any stakes to it.
There’s a certain type of gamer that enjoys this, and certain type that doesn’t. Most players who will enjoy this more open game will find the rare glimpses of true freedom and ruthlessly exploit them. Letting the game play out without it explicitly telling you what to do.
Now apply this same mentality of examing how a player “feels” and interprets the game they’re playing, and you’re getting into the mindset we’re going for here at ISKMogul.
For the sake of preserving these scores for older reviews, we’re leaving this section intact.
0-0.9 – Atrocious – These games should not exist, plain and simple. They are an insult to gaming and gamers. Playing these if you can even get them to work will be torture. These should be avoided at all costs.
1-1.9 – Awful – While not benchmark hall of fame, running-away-with-it-bad like 0’s, Games in this range are so horrendously broken or badly done that they have a reputation for it. These aren’t games that you can laugh at for being bad or “house rule” fixes, as it just isn’t worth the effort.
2-2.9 – Terrible – Terrible games mix bad mechanics, poor rules, broken systems, broken visuals, and bugs in some combination. No one should play these messes that barely qualify as games. The overall impression from one of these titles can only be described as offensive.
3-3.9 – Bad – A Bad game manages to avoid the depths of Awful and Terrible but makes a lot of bad choices in design, implementation, or severe, but non-game destroying bugs. Everything about this game is bad, but not soul-crushing. Extreme fans of the genre would even have issues liking these titles.
4-4.9 – Mediocre – Mediocre games are uninspired with a lack of vision and poor execution. The game overall leaves the player feeling unsatisfied. There is nothing redeeming about this game other than it works on some level. Titles in this range may also have significant technical flaws.
5-5.9 – Average – These games fail to stand out meaningfully from the rest. These titles are standard fodder in every sense. These are games that belong in the bargain bin after a couple of plays.
6-6.9 – Good – A Good game is a solid and above average. Utilizing a mixture of solid mechanics, design, graphics, and audio, it manages to stand out as something fans of the genre or style should pick up. These tend to be, but aren’t always, less innovative but well-executed titles. If you don’t like the genre, however, it is likely that this game won’t do enough to elevate it for you. These titles might also have technical issues that drag them down.
7-7.9 – Very Good – These are very good games that stand out of the field and are must-plays for those who are fans of the genre or theme. Typically it features stand out qualities in at least one region and is passable enough elsewhere, possibly with some innovative mechanics. Generally, these games have several shortcomings that keep them from being considered great.
8-8.9 – Great – Great games are known for being some of the best to come out in their year, and may influence future game design. These games mesh design, mechanics, visuals, writing, and theme in fun and interesting ways. They may not win a ton of awards, but they will almost always be in the running.
9-9.9 – Amazing – Amazing games are ones you’d recommend to almost anyone – even people who are not typically fans of the genre. These games mix outstanding qualities in several areas along with innovation and solid implementation. Many games in this region get long shelf lives due to their quality and will often be given house rules or modded by fans.
10 – Classic – There is no such thing as a perfect game, but these titles come pretty close. Even with minor flaws these games manage to become benchmarks for others to aspire to. 10s will almost never be given unless the title is worthy.