I watch/read video game reviews all the time. Yet, I can’t recall their scoring criteria off the top of my head. Big websites and independent content creators can have significantly different methods when reviewing a game. So I asked myself, what are the most important pillars of a video game? If I were to write a review right now, what would I touch upon? Here are my personal pillars of any video game:
Artistry is how well a game pulls off its vision. How well does the game’s graphical style complement the gameplay? Does the game’s setting jump out at you? Does the world feel tangible? This is one of the major ways a game can have a lasting impact on players. When I think of artistry, I think of a game called Dust: An Elysian Tail. Its animated style along with its smooth, fast-paced combat really drives home the feeling of being a talented anthropomorphic swordsman adventuring from village to village using your talents to help others. The characters are plentiful, yet encountering each one feels meaningful. Another example set in a realistic setting would be Detroit: Become Human. Detroit has limited gameplay, but its beautifully realistic graphical style drives players to absorb the game’s world, de-emphasizing the need for intricate gameplay.
Gameplay is up next; it is the aspect of games all people are familiar with. If a game is fun to play, then it has good gameplay. Gameplay can take many different forms, some of them being third-person action/adventure, first-person action/adventure, turn-based, and strategy. One of my favorite games to pop in and immediately have a blast is Jak & Daxter. The Jak games are not too simple, yet not too complex. You meld with the controls once, and you’ll never forget them. Movement on its own is thrilling, and when you chain your movement into kicks, punches, shooting, or car-jacking, the enjoyment to be had grows exponentially. Final Fantasy VII is a good example of a game with excellent turn-based gameplay. Although the gameplay system is turn-based, when you think back on the game, you feel as if the characters had unrestricted reign in firing off their attacks and abilities.
GRAPHICS & OPTIMIZATION
Optimization is how well the game runs. Graphics is the beauty of the game. Is the game crisp-looking? Are there any technological feats achieved or have we seen it before? Graphics make a game easy on the eyes and a joy to play. Two very recent examples of great graphics are Kingdom Hearts III and Resident Evil 2. The former can have so much going on at any given time with magic and using Disney rides as attacks; yet, the game doesn’t hiccup. The allure of the world is never compromised. The latter looks amazing. RE2 is a technological feat in the third-person horror genre.
Longevity of a game deals with getting a reasonable amount of entertainment in return for your money. This doesn’t mean short games are at a disadvantage. The three main factors that are at play here are the price of a game, content density (how packed with content the game is at any given time) and game length. Longevity will only negatively affect a game if it is short to an egregious extent, and will only positively affect a game if it happens to be lengthy and have the content density expected of a shorter game. The first game that comes to mind as a positive example is Witcher 3. That game has an asinine amount of content and essentially all of it is quality. You have countless NPCs, side-quests, mini-games, and contracts to get to, not to mention the DLC they’ve added to make the game even longer! An example of a relatively short game, but one of quality is Super Metroid. The pacing is top-notch, exploration is the name of the game, and obtaining mastery of all your abilities adds up to maximum content density.
Lastly, there is story. Story is the primary driver of progression. If a game does not have compelling story hook throughout, the player is liable to not see a game to its end. There are different types of story-telling. There is the more traditional type you’ll find in games like Uncharted, The Last of Us or Mass Effect. You are presented many cutscenes, great dialogue, and characters to get attached to. Then there’s environmental storytelling as you’d find in games like Dark Souls. There are a few cutscenes and character interactions here and there, but the onus is upon you to explore and familiarize yourself with the game’s lore. A great story is the main way a game can be remembered for years and years to come.
Those are the five qualities of video games that I find to be the most important. Share which two you value most in the comments and/or if I left criteria off that you feel is important, drop it down there as well. Enjoy the weekend!
Images captured on PS4
Rights owned by Ubisoft, Humble Hearts, Square Enix and Sony respectively