We understand that game reviews, ratings and scores are a complex matter, so this document outlines RPGWatch’s rating and review criteria to assist readers and help put them in context.
New versus old style of rating
In October 2017 we have changed the way we rate our games. One of the reasons for this was that we never wanted the ratings to be interpreted in a numerical way, but more as a classification. For that reason the reviews can also not be compared to other ratings of the same game that do use a numerical system. The other reason is that we felt that we wanted an extra classification of games, especially for the very good type of games, which our reviewers felt that the old system did not cater for too well.
As a reference we have decided to go back to our reviews that were published between January 2016 and October 2017 and rate them according to the new style of rating.
Here is our guide for the classification of games that we use:
A game with overwhelming issues in gameplay or technical implementation that should simply be avoided.
A game that has significant flaws or stale gameplay and requires a real fan of the genre to get some enjoyment out of it.
A game limited by several technical or design issues that limit the appeal, but is still worth playing.
A good game with some smaller issues or weaknesses, but still very recommended.
A very good game that is just short of being excellent, because of one or more minor issues that reduce the level of enjoyment a little bit.
An outstanding game that will be remembered as a classic. It is a game that is equal to the best gameplay available in the genre at the time of writing. This doesn't say that the game is flawless, but none of these flaws really impact the game all that much.
Rating old style
These are the ratings that were used in our articles prior to January 2016.
Here’s a rough guide to the 1-5 rating system we use:
5 – An outstanding game that will be remembered as a classic. A rating of 5 indicates a game that is equal to the best gameplay available in the genre at the time of writing. It is, however, important to understand this does not represent an absolutely flawless game.
4 – An excellent game with some minor issues or weaknesses but still very highly recommended.
3 – A rating of 3/5 indicates a good game held back by obvious technical or design issues that limit the appeal. Games with a 3/5 will often split opinion, depending on how strongly the player perceives the flaws.
2 – A game that has significant flaws or stale gameplay but may still offer some enjoyment to fans of the genre or subject.
1 – A bad game with overwhelming issues that should simply be avoided.
The rating is secondary to the full text of the review and we encourage visitors to read the entire article.
The rating provided cannot be translated to a scoring system just like that. A rating of 5 is unrelated to a score of 10, just like a rating of 3 isn't a score of 6/10. In our case the rating indicates the category to which a game belongs and is not a numerical quantification of the game.
All RPGWatch reviews are written by unpaid volunteers and this will have some impact on the process. In most cases we do not receive official copies, so reviewers usually buy their own copy. It is natural that our volunteer writers are most likely to buy games they are interested in and this will mean that not all games are reviewed and there may appear to be a positive skew to the results.
The following section is an overview of our reviewing process and goals:
Our reviews are the individual opinion of the author, based on their personal observations from playing the game. While reviews are an expression of the author’s experience with the game, the text should be tempered by an understanding of the broader market and include enough details of the gameplay for readers to form their own opinion of the game’s suitability for their tastes.
Our reviews must be factually correct. Our reviewers are encouraged to do as much research within and outside of the reviewed game as possible to avoid errors.
Our reviewers must be unbiased, unprejudiced and impartial.
The reality is that reviews are often judged by the final rating and not by the actual writing. Our reviewers are encouraged to decide on the final rating with the utmost responsibility and the rating should be supported by the main text.
As a specialist RPG site with an informed audience, we will endeavour to pay careful attention to the applicable RPG elements such as character creation, character development, dialogue, choices, consequences and so on. Emphasis should be on gameplay over graphics and “indie” titles should be taken in the context of their market.