Should Critics Ignore Minor Flaws in Open-World Games?

It was riddled with bugs and glitches but if the majority weren't terrible, should they be acknowledged?

It was riddled with bugs and glitches but if the majority weren’t terrible, should they be acknowledged?

There’s simply no avoiding it: There will be bugs and glitches in an open-world/sandbox video game. It’s the just way things are.

Some open-world experiences are clearly more stable than others, but you won’t find one that runs perfectly. It’s simply the nature of the game and the development process; the designers push the envelope in terms of what the hardware can handle and the result is typically an impressive and ambitious production with a handful of annoying – and often comical – bugs. Most gamers understand that such drawbacks are minor and don’t have a significant impact on their enjoyment. Therefore, their argument is critics shouldn’t harp on these flaws.

But is that really fair? Logically speaking, a critic’s job is to pass judgment on the quality of a product, and stability is certainly part of the analysis. Linear games run much better, sometimes almost flawlessly (just ask Naughty Dog), so it’s not like all games have the same issues open-world experiences have. And it really wouldn’t be fair to gloss over the bugs in an open-world game, especially if you’re willing to point them out in linear games. That’s just not right.

If games have problems, no matter how small, shouldn't critics mention them in reviews?

If games have problems, no matter how small, shouldn’t critics mention them in reviews?

At the same time, the immersive experience of the sandbox adventure is arguably second-to-none, and a few funny hitches here and there hardly destroys the fun factor. Take the much-maligned CD Projekt Red game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. There are two very vocal contingencies on opposite ends of the spectrum: One side, perhaps bolstered by that perfect score at GameSpot, will claim that too much is being made of the bugs, as the majority just don’t impact the gameplay. The other side, which often cites more negative reviews, says the sheer number of bugs is unforgivable and there are indeed some that affect the gameplay (too many, in fact).

And while The Witcher 3 is a particularly glaring example of an open-world game that launched with an inordinate number of glitches, it’s true that titles in this genre always have at least a few. Assassin’s Creed Unity was slammed for such problems (although again, many will say they were over-emphasized) and if there’s an online component (ala Grand Theft Auto V), it’s almost destined to have issues out of the gate. So, what should critics do? Perhaps it’s a flawed argument to say, “oh, they all have bugs so just ignore them.” But is it equally flawed to say, “we have to take into account bugs that don’t really hurt the game”?

There is plenty of subjectivity involved as well, which always tosses a wrench into the works. Some say certain things do negatively impact gameplay while others say they’re not bothered. Well, that’s where the critic’s judgment should come into play, right?

7 thoughts on “Should Critics Ignore Minor Flaws in Open-World Games?”

They’re only allowed to ignore flaws if they’re not hampering the gameplay. Provided the issues aren’t anything anybody is going to worry about too much, I don’t see why that should drag the overall score down.

They’re not allowed to ignore ANY flaws. That’s just bias. You can mention them and say they’re not a big deal but you can’t just pretend they’re not there. Then you’re not doing your job as a critic.

And theres no way to tell which flaws are going to annoy which people. that’s all subjective.

For once, I agree with Top.

I just wish this wasn’t even a question. I know it’s accepted that open-world sandbox games are going to have problems but isn’t that a problem in and of itself? Why are we just accepting this as a matter of course? Because the game is harder to stabilize?

We need to hold these developers to higher standards and that means not buying broken products when they first come out. Its the only way they’ll learn.

Good point.

I still remember when games weren’t so complicated and in a way, were sometimes better.

No critic should “ignore” any flaw, regardless of genre or anything else. That just doesn’t make any sense.

Yes. Exactly.

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