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Review bombs are an endemic part of the modern media landscape at this point. Whether they’re about player frustration (opens in new tab), politics, or just because a crypto company bought your game (opens in new tab), we’ve all become well-accustomed to the long red candles that pockmark Metacritic and Steam user review charts during periods of controversy. But there’s usually some discernible reason for the review bombs, even if it’s a really bad one.

Not so in the case of Chained Echoes (opens in new tab), a 16-bit throwback JRPG from developer Matthias Linda that is, by all accounts, really rather good (opens in new tab). But as spotted by GamesRadar (opens in new tab), its Metacritic user review score wilted beneath a wave of negative reviews that contained no actual written text whatsoever, leaving its dev and publisher helpless to do anything about it.

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“Chained Echoes has been review bombed on Metacritic. Just plain ratings, no reviews. No reasons. We don’t know why, it just happened,” wrote Michael Hoss, head of product at the game’s publisher Deck13, in a tweet yesterday. “Didn’t Metacritic want to stop this nonsense? Guess only for AAA games”.

In fairness to Metacritic, Hoss has since pointed out (opens in new tab) that the site seems to have intervened, and Chained Echoes’ user review score (opens in new tab) has shot back up to 8.6 as a result. But Hoss noted (in a tweet (opens in new tab) machine-translated from German) that it’s still “really annoying when you have to guess who you pissed off and for what reason”. In other tweets (opens in new tab), Hoss said his best guess was that some contingent of international players was upset about the game lacking support for a specific language, but it’s impossible to say for certain one way or another.

In a chat with GamesRadar, Hoss said he’s “still amazed that Metacritic is still used by so many platforms (e.g. Steam)” and that he hopes the “the constant outrage” created by review bombing events like these might spark a wider change. “Especially with the review bombing for LGBTQI+ content,” Hoss said, “that can seriously damage smaller indie games in terms of sales. And while The Last of Us 2 can deal with that, a smaller indie can really suffer there”.

Hoss also noted that “what starts on Metacritic often leads to people harassing devs via social media or sending them hate mail,” feeding a toxic cycle of abuse.

So although the outcry around this particular case of review bombing (in Hoss’ words (opens in new tab)—also machine translated—the fact that the event “went through the roof a bit”) seems to have compelled Metacritic to fix things, it seems like the rest of his criticism still applies. After all, not every instance of review bombing gains this much attention. As for an alternative? Hoss said on Twitter (opens in new tab) that Deck13 “[prefers] Open Critic”.

Source: https://www.pcgamer.com/publisher-calls-out-metacritic-after-hit-indie-jrpg-gets-inexplicably-review-bombed