Valve's Review System Doesn't Know How to Handle Positive Review Bombs

Valve's Review System Doesn't Know How to Handle Positive Review Bombs

Assassin's Creed: Unity is getting positive reviews, but is it a review bomb?

A review bomb is usually associated with displeasure as customers bombard a game's review page on Steam with negative scores to lower the overall average. Usually in response to some problem with the developer or publisher's actions more than the game's problems. But what happens when a game's review score is bombarded with positive scores instead? That's the problem Valve is facing right now with what it calls a "positive review bomb."

The game in question is Assassin's Creed: Unity, a so-so to not good Assassin's Creed game set in revolutionary Paris, France. Recently, the middling Assassin's Creed entry has seen an influx of positive reviews, potentially caused by Ubisoft's decision to offer the game for free in the wake of the fire that burned down the Notre Dame cathedral. And we can't forget about the company's 500,000 euro donation for restoring the church.

The problem for Valve is deciding whether or not this too qualifies as a review bomb, and if it is would it be considered off-topic and removed same as a negative review bomb?

Valve's blog post on the matter is inconclusive. In fact, the blog reads more like an open monologue on Valve's end that we're allowed to listen in on.

"A few weeks ago, in response to the Notre Dame tragedy, Ubisoft did something great for their fans by making Assassin's Creed: Unity available for free on Uplay, and committing funds towards rebuilding the monument," Valve writes. "This led to a significant spike in players of AC: Unity on Steam and a large number of positive reviews for the game. This led us, and members of the community, to wonder if this was finally a positive review bomb, and whether it should be considered off-topic."

Prior to Assassin's Creed: Unity review bombing has almost always been negative. And the problems review bombing caused developers forced Valve to address the issue. First Valve released ratio system which showcased both good and bad review scores. Then Valve announced it would block "off-topic" reviews, or reviews that cited anything but the game itself for reasons they scored a game poorly.

However, if a company did something players agreed with and they rewarded said company with positive reviews unrelated to the game in question, wouldn't those reviews still be off-topic? If only it were that simple.

"Without reading the actual reviews, the data here all looks very much like a game that's gone on sale, or received an update," writes Valve. "But we also went and read a large chunk of the reviews. Some reference Notre Dame or the giveaway. But most just look like standard reviews of a new player, or a player that's returning to a product they bought a while ago."

Valve mostly spends the time talking in circles. On the one hand Valve argues that news of the Notre Dame tragedy and Ubisoft's actions in response to it could be considered as divorced from the game as when a game is negatively review bombed over a developers' politics. On the other, Unity now has the best virtual representation of the Notre Dame and that's "a context that could be increasing the value players are getting from the game, so perhaps the game really is better than it was before?"

In the end, Valve concludes it doesn't know what to do, so it will do nothing. Instead, Valve opens the floor to commenters looking for their input. The reactions have devolved into criticism of Valve's entire review bombing policy, with calls to unblock negative review bombings for reasons pertaining to censorship. But regardless of how the ongoing debate over review bombing unfolds, it's clear that Valve still doesn't have a system in place to make everyone, or anyone, happy.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Matt Kim

News Editor

Matt Kim is a former freelance writer who's covered video games and digital media. He likes video games as spectacle and is easily distracted by bright lights or clever bits of dialogue. He also once wrote about personal finance, but that's neither here nor there.

Read this next

E3 2019 Rumor Roundup

The down-low on all the rumors being discussed in quiet whispers in the lead up to E3 2019.

More News

Destiny 2's Console Players Are Having a Fun, Disastrous Time Switching to PC

Turns out there are some differences between the platforms.

One of Epic's Flagship Exclusives is Coming to Steam

Supergiant's Hades aiming for v1.0 sometime next year.

More on PC

Remnant From The Ashes Forged Iron Locations

You’ll need Forged Iron to upgrade your weapons and armor in Remnant From The Ashes. Here’s where to find it.

Remnant From The Ashes: How to Get the Strange Coin

If you want the Magnum Revolver in Remnant From The Ashes, you’ll need to find the Strange Coin.

What the Heck is Ray Tracing and Why Does it Matter for Next-Generation Consoles? An Explainer

Nvidia is pushing ray tracing very hard, so let's talk about why it matters to games.

Destiny 2's Console Players Are Having a Fun, Disastrous Time Switching to PC

Turns out there are some differences between the platforms.

One of Epic's Flagship Exclusives is Coming to Steam

Supergiant's Hades aiming for v1.0 sometime next year.

Life Is Strange 2, Episode 4 Review

Life Is Strange 2's penultimate episode is an emotional one.

New Trials of Mana Footage Shows Cleaner, More Accessible Fights

Let's have a good clean fight, Mana fans.

More Action Adventure Games

Death Stranding is a Game About Walking, Apparently

Someone has finally played Death Stranding and can tell us what its all about.

New Link's Awakening Video Shows Off Dungeon Creator and Map Markers

The adorable Zelda remake changes a few things.

Yakuza 3 Remastered is Out Now, 4 and 5 Are On The Way

One collection gathers all three games and puts them on PS4.

Check Out the Full 18 Minutes of Marvel's Avengers Gameplay

The frequently leaked footage is now complete and official.