Why is Old World currently sitting on "mixed" ratings on Steam?

qouigv93027

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I think one of the biggest challenges is player expectations. Everyone compares this game to Civ and to CK, but if you use that metric, this game "fails" at being either. It's nowhere near as rich and detailed as CK. And it's nowhere near as straightforward and civ-centric as Civ.

I wonder how players might react if their expectations were somehow better tempered, if they understood this as "the right balance between Civ and CK".
 

Fimbulvetr

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In my GOG review I tried to say that it wasn't just a "mix of CK and Civ", though I wonder how many people read it that carefully, or if I just should have tried to describe it another way?
But it's just so much easier to say "I've seen similar concepts in game X and Y" than to actually describe a game.
 

8housesofelixir

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Old World experiments a lot with the 4x genre. And experiments are bound to receive some negative feedback because, they are, experiments. Experimental things are not guaranteed to work out 100% perfectly or as a 100% coherent whole, there will be mixes here and there, and unfamiliarity will also play a role.

By the way, Old World is not really at mixed ratings on Steam; it has stayed in the 77%-78% region for a good while since launch, which is a decent number. If you check Steam reviews more regularly, you will find it is very common to have games with this level of overall ratings have "mixed" recent ratings due to how mathematics works, and I really don't see an issue here. If anything, Humankind is the new 4x game with a review crisis (and the devs are tweaking it so you will also see the reviews have bounced back a bit), not Old World.

Overall I would say Old World in fact received a decent response as an experiment. Very few experiments could achieve this.
 

qouigv93027

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I wouldn't really call the game an experiment... it uses well-established mechanics, just in a slightly different way. It's not so far off base to be considered experimental, in my opinion.
 

Dale

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I would also disagree with the "experiment" label. Yes, a number of 4x concepts were "changed" in Old World compared to how it's been done for 30 years, but I wouldn't call it experimental. The team at Mohawk are all old strategy fans/gamers/designers, so it's more iterative.
 

nolegskitten

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I personally disagree with the experiment label too, as to me* the game design felt very mature and purposeful. I get that some of the mechanics are or feel "new", specially for players with only experience from a few 4Xs. It felt that way to me and I've played a fair few. Naturally something that is cast in a different perspective or a new light will never feel as "intuitive" or even "realistic" to people who're not used to them already. I'm purposely using loaded words there, as these language elements are very common as we tend to try to present our expectations and assumptions as facts and objective statements. On the other hand, it was immensely refreshing and fascinating to me to rediscover what a 4X could be, as compared to playing a new incarnation of a known game (despite my love and appreciation for the civ franchise for instance).

Breaking some of the common assumptions established in a genre comes both with an expansion of what's possible and the risk of making the game less accessible precisely because it breaks with some common expectations and use patterns. One of the reviews I found most fascinating to read was from a player who said (I'm paraphrasing) that the only game fault/issue was that it was the first of its era (series ? franchise ?), and so doesn't come with a community expecting it as it is and ready to explain the game, having already internalized its design.

* to clarify I mean as a player when I discovered the game. Even if as I'm now working with Mohawk and understand it might look like I'm loving the game because I'm working on it, I'd describe the causality in the reverse order myself.
 

nolegskitten

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So while I wouldn't use the "experiment" word as it seems to suggest things were tried without really being thought through (which clearly isn't the case, reading through SJ designer notes will probably convince anyone of that), I do agree with 8houseofelixir that the breaks it makes with some well established 4Xs standards (civ first and foremost) are indeed a form of risk and should be expected to turn off some players at least at first. As examples:
- moving from "use all units every turn" to the order system, and as a consequence unfold combat on several turns and remove most passive damage like counter attacks, or
- restricting the places one can settle (even if that was already very common in space 4X when you only settle solar systems for instance, or region/province based games)

Indeed those are points we often see in critiques of the game.

Maybe it is amplified in the comparisons with civ (or expectations/assumptions from players coming from civ) because the games superficially look very similar (and ofc there's a degree of filiation, if only because our Lead designer was a civ lead designer too) but doesn't play the same.
For many players civ 5 or 6 were the first games where they played on hex tiles (laugh all you want, I've read so many comments stating that OW took hex tiles from civ that I think it's relevant). Of course the top down view of a map with the triad of Nations/Cities/Units is a staple of many 4Xs/strategy games which can easily make one think most of one's previous 4X experience should apply.
 
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pholkhero

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... it's more iterative.

So while I wouldn't use the "experiment" word as it seems to suggest things were tried without really being thought through (which clearly isn't the case, reading through SJ designer notes will probably convince anyone of that), I do agree with 8houseofelixir that the breaks it makes with some well established 4Xs standards (civ first and foremost) are indeed a form of risk and should be expected to turn off some players at least at first. As examples:
- moving from "use all units every turn" to the order system, and as a consequence unfold combat on several turns and remove most passive damage like counter attacks, or
- restricting the places one can settle (even if that was already very common in space 4X when you only settle solar systems for instance, or region/province based games)

Indeed those are points we often see in critiques of the game.

Maybe it is amplified in the comparisons with civ (or expectations/assumptions from players coming from civ) because the games superficially look very similar (and ofc there's a degree of filiation, if only because our Lead designer was a civ lead designer too) but doesn't play the same.
For many players civ 5 or 6 were the first games where they played on hex tiles (laugh all you want, I've read so many comments stating that OW took hex tiles from civ that I think it's relevant). Of course the top down view of a map with the triad of Nations/Cities/Units is a staple of many 4Xs/strategy games which can easily make one think most of one's previous 4X experience should apply.
If you played civ 6, and then tried OW, i think you're in for a rude awakening because they're barely the same genre of game.

OW requires, to me anyway, a different mindset than civ4 and civ5 and especially civ6; the AI is good, or, at least, requires a player to be paying attention, and not second screening, and the mechanics are different enough from what you're 'used' to. in many ways, i see OW as a successor to 4 than anything else, maybe a "what if" civ 5.

edit: but yeah, that's where I think the mixed comes from, but I applaud you guys for the risks you took, it hooked me, and i look forward to more stuff in the 4x 'genre' from you.

now where's that GOTM . . .
 

Pfeffersack

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- moving from "use all units every turn" to the order system, and as a consequence unfold combat on several turns and remove most passive damage like counter attacks, or
- restricting the places one can settle (even if that was already very common in space 4X when you only settle solar systems for instance, or region/province based games)
Indeed, those two points kind of immediately and inevitably pop up everywhere OW becomes a topic. Before having touched it I concede that they were also my main concerns...can those really work? Moving units over the entire map in one turn? Being even more restricted with settling than in HK?

After having started to actually play Old World, I realized that this mindset is caused by long years of civ playing. You actually have to play with those to realize that meaning that you could move unit X over the entire map doesn't equal it being useful and that it is also in terms of realism/immersion at worst not more gamey than the restricted classical movement (which causes units to take years to cross the map). Not to speak of the optional rule to restricted forced march to doubling normal fatigue points having been recently added. Same for city sites - you gain a lot more than you lose here. Sure, the small initial puzzle of finding the ideal spot is missing and you only weight between moving the settler a hex around or not (which only delays/fastens potential ressource access) - but you are rewarded with reduced MM, less cluttered maps, room for field battles and more meaningful and organic looking cities.
 
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PiR

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Sure, the small initial puzzle of finding the ideal spot is missing and you only weight between moving the settler a hex around or not (which only delays/fastens potential ressource access)
Side-note: delaying resource access actually allows safe harvest close to the city, therefore potentially more useful than having the resource within the territory. Thanks @Dale for that tip.
 

Heathcliff

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I think the reason is that Old World is doing combat differently than what players are used to. In most 4X games you use your units to defend your cities and you keep the units in the front. But if you do that in Old World all your units will die first turn when the AI attacks and then they quit and give the game a bad score.
What you should do in Old World is to use your cities to defend your units. You must keep all your units in the center of your empire where they cannot be killed by an enemy ambush and can counterattack when the AI attacks your cities.
 

Pfeffersack

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I think the reason is that Old World is doing combat differently than what players are used to. In most 4X games you use your units to defend your cities and you keep the units in the front. But if you do that in Old World all your units will die first turn when the AI attacks and then they quit and give the game a bad score.
What you should do in Old World is to use your cities to defend your units. You must keep all your units in the center of your empire where they cannot be killed by an enemy ambush and can counterattack when the AI attacks your cities.
Indeed, combat mechanics are a radical shift from what one is used from civ. Even a purely defensive war in Old World can't be won without attacking on the tactical scale and that is quite a shift, if you are used to civ where letting the AI bleed out itself vs. your turtling defense and then rolling over them is a valid strategy. Additionally, OW also takes away some rules which were widely perceived as improvements itself when being added to civ (like damage done scaling with your own health or counterstrikes in melee attacks - and even went a bit too far in case of the later, if you look at the comback-in-steps the counterattacks have made recently). That -paired with a good AI- leads very likely to some early and potentially frustrating defeats for newbies - and not everyone is patient enough to wade through these defeats or to accept that OW is actively developed, rules are subject to change and balancing is an ongoing effort.
 

bbbt

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If I'm reading the small text correctly, you weren't grabbing barbarian/tribal sites fast enough, so the AI did it. When the AI clears a site, it claims it by placing a unit on the city tile, which you can do too if you are the first to walk a unit onto that tile, which usually means you are required to be the one to defeat the barbarian/tribe there.
I am surprised in a game with so many explicit limits and cooldowns that city site claiming/settling is basically a free for all. I would have expected more of a cost/cap on number of city sites. I.e. it takes civics to claim a city site. Some sort of city cap (based on number of laws? Only two weak cities per developing city? I dunno).

This does contrast with modern Civ, where you can ignore the military part if you wish to. Even at the highest levels, after the early game. I've definitely had my share of Civ6 games on Immortal/Deity where I defeat the initial AI rush, conquer a few cities to have the space, and then go to a peaceful Space victory without maintaining an army - launching the spaceship when my most modern units are Swordsmen I built early on. This approach will fail in Old World.
I think with the advent of Civ 5 BNW especially, there's a set of 4x players who primarily enjoy essentially "peaceful empire building victory" and any 4x game that doesn't have that as a viable option is going to get some negative reviews to that accord unfortunately.
 

Solver

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We recently made changes to weaken the AI on the lowest difficulty levels. On those levels, a peaceful building victory is certainly possible, it's also possible on higher difficulties but you need some luck and you'll need other ways of dealing with your rivals anyway. That's perhaps a difference between Civ and OW, Civ caters better to players who want a sandbox, the Civ5/6 AI won't place many demands on the player unless the player specifically opts for the highest difficulty. Old World is different, the AI is neutered on the lowest difficulty but anything above that, it could interfere with you.
 

InsidiousMage

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We recently made changes to weaken the AI on the lowest difficulty levels.
What counts as the lowest difficulties?
 

Solver

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The first three. The Able (lowest) prevents the AI from declaring war and slows their economy down. On the next two levels, the AI also has reduced aggression and is banned from force marching units, so The Strong, the fourth level, is the first one that's "fair".
 

Quintillus

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I think the combat mechanics/difficulty is probably a fairly accurate diagnosis. Not that the changes are bad! People whine about how bad the Civ V/VI AI is, and with reason, but when a new game comes along that actually has a pretty good AI, other people complain about how they can't beat the AI. You can't win. And it goes both ways; I'm sure a lot of Civ VI's negative early reviews were for the opposite reason - there being no challenge whatsoever.

Though I do really appreciate the approach of scaling the AI difficulty by enabling/disabling the AI's ability to take certain actions, rather than flat bonuses/penalties. In large part because it means the AI knows how to use those advanced features at higher difficulties. Did I know how to use Force March my first game? No. But am I glad the AI can use it now that I'm more ready for it? Yes.

I have a friend who is in that "likes to feel powerful and not have significant opponents" camp; I haven't recommended Old World to him. He's the one who plays Muscovy in Europa Universalis IV and is concerned that he might lose to Novgorod, and usually plays with cheats; he doesn't want opponents who might use highly competent tactics and have equally-sized armies. For me, that would be boring.
 

Solver

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I think people like your Muscovy-playing friend are a lot more common than we, as developers, sometimes think. With our highly customizable options, I think even your friend could find settings that make OW enjoyable. The AI can be set to Passive (will never declare war on its own) and High Penalty (-20% to most of the economy), resulting in a game that's quite different from what we envision but should satisfy the "I want to easily dominate" type of player. Plus we have an in-game editor as well, so with a few clicks you can give yourself extra units or unlock techs if that's your preference.
 
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