To outline fully the guidelines and formats used on Highland Arrow in respects to review, and to maintain the high standard expected of us from our readers with regards to the quality of our articles.
This is the tenth revision of this document, first published Feb 15, 2014, split into the Code of Ethics and Review policy with the publishing of the Code of Ethics on Oct 26 2014. This version is current as of June 17th, 2015. This version includes the addition of this header.
Permission is hereby given to copy, redistribute, or use this policy as the basis for other documents, provided attribution is given to Highland Arrow.
It is an increasing problem in the gaming industry both on the case of publishers and reviewers to sully the waters when it comes to reviews, and as such, Highland Arrow holds itself to this Review Policy as our ethical standard for reporting in the games industry. It is important and moreover simply in our best interests to hold ourselves to a journalistic standard, as there is enough skepticism of many game reviewers and journalists being on the take without adding to that unfortunate sentiment.
At Highland Arrow we feel that a subjective opinion cannot be reflected in an arbitrarily-assigned numeric score. At the end of our reviews, we will say either one of three things:
... which means we believe that this game would be enjoyed by it's target audience or at least some major audience.
... which means we cannot either strongly conclude for or against the title. This can arise in many circumstances, but most notably when an otherwise good product is flawed in some significant way which makes it hard to truly recommend.
... which means we do not believe this game would be enjoyed by it's target audience or at least some major audience.
We strive to be fair in our reviews. If we feel something is good, we will explain why. Likewise, if we do not. This is part of the reason we generally try to comment on the game mechanics and explain them in some detail, as this is the useful review content. "I don't like it" is, in and of itself, not a helpful opinion. "I don't like it, here's how it works and what we don't like about it", on the other hand, is.
We will generally comment on three different areas, though we may or may not signpost them with specific sections:
.. this refers to the visual aesthetic, the visual fidelity, and the sound design of the game. Does the game have suitable options is also a question we will touch on if it is appropriate. A simple match three tile game doesn't really need an options menu, save perhaps a resolution option. The newest AAA FPS release, on the other hand, does.
... this refers to the actual nuts and bolts of how the game works. How do you progress in the game? Are these mechanics inituitive and easy to use? Do they become repetitive? And most importantly: do they "work" in the greater context of the game?
... this refers to two separate things: the over-arching story of the game, and the dialogue and other methods of story-telling which take the player on the journey to that end. How does the game tell it's story? Is that method effective? Is the story derivative, or does it have some unique or otherwise compelling element which makes it worthwhile?
As part of our touch upon production values, we will also comment on porting quality, if it is a PC port, or if it has multiple releases on Windows, Linux, and/or Mac, if those copies are available to us such as through Steamplay or similar other mechanisms.
The only circumstance under which we will pull a review is if it breaks a review embargo prior to the retail release of the game in Canada. If there is information that is incorrect, we will correct the inaccuracy in an edit, but we will not pull the review. If you do not like the review of the game because it is negative, then we would gently remind you that posting content for the purpose of review and critique is protected speech.
Highland Arrow does not accept any form of compensation in return for articles or reviews as a matter of principle. We do not accept ad revenue offers, revenue sharing arrangements, influencer campaign reimbursements or any other of the many questionable things which may be offered. The only consideration we will accept for a review is a review copy and reasonable stipulations (such as leaving out spoilers, linking to their steam store page, etc).
Occasionally we receive review copies from developers to look at their games. When we do accept review copies of a game it is not an obligation to post a review, as we may not feel that we can produce a quality review for the game in question. If we do create a review, this review will be monetised with ads which are displayed on our website. If you do not want us to monetise the review, do not send us review copies of a game.
As a matter of principle, the review copy is used only for the review and destroyed afterwards. If we feel a game is worth playing after review, we will purchase it ourselves. As such, we would ask prospective game developers or publishers to send us a download link or other way to access the game content. If you send us a Steam key, we will not be able to remove the game from our account afterwards. So, if you do send us a Steam key having knowing this, accept that this policy of generally buying the game no longer applies, since Steam is our primary mode at the current time of purchasing games.
Whenever a review copy or otherwise a free copy of the game was made available to us, for explicit purpose of review or not, we will disclose this in the review.
As a matter of our own personal preference, we will link to the following stores, if they have the game available for purchase: Desura, Good Old Games, itch.io, Indie Ammo Box, and Steam. If you as a developer or publisher wish another store to be linked such as Green Man Games, Gamer's Gate, or your own store on your own site, please contact us to be added.
We do not link developer's stores exclusively and we will not accept requests to review a game that is exclusively available on a developer store. This includes Origin, since it essentially EA's own curated store. This does not include the Apple App Store, Google Play, X-Box Live or the Playstation marketplace, since these are more open to developers without prohibitive contracts or restrictions. The only exception to this we will make to the publisher store or preferred links is if the only place to purchase a game we review.
We do not accept reviewer requests to link to other less popular stores, though we do occasionally review what stores we feature so as to keep relevant.
"From the Hip" Reviews
From the Hip reviews are short format reviews which touch briefly on a game and offer our recommendation or out non-recommendation and brief thoughts on the game. These are not meant to be exhaustive reviews, but rather short justifications as to whether or not we recommend a game that we feel has already been extensively looked at at various other press outlets. Take these reviews as they are: a quick thumbs up or thumbs down on a game.
"Nostalgia Train" Reviews
Nostalgia Train reviews are short or long format reviews in which we review classical or older games and offer our recommendation or non-recommendations. These reviews are tagged specifically so that our readership knows that this game is an older game and not a new release. Otherwise it would follow all the standards and conventions of our short or long format reviews.
The homepage of Highland Arrow features reviews in two specific ways, divided into "above-the-fold" and "below-the-fold" reviews.
Above-the-fold reviews are much more visible, and feature an image slideshow with a short summary of the review interposed thereupon. The slideshow is eight slides, and divided as follows:
- Slide 1 is always the most recently-published, public review
- Slides 7-8 are the reviews of the most recently-released games, irrespective of the date the review was published.
The exception to this is when a new review is published, and it comes time to push out a review, an Early Access review will always be pushed out the second time, which is to say - it will be in the position one, then go to the general slides for one "round", and then leave. This is to give the bona fide reviews of finished products precedence over Early Access reviews.
Below-the-fold reviews (as well as the occasionally-featured news item, or sandbox post), are posted in the chronological order of their publishing, but reviews already on the Above-the-fold slideshow are excepted. So in other words, these reviews will be the most recent ones that are not already displayed on the slideshow.
Early Access Reviews
Early Access reviews are short- or long-form reviews of a game in Steam's Early Access program, Desura's Alphafunding program, or an equivalent. These games are available for sale - usually but not always at a reduced price - but they are not functionally complete. Since these games are available for sale, we feel they are both fair ground to be reviewed, and that we have an obligation to cover them for our readers.
Our process goes essentially as thus, a potentially three-step process:
- Previews are essentially just that, reviewing games not available for sale and not complete.
- Early Access Reviews are reviewing games that are available for sale, but not yet complete.
- Reviews (including Nostalgia Train and From the Hip reviews) are reviewing games that are both available for sale, and purported to be complete.
Where it is not clear whether the game is complete or not, such will be a judgement call of the reviewer, and their decision will be explained in the body of the review.