I’m not one to blindly defend free-to-play. Some games are better with it, some are better without. And sometimes a bad game is just bad, free-to-play or not.
Blade Symphony, a PvP sword-battling game from developer Puny Human, was released in 2014 and just went free-to-play last week. The F2P update included 48 new items and a new path for unlocking items. A “Find Duel” option was added to the main menu, and Puny Human has “rebuilt duel_castle from the ground up!” That sounds cool! You can read the full patch notes here.
Now, on to the bad news. Blade Symphony is getting review-bombed, as you can tell on its Steam page. To read the news on various other sites around the internet (here’s one with a particularly venomous subhead), it’s getting slammed because veteran players are upset with the changes to the gameplay and the F2P switch.
Is that the case? Well, let’s first take a look at the game’s recent player numbers. It’s pretty easy to tell when it went free-to-play:
In my opinion, if your game is averaging fewer than 10 players online at a time, you’re totally within your rights to remake it in any way you want to draw in new people, even if it alienates your existing (and insignificant) fan base.
I also looked through many of the recent negative reviews and, yes, the vast majority of them were from new-ish players, with fewer than three hours in the game. The one quoted at the top of that Eurogamer article was from someone who had spent 15.6 hours in it, which rates him as a “grizzled veteran,” compared to most of the others.
This doesn’t mean that the reviews from new players, virtually all of whom came in after the F2P switch, should be ignored. It’s entirely possible that Blade Symphony is just bad right now, but that’s likely got more to do with the recent patch — it has a 68% overall positive rating versus 33% on recent reviews — and not because it’s free-to-play.