AI: The Somnium Files, the latest outing from Kotaro "Zero Escape" Uchikoshi, is a pretty great game, as you'll know if you've already consulted our review of the Switch version. However, a short time ago, fans noticed that the Switch version's Metacritic aggregate user score had taken a dramatic tumble, falling from 8.2 to 1.9 in the space of just 24 hours, forcing Uchikoshi and the game's assistant director Okada Akira to publically appeal to fans to help restore some order:
A thread on the ResetERA forum was opened which began to flood with theories, with some suggesting that disgruntled players had taken issue with the game's pro-LGBT+ stance. However, on February 8th, a user named Krvavi Abadas posted on the same ResetERA thread to claim responsibility, stating that they had single-handedly review-bombed the game as a way of "deliberately demonstrating how utterly busted the site is".
Abadas had a point to make, for sure; as we already know from games like Astral Chain and Pokémon: Let's Go, Metacritic's aggregate user score can be easily manipulated and abused, but what makes this case so unique is that it appears to be the work of a single person rather than a campaign to get multiple people to leave negative reviews.
Abadas – whose account on ResetERA is now banned – explains how easy it is to review-bomb games on Metacritic:
In case you’re wondering how absurdly easy it is for one person to screw everything up so easily, it turns out they
1. Don’t block every “temp e-mail” site out there, the “E-mail Alias” feature on sites like Gmail might also have the same effect.
2. Have zero protection against people making multiple accounts at the same IP address.
3. Doesn’t even verify if you own the damn game.
The main lesson here is that Metacritic is utterly worthless when it comes to user reviews, remember when people review bombed Portal 2, now considered to be one of the best games ever made, because the game had a tiny, completely unobstructive, hat store?
As a reminder, Steam, which actively protects against this sort of thing and requires you to own the game before reviewing it. Still has “Very Positive” reviews.
The plan was to make a proper thread a few days after my tests were finished, demonstrating how you can easily turn any obscure game into one of the best or worst games of all time with just a few hours of work. Hence why i ended up archiving everything each step of the way. Anyone who’s familiar with my previous threads (Or watched the Gamexplain video on Tomohiro Kawasae) knows i like doing investigative articles on Gaming, and this was going to be no different.
While this might seem like a noble piece of investigative work to highlight Metacritic's weaknesses, Abadas' post reveals there was another motive for the selection of AI: The Somnium Files: the ill-treatment of A-set, one of the game's main female characters.
A-set is an 'idol' created especially for the game who has generated a lot of fan interest online, including fan artwork and other tributes. She was seen in a series of YouTube videos which tied directly into AI: The Somnium Files.
Abadas admits to having a "massive crush" on the character due to "general attachment issues" (it's worth noting that the following quote contains spoilers for the game):
To reiterate my thoughts on the game from previous threads. I loved most of the A-set videos and found them to be incredibly endearing, even developing a massive crush on her due to my general attachment issues. But i hated the actual game for how it basically ignores everything said videos were trying to build up, to the point that it takes Naixatloz, the proper antagonist of said videos. and tosses it aside by cruelly making them a hallucination caused by A-set having a brain tumor, with barely any foreshadowing. and even requires you to rip her f****** eye out yourself, as part of a bulls**t “One of the Psync machines requires you to remove an eye!” plotline that other characters get to conveniently ignore, all part of a route that’s specifically about her.
the protagonist being a unlikable asshole who’s sole character trait is “hehe funny sex joke” + basically spends 90% of the game completely abandoning his adoptive daughter, and the fact that i personally find the storyline it uses instead to be complete and utter nonsense filled with plot holes and ridiculous logic.
Abadas ends the post by lamenting the "unfortunate situation" and seems to hint that their efforts may lead to the game reaching an even wider audience:
Honestly, if there’s one takeaway you should get from this unfortunate situation i’ve gotten myself into. It’s that A-set means a lot to me. Even though i hated how her game turned out, it still makes me really happy to see people doing things like creating fanart, and hopefully this encourages you (and Spike Chunsoft themselves, i really wish they’d make more videos!) to continue supporting her.
…Even it does end with you acquiring Somnium Files and actually enjoying it.
In case you were wondering, the Metacritic score for the Switch version of the game currently stands at 8.9.
Thanks to Karen Halloran for the tip.