The more I play, the less I like Iconoclasts

So many people have been looking forward to Iconoclasts for so many years – we wrote our first impressions of it in 2011! – that it’s dangerous to venture any opinions into the fray.

But I fear no danger. Iconoclasts, properly released after all these years, is fine. Kinda.

It’s wonderfully ambitious, an enormous sprawling 2D platformer that draws from metroidvanias and RPGs, vividly rendered in glorious modernised 16-bit-styled graphics. Your time is split between exploratory platforming, extensive chatting, and boss fights, as you set about learning about its peculiar authoritarian world and your part in the resistance against it.

You play Robin, a rebelling mechanic (to simply be a mechanic an in this world is rebelling), determined to break the so-called divine laws of the oppressing theocracy by exploring, learning and fixing that which is broken around you. Or so the plot says. In reality you’re doing lots of platforming gubbins, while tweaking your skills and gaining access to previously inaccessible with an upgradeable wrench. Along the way you encounter many puzzles, a big pile of bosses, and dozens of NPCs as you learn more about the One Concern, its acolytes, the pirates, and those just trying to live unaffected by it all.

There’s much to enjoy, especially when it presents decent puzzles that utilise the abilities you’ve garnered. There are times when you get to feel smart, as well as a quick learning curve which sees each new enemy type rapidly switch from a challenge to another mob you blitz as you fly past. But for all those moments, unlike Dominic in his review, I’m not wholly sold.

The real issue I have with Iconoclasts is that almost everything feels ever-so-slightly off, just a few degrees away from feeling right. The platforming for the most part is fine without being particularly noteworthy, but is frustrated by some odd design decisions. To pick one of many examples: picking up blocks improbably requires standing on top of them and pressing Up (not the smartest idea when you’re trying to jump up from them), and throwing them is a wildly inexact experience of just hoping they’ll land anywhere near where you need them. And far too often the game will demand prescient split-second timing, that you’ll only know you needed after watching yourself not do it. Also, the wrench, when used to grab floating bolts, too often demands micrometre precision where a more forgiving “you’re in the right region” would make much more sense. Instead you fall and must drearily start a climb again. That in particular is a constant nagging problem.

And goodness me, the boss fights are too often too scrappy. Some are fine, satisfying even. Others are a frustration not of difficulty, but of badly communicating what it is it wants you to do. To illustrate just what I mean, I’m writing this very sentence while in the middle of one such boss fight, and the game isn’t paused. It’s that simple not to die here, but a case of hitting enough buttons at enough stuff until I figure out what it wants me to do.

Then, yes, sadly there are those that are just too hard. One particularly infuriated me by demanding moves the game itself wasn’t fast enough to respond to (it madly disables jump while charging your electric wrench, despite requiring such a move), while at the same time signalling attacks so late that I find it physically impossible to jump before they hit. I got past it, but I didn’t enjoy doing it. To top it off, there are difficult boss fights that when finally defeated reveal themselves to be stage one of two. Arrrghhhhh. Failing the second means having to sodding well do the first again, and yeah, thanks, no.

The farther I got in the game, the more it seemed to lose its sense of direction. So often I found myself completely unaware what it wanted me to do next (and the pause screen prompts are as ambiguous as “Chasing agent Black, you’ve been looking for the forest tower”), either because a distant area that was previously blocked off was now mysteriously opened with no warning, or because the game had collapsed into a series of disjointed puzzle screens with opaque goals. Far, far too often I’ve been plugging away at puzzles, thinking that I’m making progress, only to find I’ve gone off towards another dead end with a reward chest containing yet another crafting item I’ve already got loads of – and I’ve nothing left to craft.

Seven reads later, I guess I understand...

There’s a very pleasing sense of humour. Within the platforming and chatting are some puzzles, and their mechanics are pleasingly mocked in the explanation. The first you encounter asks you to move an elevator up and down while a guy runs back and forth carrying boxes. You need to slot them onto the right shelves, but you’re warned that the carrying dude won’t stop at any point, just keep going whatever. Huh, I thought, that’s going to be hard to narratively justify. “Yeah, I do that!” he replies. Ah! Perfect. This pervades the game – it’s not necessarily fourth wall breaking, but a gentle self-awareness that prevents it from becoming pompous.

Sadly there’s something very leaden about the writing, where so many sentences feel like a task to get through. Lines like:

“I hope to die without unfinished business. My spirit lingering shouldn’t have to be a burden to my descendants.”

And:

“My mother recently died. I feel I must honor her so my thoughts drew me to this statue again.”

It’s a double-negative passive festival of clumpy ordering. (To explain, I’d write those as, “I hope to die with no unfinished business. I don’t want my lingering spirit to burden my descendants,” and, “My mother died recently, and I feel I must honor her. My thoughts drew me once again to this statue.”) In isolation you might think I’m being picky, but when almost every line is so awkward to parse, clicking through the extensive conversations starts to feel like a chore.

The more I played, the less patience I had for it. Levels start to require I fail in order to learn how to proceed, which can be fine in a game that always restarts you at the room entrance, but wearying when you’re dumped back at the last manual save statue multiple screens back. In fact, so poor is the saving that even if you complete a zone and move onto a new one, sit through cutscenes, then play a bunch of the new area, it will still restart you at the last statue in the last area should you die/the game crash before you find a new one. Since the game knows to put in a checkpoint before a boss fight, it’s bewildering there’s nothing there for the start of a whole new zone of the game.

And honestly, for all the reams of dialogue, I didn’t care a jot about its story. There never felt any great sense of purpose, any real idea what Robin was actually trying to do. Lots of opinionated people surround her, but it all feels like bluster interrupting actually playing.

I am, it says, a mere 31% through the game, after ten hours of playing, so this is a biggun. I’m clearly nowhere near completing it. I fear, with even non-boss enemies now proving an ordeal to get past, that it will soon escalate past my ability/patience levels. Which leads me to also assume that those who like their games to get brutally tough will embrace it.

There is, as I began saying, an awful lot to like about Iconoclasts. It puts far more effort into characterisation than you’ll see in any other metroidvania or platformer, and as the world unveils itself it’s unquestionably cared over. I loved that at one point I walked past a couple of NPCs who gave long/lat coordinates, which when I put them into Google Maps revealed a nice little reference to the game’s fiction. And I completely adore the art.

But for me, the more of it I played, the more I found it got in its own way. Its clumsy prose is a struggle to read, its difficulty spikes are aggravating, and the sense of being directionless is too all-pervading. I feel certain this will find its audience, and what a joy for them. But sadly, not so much for me.

Iconoclasts is out on 23rd January on Windows, Mac and Linux, via Steam and GOG.

74 Comments

  1. DeepSleeper says:

    What a surprise.

    • Babymech says:

      I don’t know why this has become a running gag with the kids when just clicking on Walker’s review list shows a large number of very positive reviews. He has opinions, and expresses them clearly. They are not overwhelmingly negative, but when they are negative – he makes that clear.

    • Theroux says:

      Is this a joke? John being the Iconoclast. Forgive me if I’m giving you too much credit.

      Although I don’t always agree with John, the knee-jerk dismissal of his generally excellent criticisms have become really irritating.

      • LexW1 says:

        I think the issue is that a lot of people don’t find his criticism to be “generally excellent”, but rather “extremely variable”. For example, this piece is solid, and avoids being rant-y (which contrary to the other poster is not “being clear” – it’s ranting, which actually harms your point), and at least 50% of his more critical reviews are similarly high quality.

        But a large subsection of them are just not great. Either rant-y, or somewhat confused-seeming, or refusing to engage with the game and instead nit-picking endlessly.

  2. Inspector Gesicht says:

    Woohoo I’m 2 hours in and my 20 bucks are well spent because Iconoclasts got a less than stellar appraisal from the Armond White of video-game reviewers. This is gonna be up there with Hollow Knight!

    • Klydefrog says:

      Very sensible to be determined to disagree with John because you see him as a contrarian despite the numerous popular games he likes. In no way does it make you guilty of exactly what you’re accusing him of.

    • Jeremy says:

      I think it’s important to recognize that reviewers aren’t TRYING to disagree with you. They may have a specific set of interests or wants out of a game/movie/book. If it consistently disagree with you, that’s fine! You can read the review from that context. But to assume that John is specifically identifying good games, and then slinging out hot takes is disingenuous. I’ve been reading RPS since the beginning, and he is consistent, which is exactly what you want out of a critic.

      • LexW1 says:

        Personally I like a lot of John’s writing, he obviously has style, but I don’t think he is particularly consistent, and the games he likes are not reliably good games, nor the ones he dislikes reliably bad. In particular he tends to wildly overstate the bad to the point where a mediocre or decent game sounds like it came from Satan’s special reserve. Likewise he can be overly kind to games with serious flaws.

        I’m not expecting “objective reviews” (far from it), but I find the inconsistency and nit-picking to detract from the value of some of his reviews, especially when contrasted with the studious nit-ignoring of some of his positive ones. I think I’d prefer nit-picking of all games, even ones he liked.

        • sharpmath says:

          … Except reviewing something is 100% subjective.

        • Jeremy says:

          I think expectations certainly play a role in that, and can seem like inconsistency, and maybe it even is inconsistency. Generally, the games that I’m most excited about, and promise a LOT, even if they are Very Good Games end up being slightly disappointing to me. DA:O was a prime example of this for me. My time with the game was, for all intents and purposes, very good, but if I wrote a review of it I’m sure it would sound very harsh while ending up with an “8”. To a reader, that would probably seem incredibly confusing or inconsistent, and maybe that’s even a fair critique. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I often relate to John’s takes on a game, and it never comes off as dismissive or needlessly critical. Very few critics wear their hearts on their sleeves, and while it rubs some people the wrong way, I’m always down for it.

    • Edgewise says:

      Armond White? That’s a pretty dickish comparison.

      Incidentally, Armond’s still reviewing?

    • sharpmath says:

      Did you think yourself very clever when typing this?

    • dethtoll says:

      Oh my god I knew he made me think of someone.

    • Eightball says:

      Armond White is good though.

  3. Landiss says:

    Oh,I’m so going to listen this time. I didn’t listen about Hollow Knight and ended up buying a game that I hated after 2 hours and completely uninstalled after giving it several second chances in the next hour.

    • mitrovarr says:

      There must be something about Hollow Knight that makes it just not resonate with some people. Personally, I loved it. Best metroidvania I’ve played on PC in a very long time. Vastly better than Ori in both story and gameplay.

      • Dominic Tarason says:

        I still regret getting dragged away by work and other games, meaning I’ve yet to finish Hollow Knight, but I adored my time with it so far.

        I may start fresh once all the free DLC is confirmed done, for an even better time.

        • 111uminate says:

          Whoa what? There’s still more DLC coming? Damn, and I wanted to jump into it soon myself. Perhaps I’ll wait further until it’s complete.

      • Landiss says:

        I liked the setting, even though I haven’t seen that much. What I’ve seen was really great. But the platforming didn’t really feel that good to me and I hated the death + map mechanics and in general the difficulty.
        Perhaps that is in some part because I play on keyboard. But that’s not a problem in other games of the genre. I do like some difficulty in my platform games and while I’m certainly far from expert, I loved Super Meat Boy, for example. In comparison, in Hollow Knight it often felt I’m giving the same input, but it gives me different results each time and it was way too unforgiving.

      • InternetBatman says:

        Hollow Knight has a slow mechanical start and introduces you to some of its worst areas relatively quickly. Greenpath is a drag eventually, getting to the city was a real chore for me, and they never should have isolated the map in Fog Canyon behind black walls coming from Greenpath. Fog Canyon should have been a late game area and it was introduced third.

        [edit – The input is fine. The game can be exacting and takes platforming a little more seriously than many metroidvanias (white castle is a platforming only level.) I’m very far along using only the keyboard. They just put a controller preferred logo at the start of the game when it’s really not necessary.]

      • Chaoslord AJ says:

        Same opinion. John of course dismissed it as not a metroidvania. Having a distinct and vocal opinion is one thing and being a contrarian to the point where I can guess the author from the headline and probably his verdict is another.
        And his contempt of bossfights always.
        Lately he was right about the annoying things in gaming article like the thousand intro videos of nvidia and the like though.

      • Cozzie says:

        This was me exactly. It had everything I should’ve loved in a game, other than all the bugs (no pun intended) it had on initial launch when I played it, but I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted. Seeing it as people’s Game of the Year was a huge surprise, even though it deserved to be from how much love was clearly put into it.

      • Dramund says:

        I think most of John’s criticisms of Hollow Knight weren’t the reasons he disliked it, rather rationalizations of a game that he just couldn’t get into. I’m a big metroidvania fan too and I was very unimpressed with Hollow Knight for the sole reason that the game has absolutely zero respect for your time. It’s a 40 hour metroidvania that feels like it should have taken 10 hours. Now that John is 10 hours in and 31% done with Iconoclasts, I suspect that game has the same problem.

  4. Eagle0600 says:

    The only issue you raise I feel I can agree with is the problem with box controls. Fortunately, it’s not a problem too often, but yes, they could be better. I have not had a problem with bosses failing to telegraph (except for one fight much later, which is a big spoiler), and wrench controls are fine. I didn’t note any problems with the platforming controls either (when playing as Robin, at least; some of the other characters behave oddly). I think I’m about 90-95% through the game and have been enjoying myself thoroughly.

  5. Crafter says:

    I am in a pickle : on one hand, I don’t want to play another owlboy (mostly rave reviews, lovely graphics but completely uninteresting game design) but I don’t want to either spoil me by reading deep reviews or miss a great game by a solo dev..

    Guess I will have to buy it to find out. John was already dead wrong about Hollow Knight anyway

    • Viral Frog says:

      I like to joke that I put a new game on my wish list every time John gives a negative review. Mostly because John’s taste in games and my own taste in games are completely different and I tend to thoroughly enjoy everything he hates (and vice versa, seemingly). I think I can only recall (vaguely) agreeing with John on two different games over the past few years. I can’t recall what they were though.

      • Crafter says:

        haha, well I usually don’t look at the reviewer’s name a lot, but his weird rebuttal of HK has stuck with me so I checked the author’s name just before hitting the ‘opinion, away’ button.
        And of course it was John. Not sure I would go as far as buying the game based on him not liking it though seeing the comment just bellow.

    • Germashko says:

      For what it worth – i found Iconoclasts to be exactly like Owlboy: somewhat pretty (not in designs but just amount of quality work) but dull as a game – level-design and puzzle-design are as basic as it gets in my opinion. Even on Hard difficulty do not make much difference since levels are still boring and bosses are gimmicky and depthless.

      Game is also shoving story down your throat and so restrive of where you can go, so often you feel like playing boring AAA game and not niche indie platformer. Story is also not suited for a scale of a little metrodivania game – games like that ussually about small island or mansion or some ruins, not the whole world with different lands and countries and politics.

    • Dewal says:

      While reading the review about Iconoclast I felt like it was describing my experience with Owlboy too. I played it for a few hours and the gameplay felt completely off and I never engaged with the story, even though most reviews were praising it.

    • Cozzie says:

      I would recommend the dev’s previous games instead. Noitu Love is completely free or the second is cheap on Steam. Both are short, very well designed, experiences with interestingly different control schemes. The strength of both games is their amazing boss fights and (so far at least, at the third boss) that specialty carries over into Iconoclasts. If you enjoy the Noitu games then go for this.

  6. Babymech says:

    “I hope to die with no unfinished business. I don’t want my lingering spirit to burden my descendants”

    I hope I can put my affairs in order before I die. My descendants shouldn’t have to be burdened with my lingering spirit.

  7. Germashko says:

    I found a game to be another Owlboy. Even on Hard it’s a dull easy (and i’m not that good at games) mess of extremely basic puzzles, basic enemies, somewhat-fun-for-one-time gimmicky bosses and alot of story – the kind that not suited for a platformer game like that and feels off. But honestly i can bear the story if the gameplay was good – but it’s not.
    Game’s doing nothing particulary wrong for me, it’s more of an abstinence of things being done right. It’s a game empty of cool/interesting/challenging stuff, it’s levels feel like basic examples like “that what our enginge can do, now to create actual levels!”.

  8. Premium User Badge

    calcifer says:

    This review will probably remove the game from my wishlist. I’ve been reading RPS for a long time – almost since the very beginning – and John’s opinions have matched mine pretty consistently.

    Maybe it’s an age thing. Every year my preferences in media seem to move further away from what the kids/teenagers enjoy nowadays. Oh well…

    • sharpmath says:

      “Maybe it’s an age thing. Every year my preferences in media seem to move further away from what the kids/teenagers enjoy nowadays. Oh well…”

      This is almost exactly what growing up is.

  9. Yachmenev says:

    Is second opinion a regular thing on RPS, or something that’s going to be a regular thing? Or is it just something John wants to do?

    • ashleys_ears says:

      I hope so. I like seeing more than one critic’s take on a game. Each helps lend perspective to others.

    • welverin says:

      I think it’s more a matter of if someone feels strongly enough to be compelled to write about it, then they do. Whether that’s general policy or more a John thing, I don’t know.

      • UnConsolable says:

        Well, seeing as how Konjak spent 7 years singlehandedly creating and tuning this game for the express purpose of making John Walker £20 poorer and disappointed to boot then it’s only fair he leverage his position to spend 1400 words of prime RPS real estate rubbishing it and the already posted review.
        “be excellent” my bloody leg.

    • Hyena Grin says:

      I do find it a little weird, in that uncomfortable way when you do something for work and your boss steps in, says ‘that’s fine but here’s how I would do it’

      I actually would love to see more second opinions, but it’s one of those things where RPS pays people to write, and I don’t think this is a paid article, just something John felt compelled to write. I doubt we’ll be seeing these from other contributors, because it necessarily undermines the vague Importance of the WIT in a way.

      I feel like the Verdict is a good mechanism for second opinions, and I do wish we got more of those.

      • Yachmenev says:

        Yeah, it’s pretty much that feeling I got from this to. Maybe it’s something not all notice hear, but I at least imagine a pattern here.

        But a recurring segment of Second Opinions, from other writers as well, would be a good thing.

      • John Walker says:

        As it happens, I wrote this before Dominic had written his WIT. And I’m salaried, so I don’t write anything for free for RPS.

        • Hyena Grin says:

          Thanks for clearing that up. I wasn’t trying to wag a finger or anything, just trying to make sense of an unusual situation.

          I assume everyone on RPS staff is salaried, and contributors are paid by the article. I guess what I was getting at was that I suspect RPS would be unlikely to pay a contributor to write a second opinion on a WIT (that suspicion may be flat-out wrong). Whereas when someone’s on salary, whether they write a second opinion or some other article is kind of immaterial, they get paid the same either way, so (at least in some cases?) they write what they feel compelled to write, not what they are paid to write.

          Anyway I’m working off a lot of assumptions here, so I dunno. Not saying any of this is a bad thing! Just trying to rationalize why it feels a little weird.

    • Person of Interest says:

      I’m glad John shared his thoughts on this game. I love Dominic’s news blurbs but I am still learning how to interpret his WIT’s. But as you can see by the other comments, John provides a great reference point for whether someone will enjoy a particular Metroidvania. And now Dominic has been calibrated to the Walker standard!

  10. ersetzen says:

    I still like Iconoclasts after finishing it but not as much as on the halfway point. Before that it’s a puzzle platformer with some story in the background. The puzzles aren’t exactly challenging but the variety the basic mechanics are used in was pretty fun to me.

    After that it’s more of a story driven action platformer. Most puzzle elements are already known so it is more about execution and occasionally finding the hidden walkway. The story takes more of a foreground but feels kind of like a jumbled mess that just kind of bounces between plot points?

    Cutting ~30%-40% off the game probably would have made it more enjoyable for me.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      I’m on the complete opposite end of the scale. I think the first third, while enjoyable, doesn’t have too many stand-out moments. The second act is where I feel the game finds its footing and confidence, and the entire third act was an amazing ride and one that left me feeling mentally (I was playing on Hard mode, admittedly) and emotionally drained.

      I’m kinda reminded of the still-raging debate (at least on Twitter) over Transistor. A lot of people loved it up until the first act ended, then fell it dropped of fa cliff.

      I think that the first act was a necessary evil to set up a grand deconstructive subversion of videogame stories.

  11. dylan says:

    From the posted screenshots, I find the visuals to be every bit as as muddy and difficult to parse as the writing, and just as overburdened with too many ideas. They make me squint, and they’re not even moving!

  12. Tiger Teeth says:

    Oh no. Oh John. We’ve had our disagreements, you and I, but it’s rare that you produce an opinion that I find not just incongruous with my own experience but utterly opposite it.

    The game has its flaws- occasionally lacklustre level design, awkward writing (Sandberg is not a native English speaker, is the problem, though I did find it “more charming than wrong” myself)- but poor communication is definitely not one of them. If anything, I’d call the game a masterclass in communicating intended solutions through visual and structural cues. By the midpoint I’d achieved a zen-like state where I was intuiting solutions almost before a problem was introduced.

    On the rare occasion that I did find myself frustrated, it was almost always because I had stubbornly failed to notice some obvious clue- almost. And I definitely was not at any point confused or uncertain about what my current objective was.

    Similarly, the controls are a long way from demanding extreme precision- they are generous almost to the point of being sloppy. There are scads of aim-assist on everything, even the stomp attack, and the platforming has edge-detection that is disgustingly friendly. Block throwing is one of the more finicky actions, but it is always consistent. Any failure there is user error- an unwillingness to sit down and get a good feel for the controls.

    On the story, I found it compelling throughout- bleakly, remorselessly cynical and with a vicious, spiteful, heart-rending final act, but compelling- but if you’re finding the text to be that much of a problem then I understand not being able to get into it.

    Oh, and I note that your last (and latest) screenshot is from the Tower. If that’s what has you throwing in the towel then you have my sympathies- it’s navigational nightmare and probably the nadir of the level design.

  13. poliovaccine says:

    To me it seems like a reasonable guess that the “leaden” quality is a result of a very literal translation – which doesn’t forgive it being leaden, I’m just saying.

    • John Walker says:

      Absolutely. As someone who can, to my shame, speak no other language than English, I would never criticise an individual for their use of a second language. However, when a product is available for sale, at that point the criticism becomes relevant as it’s about the experience of the player, not the means of creation.

  14. poliovaccine says:

    The forever wheel of criticism in response to John’s critique makes me think of something. In a way, if a person likes something themselves, it will probably be liked by someone else, so everything will have its fans. I feel like, even when I disagree, it’s valuable to have a critic who makes their own preferences clear as parameters for their review, because it’s as much a rubric for the reader’s individual takeaway as it is a pure thumbs-up/thumbs-down. As it happens, I’ve found I can tend to rely on John’s tastes, though there are plenty of folks who find the opposite, even often enough amongst his fellow RPS (i.e. this article vs. the official Wot I Think) – and that fact just makes his presence here all the more invaluable to me, since more often than not I see him as a lone mad prophet screaming at people, “Mafia 3 is bullshit!!! Myst is bullshit!!! Why won’t you believe me???” And I mean that in the best way.

  15. haldolium says:

    Get out of my head John.
    This is an almost uncanny reflection of my experience with Iconoclasts. After I hit another obscure boss yesterday, I think I will trade in my playtime for something else and skip this one.

    At least I never knew about it before it got released and wasn’t expecting one thing or another.

  16. tanith says:

    I’m not really into platformers but after reading the review by Dominic and reading the praise on gamingonlinux I decided to buy it and I’ve been really enjoying my time with it. Of course I also remembered playing it many many years ago and I know that I’ve had fun with it, so it’s not surprising that I like it.

    I am 2 hours (or 30%) in and the only two things that resonated with me from John’s article is that 1) it’s a really weird design decision to stand on a key to pick it up (however, I don’t quite understand why that would keep you from jumping. Personally, I’ve never tried to jump off a key or a box that you can pick up myself but aren’t that two different buttons? I bound jumping to the space bar and to pick up something I need to press the arrow up key.) and that 2) sometimes it’s not clear how to damage a boss. For one boss fight I had to look at a youtube video to see what I did wrong. After that it was okay, though.

    Like I said, I am not into platformers but I quite like this game. I like the design of the characters and the writing and so far it’s been a good ride. I’m excited for what else is to come, although I’m stuck at the moment because I don’t quite know how to solve a puzzle to open an optional box. Hmm.

  17. Michael Fogg says:

    As someone raised on 90′ pc gaming and consumer of mostly fps and rpg variants I almost automatically skip all those platformers with faux 8-bit graphic style.

  18. Chromatose says:

    I didn’t even need to see the author title on mobile to know I was absolutely getting a John Walker Article™.

  19. sillythings says:

    Well, that actually ended up being more positive than what I expected. At least compared to John’s Hollow Knight review, he didn’t repeatedly tell people to play a different game (albeit in the same genre, but with a different focus) instead…

    To be perfectly honest, even though I love Iconoclasts, I actually agree with the majority of John’s criticisms (though not the one about the story being uninteresting).

    Picking up and throwing boxes – Yeah, it’s fiddly. That’s the one I probably agree with the most.

    Manual saving / checkpoints only before bosses – Yeah, but it’s only been an issue for me once (6 hours in on Harder mode).

    Occasionally not knowing where to go next – True, but I don’t feel it happened here more often than in other games of the genre.

    Awkward dialogue – Ehhh, I’m not a native English speaker either. I can see how this might bother a native speaker more. I’ll agree that some characters use dialogue that maybe feels unnecessarily stilted, but I also felt it helped give characters unique voices.

    Occasionally not knowing how to deal with a boss – I felt a little bit frustrated at that at times, but I don’t think this is a pure action game. It has puzzle elements too, and with that in mind, I think having boss fights that take some attempts to figure out are fine. I appreciate having an innovative, unique boss fight that’s not entirely perfect over one that is immediately obvious but offers no new ideas or distinction between any other boss fight out there.

    To me, all these issues mentioned range between minor nuisances or nitpicks. They certainly aren’t enough to make this game feel mediocre or to outweight the huge amount of positives about it!

    One of which I really want to mention, because I haven’t seen Dominic or John talk about it. Up to what I’ve played, yes, you kill enemies. But they’re all just flora/fauna – tree or crab-like monsters. The first time a human enemy dies, it’s actually a big deal. A character breaks down over it (even though he was a bad guy that tried to kill you)! Shortly after, you have to clear an area of human enemies. Internally, I sighed, thinking about how this would just make the previous scene feel silly. But, as it turns out, you only knock them out! Combat works normally, but you don’t kill. Later, playing as a different character, you do end up killing human enemies (or you can run past them, which I ended up doing once I realized that this time I didn’t just knock them out). But for this character, narratively, it made more sense, than it did for the main character. This is what we need more of! I recently played Rise of the Tomb Raider and all its attempts at making Lara a relatable, realistic character don’t matter, because she is just mowing down enemies left and right without a second thought or any self-awareness about it. Iconoclasts however proves you can have action gameplay with boss fights and explosions, without making the player a mass murderer or forcing non-lethal stealth alternatives to the often more fun lethal gameplay and that is just really incredible to me.

  20. temmieneko says:

    Kinda sad how you have to peddle your “almost reviews” on a site that where not more then 4 days ago, was praising Iconoclasts for it’s greatness.
    Sorry it’s not another PUBG, Im sure you’d love that…seeing as all you seem to do on this pathetic site is pander to the popular opinion.
    i wish Steam would stop publishing your smear articles on store pages.

    • Snowskeeper says:

      Speaking as somebody who adored Iconoclasts and has already recommended it to several people:

      The fact that a journalist doesn’t like the thing that you did does not make their writing about it a “smear article.” It makes it an article that you disagree with. You are welcome to explain why you disagree with it; you are not welcome to pretend that the fact that it disagrees with you somehow invalidates it.

      Also: the reason that somebody else on this website said that they liked it was that that person had a different opinion about the game than this person, not that people in general are pandering to public opinion. Iconoclasts has 205 reviews at present, and is rated “very positive;” if they were pandering to public opinion, none of their articles would be negative about it, would they?

    • John Walker says:

      I’ve never played Plunkbat in my life. But thanks for your contribution.

      • Ragnar says:

        I love how in the same sentence in which he accuses you of being a Plunkbat fanboy, he also accuses you of pandering to popular opinion. It’s almost as if he hasn’t read any of your other articles.

        But I bet you’ve never been accused of that before. :)

  21. TheAngriestHobo says:

    To explain, I’d write those as, “I hope to die with no unfinished business.”

    Uh, this is still a double negative.

  22. Merus says:

    I had a strong suspicion John wouldn’t like this – he did, after all, like neither Hollow Knight nor Hyper Light Drifter – but I can’t fault him in this case. I think it would have had a much more positive reception if it had come out a few years ago, when it would have been easier to overlook some of the flaws, particularly with pacing, level design and the awkwardness and chattiness of the script. I’m still enjoying it fine, but it doesn’t work as a cohesive whole in a way we expect these days. The checkpointing could probably be improved with patches, because there’s several multi-stage fights later on that have checkpoints part way through, so I think it’s inconsistent rather than deliberate.

    The plot does get more interesting past where I am, after the mountains, but it doesn’t get much better delivered. Its saving grace is that it is frequently charming, which is enough for me to overlook its other failings.

  23. Admore says:

    The many complaints above are funny to me. Here you have a reviewer with such a distinctive voice and outlook that if you read enough of his reviews, you have a clear idea how he’ll react to something.

    This is gold.

    Seriously. One of the major problems with media shifting to the internet has to be, to me anyway, the loss of consistent and erudite voices with discernible viewpoints. Agree or disagree with his opinion, you usually come away from the review knowing something about the subject reviewed.

    Whether you tend to agree or disagree with the reviewer means little, if that reviewer is consistent in outlook. If you know your own tastes in comparison, you benefit.

    Unless what you are really looking for is confirmation of your opinions and approval of your taste.

    • Marclev says:

      At least this site doesn’t have review scores, then every 2nd or 3rd comment would be complaining about how they’d have rated it +-1.

      And yeah, we know a lot from the review. We know that it’s an occasionally entertaining game with bland levels, bad writing, bad check pointing, random difficulty spikes, bad boss fights, and bad enemy balancing the further you get in.

      That’s enough to make me not buy it, because I know all of those (well, maybe no the bad writing, I’m very forgiving when it comes to translations) would make me refund it on Steam if they happened enough before the 2 hour mark. So the review has told me what I need to know, and is therefore good.

  24. Ragnar says:

    I’m always surprised by the complaints whenever John writes anything remotely negative. Who cares if a particular reviewer likes or dislikes a game? Do you really need your opinion validated by everyone online?

    What’s important is why someone likes or dislikes a game, and John is always great about explaining what he likes and what he doesn’t, and you can then take that and apply it to yourself and determine if you will like or dislike it. Reading a negative review and seeing that none of the negatives would bother you is far more useful than reading a positive review that doesn’t tell you if you would like the game. And isn’t that the whole point of reading a review, to figure out if you will like a game?

    I may not always agree with John’s reviews – I couldn’t seem to find any of the humour that John found so hilarious in Phoenix Wright – but I always find them useful.

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