Shadow Of The Tomb Raider Gets Review Bombed For Going On Sale So Soon

Shadow Of The Tomb Raider Gets Review Bombed For Going On Sale So Soon

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is, to hear people (including Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo) tell it, pretty good, despite some questionable narrative decisions.

Last week, however, it committed a crime that some Steam users decided couldn’t be forgiven: a 34 per cent off sale. Cue the review bombs.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider came out on September 14, a little more than a month ago. While a sale is by most measures a good thing for people who buy games, some Steam users had already bought the game at full price before the sale and are now feeling bitter about how quickly the price dropped.

“Not a bad game,” reads a negative review posted today. “Not as good as the first two games, but I was an early adopter and the game dropped down by near half price so quickly. Aren’t I a total mug preordering this? Never again, Square Enix.”

According to Steam, this person has played the game for nearly 60 hours, so they must have enjoyed it on some level. Though it’d be hard to argue that they didn’t get their money’s worth, their disappointment is understandable. Who wouldn’t feel bummed about losing out on an extra $US20 ($28), after all?

At the same time, though, it’s not the end of the world, especially if you’re the kind of person who can afford to buy a blockbuster video game at launch.

Such a quick turnaround sale could be a sign that the game isn’t selling super well, a theory backed up by the fact that Shadow of the Tomb Raider has only had a few thousand concurrent players at any given point since shortly after launch. The game’s Steam reviews used to be “mostly positive,” but since the sale it’s received an outpouring of review-score-tanking negativity.

On October 16 and 17 alone, 308 new negative reviews splattered its previously respectable record with scathing red, triggering Steam’s chart-based review bomb detector.

Since then, unhappy customers have posted another 312. As of now, the game’s reviews are only 66 per cent positive, earning it a “mixed” score on Steam’s scale. 

While some reviews seem genuine, others are questionable.

“First and foremost I feel I have been ripped off, an object lesson in how to shaft your loyal customers who were dumb enough to pre-purchase,” reads one of many reviews posted today. They noted that the “gameplay is very second rate, at best tedious at worst boring” despite having spent nearly 30 hours with the game.

“Great sale SE,” reads another review, this time from somebody who hasn’t even played for two hours and clearly just wanted to complain about the sale, rather than the content of the game.

This whole thing has turned Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s review section into something of a warzone over an issue unrelated to how the game actually plays – which is, you know, not super ideal for a review section.

“Ignore the salty review bombers,” reads yet another review posted today, this one positive. “People who wanted to play this game at launch bought it at launch. It makes absolutely no difference that the devs have put it on sale ~1 month later. You’re either the type of person that wanted to play this at launch or the type that waited for it to go on sale.”

While small games are more susceptible to the ravages of review bombing than triple-A blockbusters, they still have an impact—one that’s being felt more and more given Steam’s increasingly reliance on algorithms that take reviews into account.

The sale ended earlier today, too, meaning that these negative reviews are no longer indicative of anything that might affect future buyers, barring yet another sale that people decide is happening too soon.

It’s hard to look at all this and not come away with the impression that Steam’s review system needs an overhaul. It’s easily abused, and the current positive/negative binary leaves people with legitimate—albeit even slightly nuanced—grievances unable to express what they’re feeling without possibly contributing to abusive moments like this one.

Steam’s anti-review-bomb charts have been around for more than a year now, and while they’ve certainly made people aware of review bombs—arguably achieving Valve’s goal in the process—they’ve done nothing to curtail them. If anything, review bombs are a more prevalent problem than ever.


  • This is possibly one of the dumbest reasons to review bomb something we’ve seen so far. Imagine reviewing a car and giving it zero stars because the dealership put it on sale a month after you bought it. What precious nonsense.

    • It does make customers feel bad about supporting your product early however. It doesn’t make sense, but it is what it is.

      • You’re right, it doesn’t make sense. There’s always a discount around the corner. If not a month then in three, or six, or at the summer sale, or the winter sale, or any of the other sales Steam has. If people let themselves get trapped in this mentality they’ll either never buy a game or they’ll always resent the price they paid because there’s always a deeper discount to be had.

        Review bombing about stuff that has nothing to do with the game has always bugged me, and this is one of them. It’s not even that the regular price point was dropped, it was just a sale.

        • And this is why I’m not releasing my game to Steam when I finish it. The toxicity that Valve allow to run rampant. Review bombing should not be a thing.

          I will gladly sacrifice a revenue stream if it means I can sleep soundly at night not fearing backlash from players over stupid nonsense.

          • People find ways to vent their frustration (justified or not) regardless. If it’s not Steam’s reviews it’s Metacritic or Reddit or wherever else. I appreciate you wanting to avoid it and I genuinely wish you the best of luck, but I think the better approach is to just do the best you can and accept that some thing are outside of your control.

    • Completely agree with you mr Jesus. This is some petty crap.
      Who is writing these reviews? By the looks of it, salty hormonal 12 year olds.

    • Yeah, I don’t get it. If you bought something on day 1 for full price, $100 or whatever, then you obviously thought it was worth that much. Otherwise why did you buy it? The fact that not so many other people thought it was worth that much, leading to it getting discounted fairly early, isn’t really relevant. You paid what you thought it was worth, other people waited until the price dropped to what they thought it was worth. Those same people probably bought some other game at full price while you waited for a sale. That’s how market capitalism works – supply and demand. In the case of digital distribution, supply is effectively infinite, leaving demand as the driving factor. In this case, the demand is obviously not as strong as for other games.

      • Lets not forget that paying day 1 means you also got to play the game and enjoy it much more and earlier thean the folks who waited for a sale. Which is kinda the point there… you experience it “first”

        If you think its too expensive then wait like the rest of the plebs who can only look on waiting to get the chance to purchase the game at a lower price.

    • Really? It makes total sense to me. People get really angry paying full price when in hindsight they only needed to wait a few weeks for a big saving. Your example is a good one. It absolutely wouldn’t surprise me at all that people do that. That’s what some people on the internet do. They’re spiteful and small and will hurt anything they can, anyway they can. Usually by crappy reviews, comments, etc.

      • Had to repost because of edit 🙁

        I guess what doesn’t make sense is the anger is over the whole ‘it’ll be cheaper later’ thing which is a perpetual thing for purchases, just the time frame changes. It’s like an unspoken rule, you choose to either pay more and get it now or less and get it later.

    • Yes, even for major Steam sales it still has to be voluntary by the publisher. The choice for running this sale was Square Enix’s.

  • Given how steam usually price things in Australia (I can think only of Ubisoft titles, but both Far Cry 4 and Ghost Recon: Wildlands were ‘cheaper’ if you pre-ordered them (they were listed at their US prices until launch and then, ‘boom’ Australia tax appears around 24 hours prior to launch day)) I am amongst the list of absentee gamers for Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

    The other two titles were around $20 for a GOTY within 18 months… given how large my own pile of shame is, I have no problems working through another game in my back catalog and waiting to pick this up in a year or so.

    34% off something that’s probably price gouging (I’m looking @ you $80US or higher titles) is pretty offensive to all those who have ponied up full price for it.

    If I were that customer, I’d be pretty well demanding that my copy be refunded (or an equivalent credit amount to go toward other of that publishers goods), that I just ‘suddenly get’ the season pass (or equivalent) or flatly not buying from that publisher again.

  • When are consumers going to realise when they buy something, anything, they are paying a premium price for time. That’s it. Given we are in the busiest time of the year for games, and the time when pretty much all games will be on sale either in a reaction to that. or the Halloween/Thanksgiving/Xmas trifecta, buy a game (or any product) is always of a case ‘wanting it now’ so you pay more. When you can get exactly the same product later at a reduced rate.

    As for reviewing bombing, that same old sad tale, people not reviewing the game that it is, but (trying) to strike a blow against the developer for things beyond the game.

  • I thought it was just the croft edition that went on sale? Which seemed reasonable given that the major perk of that edition was that you can play the game before launch.

  • I didn’t buy this game at launch because I saw the first two games in the series get cheap so quickly. These morons have nobody to blame but themselves.

    It’s was easy to get the last game sub-$30 within a year of launch. The Xbone version is included on Gamepass, the PC version has been included in the monthly Humble Bundle TWICE (once as an option)!
    Every time someone tries to give it to me I think “DAMN! That’d be a great deal if I hadn’t bought it at full-retail!”

    So yeah…. It’s on them. Sucks for the developer and I don’t know why it keeps happening though.

    • Yep. I found the same. The other 2 went cheap very quickly. I was shocked at how cheap and quickly I got the first one, and on steam no less! I was also shocked at how good it was.

  • You owe the publishers and the studio nothing,
    They are the ones that plaster the websites you visit with their advertisements,
    They manipulate and bribe you to part with your money to pre-order a product,
    Hurry now you may miss out! You have to get it first! Pre-Order now for this On the disk DLC content,

    When games companies use more and more Predatory tactics to entice and mislead consumers to purchase products,
    Review bombing is such a meager weapon and the only one a lot of consumers have at their hands.

    And before someone rushes to the studio’s defense, saying “not everyone who worked on it is a horrible monster, please think of them”
    It isn’t about the programers and artists and everyone else who worked on the project,
    They are also caught up in this cycle of abuse where they are forced to grind out overtime to get the game over the line for publishers and marketing.

  • Given that steam is more often than not forced to charge us rrp for these big games whilst stores, brick and mortar/online discount the crap out of it on release, I don’t see the big deal.

  • Note: I bought this game about 3 weeks after release at full price because I very much enjoyed the first two games.
    It went on sale on the PSN store about 4 days after I purchased. I didn’t throw a tantrum, it was a minor annoyance at best. I usually wait for sales but I chose not to. Operative word is ‘chose’.
    Gamer entitlement is a prevalent thing isn’t it!

    • This has happened to me too. I do the same. Plus I throw my hands above my head and say “oh well” and mentally calculate what I could’ve done with the money I could’ve saved. Then I shrug and move on with my life.

  • you know why i didnt buy it straight away after release?
    Because i was waiting for the price to go down.

    Nobody tell these early adopters that prices go down over time?
    cry babies

  • This sort of horseshit is rampant in any sort of customer feedback and is akin to shooting the messenger. SE put out a product and the product is good (perhaps not great but whatever), then because of some rubbish business practices, the game cops the flak when the ire should be targeted at the publisher. Fair to say that the ire shouldn’t be pointed anywhere but if you insist on kicking up a stink, you should be throwing your fecal matter at the proper target.

    It’s like answering a feedback survey for some customer service interaction and giving bad feedback, not because your service was bad (it was in fact great and all of your issues were resolved), but because you are in a shitty mood over some business decision like discontinuing a feature that nobody but you used and was time consuming to maintain.

  • Given the undue emphasis so many Steam kiddies place on their profiles and badges, Valve just needs to award a “Whiny Douche” badge to anyone who review bombs a game for spurious reasons and have it displayed at the top of their profile. That’d stop ’em.

  • Regarding the number of concurrent players, you may not be aware that there were significant performance issues upon release. People like myself left it to wait for an inevitable patch/es and it looks like most never came back.

    They’ve only themselves to blame.

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