A couple of weeks ago, Borderlands 3 was officially announced, which drummed up a ton of excitement from fans of the series. Unfortunately, the situation soured for some last week when the PC version was revealed to be a timed exclusive for the Epic Games Store. To vent their frustration, a lot of Steam account holders began flooding Borderlands 1 & 2 with negative reviews on Steam, which has given us our first look at Valve's new ‘off-topic' reviews safeguard in action.
Review bombing has become fairly common in the last couple of years. If a publisher or developer angers enough players, you'll often see hundreds or even thousands of negative reviews flood in, even if the issue has nothing to do with the game being reviewed. Valve has tweaked the review system a couple of times to try and combat this. The latest change adds the new ‘off-topic' review category, which will block certain reviews from impacting the overall score of a game.
The most recent example of this is the Borderlands 2 Steam page, which has seen over 4,000 negative reviews creep up since Borderlands 3 was revealed to be an Epic Games Store exclusive. The Borderlands 1 listing was also impacted, with several hundred negative reviews posted.
Many of these reviews have been grouped into the ‘off-topic' section, meaning they won't impact the overall quality rating displayed at the top of the Steam page. As a result, Borderlands 1 and 2 both have an overall positive rating.
These off-topic reviews aren't exactly hard to spot as many of them will directly mention the Epic Games Store. None of these reviews are removed from the Steam page but the way they are categorised is distinctly different.
KitGuru Says: Review bombing is often used to get a certain message across. In this case, it is an outcry against platform exclusivity. Categorising these reviews as ‘off-topic' makes sense, as complaints against Borderlands 3 shouldn't really have any effect on the quality of past games in the series.