Posted: November 11, 2013
As pinball goes the game play is terrific and Pinball Arcade has been absent from Steam for far too long. The fact that it had to go through Greenlight is more testament to Valve's incompetence and lack of understanding of the genre.
Farsight includes a free table with the distribution of their platform. Tales of Arabian Nights is outrageously good. Personally I can sit in one spot from dusk until dawn ignoring hunger or nature calling playing this table. The music, sound and game-play are all top notch. Unfortunately the pot ain't all roses and there are some weeds, hopefully not permanently.
Graphically the package is a disappointment. I don't know much about the studio but there are many aspects of the package that are missing or not up to par and diminish what should be one the premier titles on the steam store.
The game has shipped with post-processing bug so you must turn off this feature (some tables) which denigrates the graphical presentation even further. Still, when it works post-processing is no more than a gimmick to cover up the textural inadequacies of the tables.
The distribution model of the tables created quite a stir when Pinball Arcade made it's Steam debut. Table packages were treated as IAPs or in app purchases and not as Steam recognized downloadable content. Problems with this model included the inability to send Steam gifts or the guarantee that tables would be available if Farsight ever went under though I'm unsure exactly where IAP content is hosted. The claim for the model was said to be based on that there were too many table packages in too many configurations, "normal" vs "pro" (more on that will follow), table packs, season packs, custom ball packs. Farsight responded and negotiated a compromise with Valve where the "normal" and "pro" season packs would be published as official Steam downloadable content and each would have it's own product page. Personally I'm waiting for this to happen before buying any tables. The rest would remain as IAPs, still a concern.
The "normal" and "pro" packages just seem unnecessary and unwarranted. Do people who buy the "normal" tables not want the ability to scan the tables or occasionally fiddle with the menu? Sure, I understand that such features are not absolute must haves but the classification of the packages without these features as "normal" is misguided and has been mishandled. Lacking such features in a pinball package is not "normal" and paying up to 75% more for them is wrong and further, should not be marketed to me as "pro". It's a joke and an insult to fans of the studio.
Usually I'm all in for this genre. I would of gladly purchased all of their content day one but their incompetent marketing has left a bad taste. I will own all of the "pro" tables but I'm not paying a mark-up for a faux "pro" marketing technique meant to take advantage of the naive consumer. I would of bought the package at the "pro" unit price if there was no such demarcation between "normal and "pro" but I'll wait for the "pro" season discount. If that never comes then so be it. It's principle and besides, the free table , "pro" mind you, Tales of Arabian Knights is just remarkable, so no rush.
Pinball Arcade without question is the best pinball experience to be had. That's no offense to my friends @ZEN with have worked hard and put out a quality product as well. In many aspects ZEN's product presentation is vastly superior. The question is can Farsight deliver more than their excellent engine. Can they improve the presentation, the interface, improve the distribution of their downloadable content, improve the textures and lighting of their tables. Provide Steam integration in the form of Steam friends leader-boards and make the Steam leader-boards just for Steam users, not lump us in with phone and tablet users.
Get your act together Farsight. Your product does not cast a positive light on your studio. We expect a polished product. Pinball Arcade is not that polished product though the pinball is stupendous.
Addendum: February 19th, 2014: A Steam friends list implementation has been effected, however it is not integrated meaning you have to be logged into a Farsight account. Your Steam friends show with their Farsight names, therefore your friends may not be recognizable. The posted scores are not Steam specific in that if a friend plays on another platform such as IOS, the scores will show as well. This implementation is a step in the right direction but it is not optimal.
Addendum: September 30th, 2014: Sometime ago FS corrected the issue with not being able to recognize Steam friends.