(...) and how it is naturally difficult for beginners to get a hang of things -- it is a great game in the genre, but not something we could actively recommend to people who may not be fans of the genre. (...)
I deeply respect your position as senior editor and i logicaly understand all the other reasons you forwarded.
All except the above quote wich i think doesnt work at all in most situations. I'll explain:
A good game in it's genre has to do very well in it's genre. A good car racing game has to be a good car racing game. A good FPS has to be good in first person. A good wii-fit game has to be good at whatever fitness is good. A good platform game like Mario has to be good at platforming and so on.
With this said, you can't give a 9 to any game because all REALY GOOD games will only be recomended to the people that like that genre because that game in order to be good in it's genre, will likely push the people who don't like that genre further away from it the more it does its job well
If you give a 9 to a FIFA game because it's a great soccer game i have to say you are crazy because i absolutely HATE sport games and according to your review criteria you realy shouldnt give anything more than an 8 because it's impossible to recomend a good genre game to everyone.
Same thing with RPGs. You can't recomend a REALY true and good RPG to anyone realy because it's a dificult "genre" and it's not for everyone. But you should apply that logic to EVERY genre than, and in that logic you can't realy give more than an 8.1 to any good game and state "well it's a realy good Action game!" or "it's a realy good strategy game!" - If a good strategy game does it's job well, it will please strategy gammers the most, but people who like action will hate it more
Bottom line, you can't realy say you don't give more score to a game based on the line above stating "not something we could actively recommend to people who may not be fans of the genre" in the same logic you can't recomend any game to the people who are not fans of the genre... Did you recomend Mass Effect to everyone? even people who only play browser games or people that absolutely hate games with dialog ?
Really sorry to disagree with your criteria but honestly it's just unfair, the more a game it's good at its genre the more you punish it because it will be harder to recomend to people who don't like that genre...
If you state you don't recomend it to everyone because it's "a hard game", than any realy good true simulation game is hard to anyone that is not fan of the genre, so you also can't recomend it to everyone giving it more than an 8.1.
Either your logic fails a little, or you are just being against RPGs in general, still thinking that a true RPG is a "niche" or something which is not because D:OS is on top of charts for example
I think we are just having a small communication problem! The review scale isn't saying that the game has to alter the minds of non-believers! When we say "actively recommend to people who may not be fans of the genre" we don't mean they hate or even dislike the genre, just that it isn't in their normal repertoire.
The difference to us is something like BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma versus Super Smash Bros. -- we enjoyed BlazBlue and thought but some of the difficulty curve and controls are more tailored for people who are into the nitty gritty, however lacked some good tutorials . Meanwhile, Super Smash Bros. holds a more universal appeal for all gamers, is generally more accessible, etc..
If someone came up to the reviewer and asked "What game should I play right now?", he would probably say "You HAVE to play Divinity: Original Sin if you are a fan of RPGS, that game is Great!" Meanwhile, they might not need the "if you are a fan of RPGs" qualifier with other games. Its a similar situation as when we had to tackle reviewing Southpark: Stick of Truth -- it is something we'd actively recommend to fans of the series game, but may or may not to people who aren't fans of the series. Hearthstone is something we can actively recommend to everyone, not just people with background in WoW.
I wish I could be more precise about what exactly made him come to the conclusion -- I haven't played the game. But that is at least the explanation of our review scale We are doing our best to recommend to people with different tastes!