Let me start by saying, I LOVE the Saint’s Row series.
I’ve been a big fan of the franchise and have been playing the games since the beginning. Saint’s Row 1 & 2 were a more urban version of GTA, while Saint’s Row 3, 4 and Gat Outta Hell decided to stand out by being more outrageous and less like a GTA clone.
As it is, Design Director Scott Phillips states that “We’re definitely considering Saints Row IV to sort of end the saga of this character and the Saints that they are,” meaning that this is the end of the Saints Row universe as we know it. I mean, we’ve been to Hell and back, literally. Where else is there to go?
So when I heard the news that Volition was making a new game in the SR world, I was ecstatic. But as reviews started trickling out regarding the game, I was concerned. The bad reviews did keep me from buying the game for quite some time, but eventually it hit an all time low sale price of $10 and I just couldn’t say no at that point.
I’ve been playing Agents of Mayhem for the past few weeks, and overall I’ve found it quite enjoyable.
So why did it fail?
1. It’s NOT a Saint’s Row Game.
From the start, this game positioned itself as “Set in the Saint’s Row Universe, but not an actual Saint’s Row game”. It seems obvious to state that most of us got the memo. But it seems that Volition might have forgotten to even read their own memo.
One of the main assets used is that the game is based on 1 of the possible endings from ‘Gat Outta Hell’ where they reset the world, Gat is now a top brass cop along with some of the SR crew and they have captured “Lady Brimestone”. This basically sets up the events of Agents of Mayhem in an alternate world where the Saints don’t exist.
On top of that, we have recurring characters and themes, like Gat, Oleg, Pierce, Kenzie and Ultor. Even the logo for Agents looks a lot like the Saint’s Row’s fleur-de-lis. It seems like Volition was riding a bit too high on the coat tails of their previous success with the Saint’s games by including far too much overlap and similarities. Alice Bell from VideoGamer.com stated, “In trying to chase the popularity of Saint’s Row, it misses having an identity of its own,” which perfectly sums up the sentiments here. Borrowing so many assets from previous games but not actually just giving us another title for that series left the fan base truly disappointed.
2. Lack of Multiplayer.
I understand that they never marketed this game as ‘multiplayer’ but I think it was an insanely huge missed opportunity. The idea of having different agents and constantly playing with a squad of 3 at your disposal at all times seemed like the making of a perfect multiplayer game. Technically, there is a some multiplayer functionality in the game, but it’s an asymmetrical where other “Agents” can work on contracts together (i.e. kill X amount of enemies, collect X amount of money) but you never actually get to play with another person. It’s really the equivalent of “Blue Balls” in gaming, because the game is so close to having that option but it seems like it was cut out due to cost or budgets in the end.
This was especially painful to hear, as more games include some form of multiplayer. Whether it’s campaign, battles, or other modes, there are plenty of games that include at least one option. It really seems that we’re on the cusp of multiplayer becoming NECESSARY in most modern games, or at the very least a certain form of online play. So to see this game come out with a major feature lacking, really added another item working against it.
3. The story.
The story throughout all of the Saint’s Row games have been great. But let me be honest when I say the story isn’t the driving factor for me when it came to purchasing the titles or turning the game on daily for months at a time. I really enjoyed the chaos, mayhem and the overall fun it all brought me. But for some people, that’s just not enough. I completely get it though, because while the SR story might have not been good enough to win an award, it was fun. I can’t say that Agents of Mayhem did the same for me.
What story there is throughout AoM seems to be riding on that “80’s cartoon vibe”. Gamers like myself who grew up watching G.I. Joe, Thundercats and more would enjoy it and have fun. But a lot of the context and jokes would be completely foreign to the younger generation of gamers who would be more inclined to pick up this game. And for coming across as a fun, comical game… The game rarely lands the jokes. Maybe the SR series set my expectations too high. Maybe I outgrew this level of humor. Or maybe it really just wasn’t funny. I only found myself with a minor chuckle a handful of times, and mostly left with groans and disappointment at failed jokes and out of place one-liners.
4. The game play.
The game suffers from the same issues that Dragon Age 2 had, where it gets repetitive after quite some time with the missions, the game mechanics and also the look of the game. So in Agents of Mayhem you have the ability to raid Legion Lairs, but the issue is that “When you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all”. Each lair has the same visual style, and it really feels like the only things done may have been a quick swap of the color palette before pushing it to production and making one room taller or shorter. Sure, these lairs have different bosses and enemies, but it really has this feel of laziness when each lair and outpost just feels the same. Now, if you think I’m being critical about the visual elements, I also want to point out that even the missions felt redundant. Most of them were to go to a place and kill a bunch of people, or hack a computer and exit, or chase down this or get this item. Granted, those formulas exist across almost all games out there in some capacity, but a lot of games go out of their way to make it feel a bit different. Even WoW has found a way to make “Go out into this field and kill 10 Orcs” seem new and different each time an expansion comes out.
When we compare Agents of Mayhem to Saint’s Row, it simply falls short. In SR, you did side missions to get new powers, new weapons, new comrades, new perks, and it all came together in the game play. In Agents of Mayhem, most of the side missions give you 1% more detail on the characters, but even that just isn’t enough for the average player. The average gamer is going to want a reason or reward for going out of their way to finish a mission. Especially if it’s a side quest.
Now, I don’t want this review to sway you from wanting to play it. The above may seem harsh, but in all reality I still enjoyed the game despite the criticism. But unless you’re a hardcore Saint’s Row fan, I don’t think you’ll truly enjoy it for what it is and to its full extent. If you happen to catch it on sale or want something different to play, it’s worth the money just to blow up random stuff in game or to even hold you over until “CrackDown 3” eventually comes out.
But as much as I love Saint’s Row, I couldn’t have justified paying $40 for this game.