Picture this: It’s Saturday morning and time to sit down for some wholesome family viewing with everyone’s favourite misfit heroes, Agents of Mayhem…Hell, no! Scratch that. It’s whatever time you want it to be, for bringing down lasers from space and giving about as many f*cks as L.E.G.I.O.N’s Doctor Babylon. He gives four.
Following on from our in-depth preview – we’ve since sunk our teeth into Mayhem’s meat, and my is it chunky…
Agents of Mayhem’s Ample Assets:
Operation spin-off is in full swing as you diligently follow Agents of Mayhem in their pursuit of L.E.G.I.O.N, The Morningstar’s underlings. Following the events of Devil’s Night, when L.E.G.I.O.N successfully achieved world domination, The Morningstar has entrusted Doctor Babylon and his lieutenants to destroy…M.A.Y.H.E.M – the Hunters of Evil Masterminds! It’s time for ex L.E.G.I.O.N lieutenant Persephone Brimstone to get her agents together and kick ass!
This is the tale of Fortune, Hardtack, and Hollywood. Or is it? That’s up to you! The characterisation of the titular agents is where Agents of Mayhem really shines, and an area in which it could have seriously fallen flat. From familiar faces such as Pierce (now known as Kingpin) to Red Card, an angry German football fan, their individual scripts are sharp, punchy, and engaging. While you power up one squad of three – either from the pre-made line-up, such as those aligned with ‘Franchise Force’, or a dream team of your own creation – you are itching to go back and work on your next motley crew. You’ll find yourself becoming heavily attached to a select bunch, be it for playstyle reasons or how entertaining their individual dialogue makes your time in-game.
Want to make like an Eastern Agent 47? Hit up ex Yakuza, Oni. Ranged more your thing?Check out Mumbai’s hunter Rama. Want to get up close and personal? Master of subterfuge Scheherazade won’t tell you her real name, but will deal the pain. All the agents at hand are oozing with badassery and provide a welcome balance to the gaming experience. If there are characters that don’t suit your particular style, for me the berserker Red Card – while unique – was one of them, the aforementioned playstyle range is incredibly diverse.
Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do! Ahem…Let’s talk about Daisy. She spoke to me on a personal – crass – level, real deep and meaningful stuff, of course. Ha. Deep. Anywho…Daisy is one of three agents unlocked as you play through the campaign – alongside my two other favourite babes, Rama and Scheherazade. Is the roller derby girl the sort of lass you would bring home to your parents? No, no she isn’t. She’s your drinking buddy, that crass best friend who you can tell anything to – no holds barred. As you help Daisy recreate ‘the night before’, and after you’ve discovered her sleeping in a shipping container, she goes on a journey of discovery involving food, a gladiatorial robot arena, and killing a ton of Legion. Daisy is the personification of the franchise by being the only agent who joined Mayhem for the kicks. This is the point at which Agents of Mayhem really starts to dig its claws in, with the majority of your agents at hand, radio chatter increases and that signature Saints Row style we know and love begins to fully reveal itself. Active and inactive characters communicate during active play, or while you are idly exploring Seoul, and these snippets maintain each agent’s individual flavour. Oh, hey! Yeti (Dear old Oleg for the Saints Row enthusiast) is calling in from the ARK! Yeti resorts to ‘Dear Daisy’ for more indelicate matters, “Daisy, what does it mean when a woman asks to suck on your popsicle?” I think we all know what that means, Yeti.
Newsflash! The females in this game are absolutely awesome. I have always admired how balanced Saints Row has been, since Saints Row: The Third in particular, when it comes to gender. Sure you could create an overly sexualised female character, but hey you can do that to the males too. In Agents of Mayhem, I completed the campaign with three female characters, which is quite rare for me. They arguably surpass the men on offer, and are all unique in attitude, sexual orientation, and motivations. It felt great to want them in my team rather than out of necessity, which I must applaud the writers for. It’s a great experience to feel badass and unintentionally complete the campaign with a team of women. You know what’s even better than this? Being a team of women that ‘retires’ Justin Bieb…I mean, ‘August Gaunt’ to a squealing pulp.
This unwavering desire to explore all the possibilities with the agents makes Agents of Mayhem’s replayability factor quite high. To sate your enthusiasm, Agents of Mayhem has a rather large package containing a plethora of open world, randomly generated activities and events across Seoul. No need to obsess over the city map, as these organically cross your path and can be done on a whim. Oh look, there’s a hostage attached to a bomb? OK… activate defensive field around them. Aaaand detonate… Another life saved! Sort of… Observe as your poor citizen ping pongs off into the city in a large energy ball. Fun for a giant game of football though… Best call Red Card. As the game genre mash-up continues Legion Outposts bring casual open world tower defence into play, seeing as the capture isn’t permanent if you stub too many Legion toes. Hey! Vehicles are useful again! While you bound around as a superhuman, it doesn’t negate the use of vehicles, as your characters traverse the environment in more of an inFamous style manner. This is a nice scale back to before Saints Row IV, which had some excellent vehicles but the use of them went out of the window thanks to your (awesome) powers. Back at base, onboard the Ark, you have the Wreck Room for challenging your agents and Global Conflict – which is reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood’s Assassin deployment. Is there a bunch of agents you don’t fancy using? Send them off to find resources, contracts, and Legion Lairs.
Fallen in love with an agent’s style but don’t have them in your party? Never fear, Gremlin Tech is here. With 29 tasty tech-bits to collect, you can become a force to be reckoned with. This includes status effect tech that reflects the individual qualities of the twelve agents, such as Pandemonium if Oni isn’t in your squad to inflict panic and gain precision, or go out with a bang with the latest batch of insanity from the home of Saints Row. Devastate with the Moon Beam and Lightning Strike, or affect the environment with Pedsplosion (exploding civilians in the surrounding area) and Maximum Over-Go (cars will drive into destruction like they are using a broken Sat-Nav). You can also craft Legion Tech, which are socketed to an agent’s passive ability, special, and weapon. Stats, stats, stats, people!
Agents of Mayhem’s Quandaries:
Everything seems to be coming up roses for Agents of Mayhem so far, yes? Well, almost.
Most RPGs have activities and side missions which are repetitive in the sense that the premise is the same, but locations and layouts may differ, and we are generally prepared to engage them for sideline silliness or rewards if there is enough variety. The Saints Row series has had its fair share of wonderfully barmy side missions, but that is what they are restricted to – the side, or as part of loyalty/agent missions. While the Legion Lairs are great for levelling or experimenting with new agents and make sense in the team mission context, in which you test drive a pre-set squad, they are featured just a little too much in the main story…and everywhere else. Unfortunately, this draws attention to their design within such an eclectic city and detracts from some of the more creative story missions. There is minimal variation to the layouts of each; and sure, villains like things uniform and will have their resident ‘lair architect’ to build the underworld in their image. However, if these had been restricted to the side, as side-missions are wont to do, the Legion Lair fatigue would not have caught my attention quite as prominently. The discovery of legion lair entrances in Seoul becomes far more ingenious than what lies inside. Agents of Mayhem almost overdoes itself by packing in so much brilliant content that continuously raises your in-game expectations, which are certainly met and surpassed in other areas, but can generate disappointment in others.
That being said, the most intriguing Legion Lair belongs to lieutenant Ariadne – which, had their been fewer in the main story, would have impressed me even more than it did – mainly because I spent an ungodly amount of time punting an octopus mascot around one of the starting rooms, which would creepily pull ‘Weeping Angel’ tactics on me whenever I lost the bugger. That happy Octopus had murder on his mind. I can tell.
Playing through Ariadne’s Lair in the professional and calm manner that I do, I must say I…
CABBITS?! Oh my GOD, I LOVE CABBITS! *
*A recurring Saints Row Easter egg – Saints fans!
Slight diversion there… While Agents of Mayhem isn’t Saints Row, they are intrinsically linked and inevitably considered at the back of my mind. What is so fantastic about the Gremlin Tech is also what is slightly frustrating for those familiar with Saints Row’s past. If the game thinks you’re as awesome as me and ups the difficulty because you are, in fact, the greatest bunch of bitches the world has ever seen, you will notice that the Gremlin Tech ‘Mulligan’ becomes exceedingly useful, as it resurrects fallen squadmates during combat. However, I want to Cabbit bomb, Moon Beam, and Lightning Strike these Legion into oblivion too! You can swap Gremlin Tech in and out at any time, but in more of a Witcher-esque fashion. One moment mate, I need to bring up my inventory as I want to obliterate you. Just a sec. I found myself wishing you could hotkey more than one piece of tech, or let’s say three, which would give you access to each of the main types of Gremlin Tech, Status effect passive/active and spectacle.
Agents of Mayhem decided we had become so awesome that I should be Chief of Executions, which is the 15th and highest difficulty available. Sadly, it couldn’t handle my ‘awesomeness.’ As frame rate drops, Rama’s missing bow, and falling under the world to meet my maker are a few of the hiccups I encountered. I really pushed Agents of Mayhem to its limits, and these frame rate drops in particular were detrimental to my survival, as I lost important speed which caused unexpected deaths and frustration. This only seemed to be a major issue on the very highest difficulty, and I mention this not to deter you from purchasing Agents of Mayhem. I would advise that if you encounter these issues, or wish to avoid them completely, to give the game a chance after launch to potentially be patched. If you are not a complete nutter, you may never experience the bugs I had if you play on a modest difficulty. Sadly, I am a crazed lunatic, so, you know, proceed with caution.
Volition have taken a massive u-turn, bold risks, and successfully expanded on the Saints Row repertoire. Agents of Mayhem presents a mash-up of gaming styles, genres, and maintains a strong, consistent style which you will become addicted to. It may not be Saints Row per-se and, minor quibbles aside, fills that lonely Saints gap that you’ve developed over time – opening up a multitude of fresh new avenues, rather than replacing the Saints you love. I see a sequel and DLC ahoy in Agents of Mayhem’s future. Next time on Agents of Mayhem: Explosions, Cabbits, and will the Firing Squad manage to keep their secret pet from Persephone and…Carol in HR?