I picked this up in the Steam sale, but I think I’m done. Though very few of my friends play it, so my guess is that not many people will care.


Must be an RPG if you have to talk to gremlins

I love the Saints Row games, and this is by the same studio, so it seemed promising. To a first approximation it is a Saints Row game– just continuing the trend of downplaying the gang angle and upplaying the superheroics.

If Overwatch was a single-player game, it’d probably be like this. Apparently the bad guys, called Legion, have taken over the world, in a bright colorful future, but the titular Agents are on the case. You have a bunch of international agents (though you start with just 3); you more or less have to learn how to play each one, though you can play favorites; you fight cartoon supervillains and their minions. You have what are pretty much special powers on a short cooldown and an ult on a long one.

There’s also races, Legion hotspots to shut down, cars to drive, so it also feels like a Saints Row game.  They even kept one of the weirdest little mechanics of SR: you can “compliment” citizens with a gesture, and they’ll mime one back. There are fleur-de-lis and lots of purple.

You only play as one character at a time. But you have a squad of three, and can switch between them with the mousewheel. And you’ll need to, because a) you’ll need certain characters to whittle down shields and… um, other-shields. (There are two types.) And b) the characters you’re not using recover health, which is the way to get through long boss fights.

What I’m really mad at right now: the piss-poor checkpointing. I couldn’t defeat a boss– OK, fair enough, now I know what to do.  Only there are three stages to this fight, and the checkpoint is before the first one. And really none of the stages are fun or interesting; it’s dash up and do some damage to a turret or the boss, then hide while he uses his weapon, rinse and repeat for more than half an hour. And there’s no way to change the difficulty during a mission, which is simply incredible.

That’s the worst thing, but there’s other ways that the game just falls short.

  • The characters… oh lord. By the time of SR4 its characters– Pierce, Shaundi, Kinzie, even Johnny Gat– felt like old friends. The Agents are all kind of brash and chattery, but not very likeable. They have different abilities, but they’re far less differentiated than Overwatch heroes.
  • In general the writing is kind of excruciating. I get it, it’s Saturday morning cartoons, but even on that level it could be way better… cf. Handsome Jack in Borderlands 2.
  • You get gadgets from each mission, and there’s a load of customizable options, and there’s little guidance on what sort of build you will need. It seems way more fussy and detailed than the story demands.
  • Each agent levels up separately, which puts the new ones at a disadvantage.
  • There’s also a wide range of currency equivalents, which also feels fussy and tedious. Didn’t they realize that SR4’s ‘cache’ worked just fine? Now you have shards and upgrade cores and cash and a bunch of other stuff. (I don’t even know what the cash is for yet.)
  • The locations run heavily to Futuristic Skyscraper and Futuristic Corridors, and the enemies are all Futuristic Minions.
  • It’s set in Seoul– and the city looks good– but there’s about zero local color. Lots of Korean on signs, but since you basically don’t interact with the locals it could have been set absolutely anywhere.
  • One of the unusual pleasures of SR was its diversity…SR4, for instance, just has one white dude in its ensemble cast.  The Agents are multinational, but the cultural depth is about a millimeter. There’s a Brazilian agent, for instance, who speaks… Spanish. (Not that they even bothered with a Spanish-sounding actress.)  There’s an Indian agent, a female, named Rama. I dunno, this is like an Indian game having a white hero named Jesus– who’s a woman.  And despite the setting in Seoul, there’s not a single Korean or even East Asian character so far.
  • Another annoyance: the game plays at Ultra graphics level for me– except it spoils the stupid Hack action; the timing is off.  It’s fixed by moving down to High, but it seems to me they could have made some sort of adjustment for your FPS.
  • And besides the checkpointing problem… good lord are the missions interminable. the one I was on was two hours or so. I’d finish one bit, there’d be a checkpoint for the same mission, and I’d wonder if it was inviting me to replay it… no, it was more frigging supervillain lairs to take over.
  • No clothing shops.  Again, didn’t they play their own games?  Dressing up in SR was fun.

All that was pretty negative, and I have to say (like some of the reviews I’ve seen) that it’s not bad. It’s mostly mindless fun. All the agents get a triple jump, which is pretty fun to move around with. The basic idea is good, and it looks nice.

(I was thinking of picking up Cuphead in the Steam sale too, but decided to wait on that. I’ve seen playthroughs and I fully expect to, like, not even defeat the carrot.  Maybe another year.)