Agents of Mayhem Brings a Touch of Saints Row
Fighting K-pop stars.
A futuristic, technologically advanced version of Seoul serves as the setting in Agents of Mayhem. But for all the majesty of the city, the location still has its little quirks. After all, Agents of Mayhem is a part of the larger Saints Row universe, which means that trademark wacky humour is never far.
I got hands-on with an early build of the game which included four characters to mix and match into a squad of three. Although only one character can be controlled at a time, switching between agents is as simple as tapping left or right on the directional pad for an instantaneous swap. Each character possesses his/her own unique skill-set and weapon, which Agents of Mayhem touts as combinable to achieve interesting results.
For example, the pirate-like Fortune's unique abilities include being able to throw a grenade that explodes and pulls enemies into the blast radius' centre. I could immediately switch her out for the burly Hardtack, who is equipped with a hefty shotgun, so the short-range weapon's damage could be better utilised up close to enemies. Similarly, archer Rama is equipped with trap arrows that can freeze enemies within a small radius; when I switched out to Hollywood straight after a trap was activated, I could pitch his grenades into clusters of enemies for optimal damage spread.
Despite the numerous combinations of skills on offer, combining abilities did not feel particularly advantageous over straight-up shooting. Every character is capable of dealing ample amounts of damage individually, negating any need to switch them out. The hordes of regular enemies were easy to combat on their own; they moved in predictable patterns and used the same skills at repeated intervals. Numerous enemies would either swarm my character at melee range or alternate between shooting from range and ducking behind cover. Battles were often repetitive affairs decorated with bright explosions that all blended together.
Visually, there was a lot going on, but the cluster of similar-looking effects meant that none of it stood out. There was no visual indication that a combination of abilities was particularly successful, nothing to reward or encourage the mixing of such skills. The aesthetic fell flat, a stark contrast to the colourful cartoon-vibe of the game's debut trailer.
The only break in the tedium came from the game's humour. Bursting into the enemy's lair culminated in a boss fight with a South Korean pop star named Aisha--her namesake perhaps a clever prod at her existence as an artificial intelligence. The cutscene with Aisha's introduction routine--a hilarious nod to Korean-pop--was easily the funniest scene in the session.
The boss fight itself proved to be a little more difficult than the mindless groups of enemies I had hitherto been tackling, but where the shooting and skill usage falls flat, the movement system shines. All characters have access to a floaty double jump, and are able to scale walls and clamber up ledges with ease. I also could do a quick dash with a short cooldown, which came especially in handy when avoiding the boss' area of effect attacks. Out of curiosity, I tried to get one of my characters killed to see what would happen; the death resulted in a phase out, with another character immediately switching in to take over. When not in combat, the rest of the squad regenerates health.
Agents of Mayhem will launch with 12 characters in total to assemble into a squad of three. In my time with game the combination of abilities failed to impress, but perhaps the full game will offer more satisfying results and more varied combat situations to use them in.
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