Welcome to my lair.
Volition’s last major release Saints Row IV casts a very long shadow over Agents of Mayhem. Even though AOM only vaguely shares a universe with Saints Row series, it’s hard to imagine how you would top unlimited flight, guns that shoot dubstep-powered laser explosions, and the ability to throw magic missiles from your palms.
Instead of being a superhero simulator like Saints Row IV, Agents of Mayhem is a team-based single player hero shooter. You pick a team of three characters with unique weapons, a special attack tied to a cooldown timer, and an ultra powerful “Mayhem” attack that will let you wipe out tons of enemies in seconds.
The third-person shooter basics are there, and will feel familiar immediately. Then it adds several layers of complexity.
In combat, you’ll be managing your teammates health, as they can recover shield but only regenerate health slowly while tagged out. Some weapons are better at taking down blue energy shields, while some are better at taking down targets with hard armor.
There are 16 status effects that you can inflict on enemies, or be inflicted with.
You can use “Gremlin Tech”, which gives you a limited-time buff to take out enemies more quickly. There are 25 different Gremlin Techs to use, and you can swap between them at any time.
Each teammate can attach mods to their their special attack, weapon, and passive skill. Each character levels individually, and you can choose between 15 difficulty levels that grant better XP & cash rewards based on how high you turn up the knob.
Those are just the combat systems though. I’m not even mentioning the challenge room, “Global Conflict” mission that allows you to send out team members on standby to gather materials, and leveling up your base to grant passive upgrades to all characters.
This game ends up having way more interlocking systems than the average open-world game, and I found it difficult to put down because I was always a few minutes away from unlocking something new.
Volition knows, perhaps better than any other open-world game developer, how to make you feel like you are always progressing in the game. Every treasure chest has cash or gadgets that feed into the cycle of improving your characters and your home base. Every sidequest has some kind of guaranteed reward and a chance at receiving some rare part.
With enjoyable combat, a wealth of interlocking systems and satisfying progression, Agents of Mayhem feels fresh until about halfway through. At that halfway point, you begin to see the issue: there’s very little mission variety.
Many of the sidequests on the map end up being repurposed into story missions, with a bit more dialogue and unique locations to spice them up. However, that Hate Machine you just blew up in the open world is gonna take the same strategy to blow up in the mission.
The worst case of overused content are the Lairs. Lairs are dungeons where you go into a similar-looking area to blow up equipment, hack computers, and kill a miniboss. I would say these lairs make up roughly 50% of the game’s content, which is far too much. Story missions often end up in Lairs, character-specific personal missions end up in Lairs, and the Global Conflict sidequest is a series of Lairs. It doesn’t help that they are visually bland and have no unique mechanics. It’s always blowing up equipment, hacking computers, and killing a miniboss.
Despite the lack of content, I found myself glued to Agents of Mayhem long enough to get 90 percent of the trophies. What you actually do in missions doesn’t change much, but going through story missions and character’s personal missions didn’t really wear on me until near the end of the game. The hectic pace of the combat was always enjoyable, and building team synergy based on weapon choice and status effects makes gunfights in this game a more satisfying experience than most other open-world shooters.
Even though the game uses Lairs too much for everything, the main missions have enough well-crafted combat scenarios to stay consistently interesting. The sidequests and collectibles feed into a really satisfying loop of leveling up your character, getting new gear, and improving your home base.
I didn’t feel like going for 100% completion in Agents of Mayhem, but by the end I felt like the time was well spent. This game is a solid B that would be well served by a sequel with better writing and a bit more variety in sidequests and mission design.