Saints Row spin-off Agents of Mayhem is out today, and it's a very different game than its over-the-top, gang-banging, devil-taunting predecessors. It can be daunting, but worry not -- we've got tips.
Here are some helpful suggestions from getting the most out of the struggle between the heroic agents of MAYHEM and the global terrorist organisation known as LEGION.
Read The Popups
Let's start with something simple. As you play through Agents of Mayhem, messages will pop up on the screen telling you how weapons work, how to revive fallen agents, how special missions function, et cetera. Read these.
It seems obvious, but I've already fielded questions from readers (and one co-worker) that were answered by these popups. Sometimes the reflex is to skip the tips. Don't skip the tips.
Don't Just Run And Gun
Charging willy-nilly into a fray with bullets flying might work at the lower of Agents of Mayhem's 16 difficulty levels, but if you want the bigger experience and cash bonuses that come from the higher levels, you're going to have to change it up.
There's no dedicated cover mechanic in Agents of Mayhem, but that doesn't mean cover isn't important. Ducking behind a pillar or around the corner for just a moment can give your agent the time they need to get that shield recharged and get back into action. If you're manning a stealthy agent, use their disappearing act often to reposition yourself and gain a little breathing room. If your agent has a dodge move, freaking dodge.
Most importantly, swap character in and out. Agents have different strengths and weaknesses against specific enemy types. Know what these are before going into battle, and swap to the one that's right for the job.
Not only that, but agents in your squad heal slowly while sidelined, so be sure to swap before they drop.
Don't Get Used To The Starting Lineup
Agents of Mayhem opens with the player in control of Fortune, Hollywood and Hardtack. Don't get attached. With 12 agents in all (not counting the two DLC characters), the odds of these three remaining in your core group are pretty slim.
As great as this combination of energy pistols, assault rifle and shotgun is, there are some way cooler characters coming down the line. My go-to squad still has Fortune in it (for her mad hacking skills), but Hollywood and Hardtack are sitting back at the base while she parties with a ninja and a retired Yakuza hitman.
That being said . . .
Give Everybody A Go
Every agent on the team has strengths and weaknesses that lend themselves to new and exciting ways to wage war on LEGION. Even the horrible ones, like Red Card.
Red Card is a gung-ho German soccer fan, and probably the most one-dimensional character on the cast. I avoided using him for the longest time, because I hate his stupid face. When I finally got around to using him, I found him pretty damn handy.
He's got a rifle that transforms into a shotgun, a special ability that does massive area of effect damage, and one of his stats (upgraded via points gained through levelling) gives his entire squad a 30 per cent melee damage bonus. Team him with the ninja, and it's go time. Still hate his face, but it's a good face to have around.
Keep Your Team Balanced
As mentioned earlier, each agent has strengths against certain types of enemies. Rama the archer, for example, excels at breaking down shielded enemies. Red Card does bonus damage to enemies with armour.
Try to keep these bonuses in mind when building your away team. Three characters with bonus damage to shields only tear things up until the enemy wearing hard armour arrives.
Put Points Into Squad-Enhancing Stats
Each agent has four upgrades to invest point in as they level up. The first three are personal. The fourth applies a bonus to all three members of the current squad. If you're wondering where to invest points first, it's the fourth one.
Teamwork is essential in Agents of Mayhem, and those squad bonuses are teamwork quantified. When everyone is getting three substantial team buffs at a time, everybody wins. Except LEGION.
Don't Spare The Upgrade Cores
Upgrade cores are crystals formed from upgrade core shards, which can be found while wandering about Seoul. Each character has three slots for upgrade cores, which can be filled to add additional bonuses to abilities. Cores are also used once an agent hits level 20 to add up to 20 additional sub-levels.
While they seem like a precious resource at the beginning of a game, by the time you reach the final chapter you'll be swimming in them. Don't be shy about applying them. There'll be more.
Complete Relic Trading Post Side-Missions For Big Money
I spent the first 10 hours of Agents of Mayhem scrabbling for in-game cash, when I could have had a stable income pouring in with little participation on my part.
Generally popping up in the missions list only after you take over a LEGION outpost in the surrounding area, Relic Trading Post missions involve liberating one of Relic's secret hideouts in Seoul by defeating a short couple of waves of enemies. Once liberated, each Relic Trading Post generates income per minute.
This money, retrievable via the posts or at Relic's requisitions station at MAYHEM headquarters, is needed to upgrade the HQ and develop handy tech to enhance your fighting force.
Since the money accumulates per minute, consider idling in the base instead of hitting pause when you walk away from the game. Time is money.
Invest In That Sweet Tech
There are two types of technology in Agents of Mayhem. The first, Gremlin tech, is a series of special single-use weapons and devices that make staying alive in Seoul a bit more fun. They're party favours for a very violent party.
The second type, LEGION tech, is a class of agent-specific devices built to augment each character's equipped attack, defence and passive gadgets. Blueprints for LEGION tech are found in chests around the city or in LEGION lairs.
There are a lot of options here, which can be daunting, but once you start affixing powerful artifacts to your characters' powers, there's no going back. Buy early and often.
Don't Forget Your Scanner
As you explore the streets, alleys and nigh-identical enemy lairs of alternate-Earth Seoul, keep your finger on the scanner button. Scanning sends out a pulse that identifies nearby missions, enemies, loot boxes and eventually, via a headquarters upgrade purchased from Relic, upgrade core shards.
As much fun as it can be to run, jump and race through the city with reckless abandon, it pays to stop and let out that purple pulse. You never know what you're going to find.
Agents of Mayhem is a big game with lots to see and do. There are a lot of mechanics to master and systems to figure out. Take your time and enjoy yourself. Seoul isn't going anywhere. Well, unless LEGION wins.