Agents of Mayhem blends chaotic action with diverse, interesting characters

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If you look at the surface, “Agents of Mayhem,” from Volicon, the creators of the “Saints Row” franchise, might appear as a simple raunchy shoot ‘em up game.

Diving into the game showed how AOM blends a great story, interesting characters, a boosting mechanic, and some wonderful dialog with that raunchy shooting action to create a fun and enticing game that gets hard to put down.

Bad versus evil is an odd premise. Mayhem, an organization that wants to do right in the world but uses some questionable “heroes” to do it, is trying to battle Legion, a group led by the mysterious Nightingale, who want the power to make the world their own.

A dozen characters make up the Mayhem team and head out on missions in groups of three. The player has to figure out which characters will bring success on the missions based on their skills and abilities.

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While it might seem that any bullet slinger will do, each of the characters is individualized with different weapons, boosts, and specializations. Selecting those with long-, medium-, and short-range attacks seems obvious and mixing in other skills, such as frost, tech, etc., will make for the best team.

The characters come from all over the world and have unique backstories and desires that help add to the richness of the game. Whether it is a doctor from Mumbai who is now a sharpshooting archer, the son of a Japanese businessman who brought shame to his family and seeks redemption by being a hired gun, or a decorated Soviet soldier who underwent a secret project to transform himself into an elemental powerhouse, they all have their own motivations and relationships that flesh them out in diverse ways.

The dialog for each character is well thought out and works well when conversing with other characters. Sometimes, it seems like there are many different choices by a non-player character on how to respond to each specific character.

The individual characters also have their own missions to complete, which helps to tell their stories even more and have them connect with players in a deeper fashion. They become people, rather than just tools of destruction, and you can understand their raw emotions during some combat scenarios even more.

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The campaign to defeat Legion goes through five different lieutenants, who are also unique and sometimes tragic in their quest to defeat Mayhem. However, there are many different side missions and tasks to accumulate more cash, technology, and bonus items to help the heroes gain powers and defenses.

The battlefield is the city of Seoul, South Korea, at some random time in the future, where technology and a huge defense wall rule the city. The occasional golem or hostage rescue is just around the corner, so there is plenty of action throughout the open city. It is easy to get distracted from current missions with the lure of a possibly easy payout.

Arrows, bullets, cold rays, knives and more are the instruments of destruction. Mayhem lives up to its name with rubble and death in its wake. But it is all for the greater good, of course.

Each squad contains three characters but only one character is used at a time. They can easily be switched out when the situation calls or if one of them dies. There are ways to revive downed characters and the mission ends if all three go down at the same time.

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Extra abilities from Mayhem tech grant the group special powers, such as an oversized pinball that crushes anything in its path. Tech acquired from Legion is individualized to each character, granting them a bonus to abilities or powers.

The combat is frantic and destructive with plenty of action to be had. Returning to the ARK, the floating base for Mayhem, lets players further upgrade their characters, weapons, vehicles, or benefits to the agency at large. You can check out the personnel files on each character as well to find out what makes them tick.

The game never feels boring, whether it is from the battles or the character moments in between. The allure of a well placed shot is just as exciting as a character revealing their origin as a pirate. While the speed of such action is different, the pacing is controlled mainly by how the player moves through the open world.

Do you want to rush headlong into battle after battle? Do you want to explore the city to find out its hidden secrets? Are the characters just tools in your arsenal? Are they characters that make you connect with them and want to know more?

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I found Agents of Mayhem to be more than a shooter, increasing the pleasure I got out of the adventures. The richness of the characters and the intricacies of their stories, in addition to the main story, kept me engrossed and wanting to play more.

There is a definite sequels vibe, though. The main story doesn’t deal with the Big Bad lurking in the shadows, and there are unresolved threads in some of the character stories that I wished I could delve into more.

I did run in to one lingering problem that was a bit frustrating: the game had a tendency not to want to advance the missions after completion. The mission would close, but the mission tracker on the HUD would remain stuck. I would have to restart the game to get it to move on.

This glitch was troublesome in that it took me out of the game when what I wanted to do was progress. But it didn’t keep me from wanting to dive back in and explore some more.

Agents of Mayhem is more than just a shooter and more than just destruction. If you want a game like that, you may find this a little slow. But for players who enjoy a good narrative and character stories with their exciting gameplay, I would recommend that you give AOM a go.