I love saints row 3, and parts of 4; they’re hilarious and ridiculous and great for just some dumb fun. But at the same time I miss what saints row 1 and 2 had. They could still be ridiculous at times, it just wasn’t outrageous.
The character development was stronger, the plot more complex. It didn’t have Johnny portrayed as the most lethal person in the universe, sure he was a badass, but he wasn’t dehumanized for it. It got you to care about the characters killed before they died. It made their deaths have some meaning, not just over dramatic clichés. The game was ruthless, it was in depth, and it made you feel something.
@volition ion We miss it. Sure, dicking around is great, but I think I can speak for a lot of us when I say that we want the sequels to be closer to SR2 than SRIV, that we want to feel for our characters again; that we want more depth to Johnny and Pierce, more development for Shaundi and Kinzie, and learning more about Viola and Oleg and that we want a storyline that will impact us
The Saints Row protagonist is a legitimately great character
A few years back, I wrote an article arguing that the
concept of a videogame protagonist is a tricky storytelling challenge, since
there’s an inherent conflict between the player’s own actions and what a writer
might demand of a character. I used the now-classic example of Adam Jensen in
Deus Ex: Human Revolution, who is largely an audience surrogate but will
occasionally do something moronic in a cutscene and thus force the player to
clean up his mess once they’ve regained control of him. This is still a problem
I see a lot of games suffer with whenever they try to tell a decent story, but
nobody was more surprised than me when I started playing through the Saints Row
series and discovered that it might have one of the best compromises between
characterisation and player agency I’ve ever seen in all my years of
unhealthily obsessive gaming.
The boss of the Third Street Saints is a character with no
canonically determined gender, sexuality, race or even voice. But their
dialogue and general manner paints quite a vivid picture of a witty, confident
and frequently psychotic individual. Their story is of a no-name street thug
who rises through the ranks and ultimately seizes the presidency of the United
States before having to fend off an alien invasion. But through it all they
maintain a jovial, potentially amorous relationship with their lieutenants and
display such enthusiasm towards violence and domination that it’s believable
they’d insist on continuing to help out with the ground-level crime even once
they’ve built the Saints up to the point that they command a fleet of
laser-equipped VTOLs. In short, they’re a completely irredeemable bastard who
still manages to be relatable because of their charisma and the fact that their
behaviour lines up perfectly with how most players tend to react when dropped
into a sandbox full of flamethrowers and dildo bats.
I think Saints Row as a franchise is deceptively clever in
its design beneath all the manure-spraying and pop culture references, and how the
protagonist is used throughout the overarching story is pretty damn unique.
Most truly memorable game characters tend to be the people you meet as you steer
your generic avatar around like Sheldon Cooper’s virtual presence device, whereas
Saints Row is as much of a character piece about the Saints Boss as anything
else. Saints Row 2 in particular managed some good tonal variety and
established a level of customisation and open-ended design that ended up making
me weirdly invested in the expansion of my criminal empire. Whether by
intention or by accident, Volition hit some kind of magical sweet spot that
gave players great freedom in how they expressed themselves while still
presenting a memorable and almost worryingly relatable main character.
So am I saying that every game should embrace Saints Row’s
very specific brand of protagonist? Absolutely not. But think of how many games
settle for a bland, personality-free protagonist seemingly because the creators
assume the audience won’t care, when giving players a character they can become
attached to in their own way can help cultivate the sort of devoted following
Saints Row has enjoyed. If I was feeling hyperbolic, I might even say that
Saints Row is the RoboCop of videogames: an intelligent work of fiction that’s
not afraid to revel in explosions and dick jokes.
Imagine accidentally forging a contract with Loki, meaning he has to follow your every command and protect you at all costs. Loki is resentful, thinking you’ll take full advantage of him and humiliate him. However, he realises that you never ask him to do anything that’s not of his own volition and you never hold your title of being his “master” over him. As you both start researching how to reverse the contract, he starts falling harder and harder for you.