Zan Reviews: Saints Row 4!

Hey guys, gals, and non-binary pals! It’s Mod Zan, here to present to you another game review! In this article, I’m going to be talking about a game that’s been out for a while but deserves to be scrutinized by my ever-present feminist magnifying glass: Saints Row 4. As usual, I’m going to discuss Visual and Audio, Gameplay, and Story. Let’s get started with Visual and Audio first!

Visual and Audio: The visuals in Saints Row 4 fit in with the feeling of the series. They’re goofy, bright, and it’s clear that they weren’t taken too seriously. For the most part, this is a good thing. It adds to the ridiculousness that separates the game from others in their genre, such as GTA V. However (especially when compared to the third one), it’s difficult to ignore the fact that the two games have very little difference between them despite the gap in their time of release. The graphics are too realistic to be fully cartoon-like, and too cartoon-y to be considered realistic. I don’t necessarily think that this is a detriment to the game, but it’s certainly not to its credit either.

As far as character design goes, despite having a few good female characters present in the game that I’ll get into a little later, their design has a bit to be desired. Shaundi, Asha and Kinsey are the main female characters in the cast for this game, and though Asha and Kinsey have decent costumes, it’s hard to ignore how similar the design is and how sexualised they all become. Particularly when you unlock their superpowers and gain new costumes. Asha suffers the least from this treatment, and is also the only woman of color who has a main role in this game. Though the game is raunchy and never shies away from sexuality regardless of gender, it would be unfair to pretend that there’s no difference in the way this is handled between the male and female members of the cast.

Gameplay: That being said, it’s worth recognizing this from the get-go: Saints Row 4 is a fun game to play. It keeps a lot of the things that I loved about the third one preserved, and adds new mechanics that make for a fun time as you unlock new superpowers and kick aliens into space in all kinds of new and interesting ways. The weapons that they added in are even more outlandish and give you all kinds of new experiences through each fight, which helps break up some of the monotony that you end up falling into as the game continues.

Though it is a fun experience for players of all skill levels, after you punch the four billionth alien fighter into the sun, you start to wonder if there isn’t more to life than just running through a (spoiler) simulation, smashing aliens and setting cars ablaze. Though the combat is funny and engaging at first, as you move through the game it starts to feel far too similar to Saints Row the Third, and not in a good way.

Story: Saints Row 4, as its predecessors before it, has never been known for its moving story. Though the characters are relatively well-done, and even sympathetic at some points, Saints Row 4 does not boast an interesting story. You fight to destroy an alien species that has already destroyed earth by destroying the simulation they put you in to destroy you. My biggest complaint with the story of this was the revelation that none of the things that you did were going to be real because of your imprisonment in the alien simulation. Though the villain was easy to despise and the main characters easy to root for, I never felt particularly motivated to complete many of the main missions because I felt that without the fictional impact on the real world, it rendered some of the fun of the game moot.

Though the ending of the game was as satisfying as it could be with earth floating in space in a million pieces, it left me wanting to go back and play through the third game again and with very little desire to replay. The real charm in this game was in the minor interactions and character side quests that you had with the other members of the cast, right down to the Mass Effect romance parody that you could go through with every member of your crew (save the vice president), regardless of gender.

Representation in Saints Row is surprisingly sufficient considering the genre; Asha, Pierce, Keith Davis, and Benjamin King are all POC, and with Kinsey and Shaundi added in only leaves Matt Miller as the white man on board the ship with the option for the player to choose the protagonists appearance. There is a lot to be desired in-game when it comes to including better character design for the girls as previously stated. Though the design is lacking in some places, there are a lot of great moments with Shaundi throughout the game as you deal with her guilt surrounding Johnny’s death and help her deal with her feelings about her past self. The team wouldn’t function without Kinsey, and she never is presented as anything less than fully capable even with the introduction of Matt Miller, who has similar skills.

Additionally, there were some compulsory romances (Asha and Matt) that didn’t seem to make much sense, particularly given their difference in personality and complete lack of interest in one another at the start. There is surely more to talk about considering the amount of content in this game, but this is the gist of what I gathered while playing it.

In conclusion: though Saints Row 4 is a good time for people who aren’t looking for anything serious, it’s difficult for me to recommend it when you could get the third one and have a better story and a slightly better experience. However, as far as representation goes, I believe that this is one of the best in the series and opens up the floor for the inclusion of more diverse casts of characters even in games that are traditionally marketed to a heterosexual male audience!

I think that we have a lot to look forward to as they move forward with the series, and I will be cautiously looking forward to seeing what else they will include.

Game Review: Tales from the Boarderlands (with Mod Zan!)

Hi readers, watchers, and listeners! It’s Mod Zan with a game review for your reading pleasure. I already talked about how my game of the month was Tales from the Borderlands, but since I’ve finally finished it up I felt that it was time to sit down and give it a thorough review so that you can decide whether or not it’s something that you want to pick up for yourselves!

In my review, I’ll cover Visual and Audio, Gameplay, Story, and then give you my final thoughts. All of these will be coming from a feminist perspective to give you the most accurate overview of the game.


Visual and Audio:  

This is a telltale game and a Borderlands game. Therefore, the graphics aren’t going to be mind-blowingly realistic and unrealistically beautiful. However, seeing the two games come together was incredible, particularly since their styles are so similar. The art style was a perfect combination and made me feel like the game I was playing really mattered in the scope of the Borderlands universe. The game also preserved the feeling of the Borderlands universe in its backgrounds and its character models, which worked well.

From a feminist perspective, the characters were all well-made and didn’t have a lot of the usual issues that often come with female characters. Borderlands is better than most about including well-made ladies but isn’t immune from the design flaws that often appear in their costumes.

In this game, the costumes all made sense and didn’t show a ton of skin just for the sake of it, though I might add that Moxxxi was absent from this game for the most part short of a brief voice-only cameo.

And speaking of audio, the soundtrack to this game was nothing short of excellent. I ended up downloading many of the songs that they played during the intro credits for me to listen to on my own time. Overall, they did really well with the design and graphics for this game and it all worked together really nicely with a few exceptions that I’ll mention later in the game.

Gameplay:

The gameplay is a classic for a telltale game. Choice based, occasional combat but mainly operates through quick time events and button mashing prompts. To go into some more technical aspects, I’d like to say right now that I started attempting to play this on my Xbox 360 with my roommate. The game glitched so intensely by episode 4 (and not to mention all of the glitches that skipped dialogue and exposition in earlier episodes) that it was completely unplayable. I was only able to play it on my PS4, where I didn’t have any issues. If you are going to buy this game, don’t get it for the last gen because you will be wasting your money.

Telltale historically has had problems with glitchy games before, and this one is not an exception if you’re purchasing for last gen. It’s pretty unacceptable, and I haven’t seen any attempt from their end to solve this problem, which is disconcerting at best. Regardless, the gameplay was well integrated with the story and made for an excellent experience when it worked.

Story:

And here we are, at the big player in this game. The story is integral to this game as it is with every telltale game. Borderlands and Borderlands 2, however, are usually not games that are renown for their epic storylines as standalones. When you put them together, along with the Pre-Sequel and all of the DLC you get an intense (but somewhat convoluted) epic story that spans multiple parties of people and even planets. Tales from the Borderlands is by far one of the best stories that I’ve seen so far out of all of the Borderlands games I’ve played. The characters are incredibly endearing and have distinct personalities that all work very well together.

Fiona and Rhys both being playable was a wonderful method to the game and gave you some variety in a story-based game that could be easy to stagnate. There was consistent action throughout each episode, and it was well-paced. I never wanted an episode to be over so that I could finally get to a new point in the story. I loved each character, and they never prioritized the male characters over the female characters. There is a canon gay relationship, and it’s two of the most dangerous/skilled women in the game. In intense emotional scenes, the relationship between two sisters is portrayed as the deepest.

It’s a perfect culmination of action, adventure, friendship, romance, and humor. That being said, the representation in this game from a feminist perspective has its good points and bad ones.

The main villains are (as always) Handsome Jack, a man with complete confidence in his moral and personal superiority regardless of how many horrific acts he commits, and Valerie, an older crime overlord who lugs around a giant rocket launcher and has no problem murdering whoever she needs to get what she wants. It’s nice to see an older woman represented in a game with her age, weight, and appearance never being mentioned in a negative light.

However, when it comes to racial representation the game is sorely lacking. One of the main characters who is white has dreads (and granted, she could be a black person with incredibly light skin, but I think that’s a bit of a long shot.) There are only two people of color that I can recall from the game, and one of them turns out to be a backstabber, and the other worked for an evil corporation and now lives in one of their derelict facilities in hiding.

Though the game has good gender representation and some representation in sexuality, its racial representation has a lot to be desired. Though I loved this game, I hope to see a lot more from Telltale in the future when it comes to representation as well as the mechanical functioning of their games.

TALES-FROM-THE-BORDERLANDS adventure action fighting shooter tales borderlands


Overall, Tales from the Borderlands gets a 7/10 overall: a 10/10 on Story, 9/10 on Visual and Audio, and a 3.5/10 for Representation. If you can pick it up, you should while it’s still free. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time!


– Mod Zan

Free 2 Play: The Old Republic with Mod Loser!

Welcome back to Free 2 Play with Mod Loser, Jackie, whatever you want to call me! Today, we’re discussing Star Wars: The Old Republic. This game is free to play, but you can pay for a “Premium” service! We’re not going to discuss the premium service though, we’re discussing how the game plays for someone on a budget and wants a free game experience!

Unfortunately for you all, this game is absolutely terrible when played freely. There are many Free-To-Play MMO’s out there, and each of them have various amounts of Microtransactions and subscription begging, but The Old Republic takes this to an entirely new level. The hostility towards the player begins immediately, as in the starting zones, you are limited to how many quest rewards you can actually obtain. If you have too many in your inventory, you either have to throw away or sell your old rewards, or subscribe to the monthly cost.

If you have the credits to purchase an in game mount or speeder, you are disallowed from riding it unless you have a subscription, which makes exploring and moving from place to place astronomically more difficult and time consuming. The player hostility continues as you are disallowed from entering a party, adding friends, or communicating with other players unless you have paid for a subscription.

Now, World of Warcraft does this similarly, but they call this a “Demo.” You can get a character to Level 20 and experience the base game, and as such a Demo limits how much you can do. That makes sense. However, when the Old Republic markets itself as an entirely free to play game while being completely hostile to players, begging them to spend any modicum of money on mounts and cosmetics they can’t use, or demanding a subscription for the most basic functions in a multiplayer game, it comes across as desperate and poorly made. To be blunt, that is exactly what The Old Republic’s free to play model is. Hostile to players, money grubbing, and it can ruin the experience of the main game. Is anybody surprised that this is published by EA?

My concluding statement: Run Away. Don’t even try this game unless you want to burn money to make it actually playable. I’ve heard that with a subscription its a very competent MMO, although I personally can’t recommend it.

Thank you for reading, Nasties, I’ll see you next time!

Nasty Discussion: Hakuoki Kyoto Winds with Mod Aria!