Every week we try to bring you something interesting. Whether it a good game we've been play or a bad on. This week is a little different. This week is about a game that doesn't exist, but should. You can checkout our last edition of If I made a Game here and last week's edition of theInto the Red here.
Like many people, when I play games I often think about how I would do them differently. Remove an unskippable cutscene here, change the difficulty curve there, add in some story exposition somewhere and allow for a different control scheme everywhere. Sometimes one game inspires you to want to see another game made. Sometimes these ideas are the product of playing a good game over and over again, sometimes from playing a bad one once. And sometimes brilliance strikes you in the middle of a podcast. Most of the time these ideas aren’t worth even writing down, but on rare occasions they have to be shared. And one of those occasions, ladies and gentlemen, is today, and that idea is Saints of War: Bernards Gone Wild.
At its most basic and reductive form, Saints of War is the grand combination between Assassin's Creed, Saints Row The Third and late 80s cartoons. It started as a joke by combining the titles of Gears of War and Saints Row to create what would surely be the most generic third person shooter ever. But the idea grew in my mind. Videogames, decidedly Western videogames, are often very serious. Too serious. They try to discuss serious topics and so many of them try to exist in a world all too like our own. And while that’s all well and good, there’s never any levity. On top of this, so many games exist only as visual proof that there are thousands of shades of brown, green, and gray. It's a little tiresome.
“So what’s the cure for this?” you ask. Actually, that’s the question I asked. “What's the cure for this?” I asked. “Simple, we kill the Batman.” No, not really. What we need instead do is return to the late 80s and early 90s, when Batman was not the surefire blockbuster hit, but the best cartoon on Saturday mornings. We need to return to a time when time when darkness and grit were not necessary to make a game successful. We need to return to a time when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were NOT produced by Michael Bay. And Saints of War is how we do that.
Do you remember Street Sharks? It was cartoon in the mid-90s that revolved around four brothers who had the ability to turn into human/shark hybrids. The show is really not important except to give you a visual for what the heroes of Saints of War look like. Imagine a half man, half St. Bernard prowling the streets on a motorcycle, fighting evildoers. Excited yet? Let’s break it down.
Saints of War takes place in San Perro. It’s a near future world where the dream of the 90s never ended. Where dudes surf, grunge is cool and humans don’t exist. But sadly, this idyllic world is run rampant with crime in the form of several gangs, including the Canalla, the Warhounds, the Sobaka and the Sunakh. As a victim of this vicious turf war, loosing you family in a freak Frisbee throwing accident, you, Bernard, must fight back. But it’s not long before you discover that it was no accident. Your family was killed due to a conspiracy that leads all the way to the deep underbelly of the city and then to its very top. Thus you must gather allies in the form of other dogs, a few cats, some very acrobatic tortoises, sharkmen, a bat that ran away from the circus, a duck with a penchant for purple, and many more.
The mechanics of Saints of War are most easily be described as an open world dog simulator where you shoot and maul you enemies. You are Bernard, a St. Bernard looking for justice. As such, you must fight crime in the open streets. Saints of War is be an open world game like no other, because in no other game can you wield ridiculous weapons like “The Tennis Ball Launcher” or command such awesome powers as “It’s Slobbering Time!” Being that you’re a dog, you can dig a whole and pee on a fire hydrant to lure enemies into traps. It has “amazingness” written all over it.
- The tenants of Saints of War are the following:
- Above all else, it must be fun
- Secondly, it must be funny
- It exists in a 80s/90s cartoon world come-to-life
- It exists in an open world
- It’s part-shooter as much as it is part-brawler
- And it’s as much of a dog simulator as it is the other things
The core of Saints of War lies in the open world gameplay. The whole of San Perro is open to the player to explore from the beginning of the game. While there is of course a main story fraught with drama and angst and woe, there is also equally as much to do outside of the main narrative. Side activities include stealing newspapers from citizens’ front porches, chasing mail carriers, marking territory, pizza deliveries, barking contests, and freeing test animals from secret labs. And this is not even mentioning the guilds that you can join and mission that you can send your allies on.
The main story of Saints of War deals with Bernard building a team of misfits to fight evildoers and is divided into two mains type of gameplay. Both types are seamlessly integrated together and can be switched between at any time. Those modes are:
- Human Style
- Doggie Style
Human Style is when Bernard is standing up straight like a “normal” action game. Human style is further broken up by the ability to shoot and brawl. Not unlike Assassin’s Creed, Bernard can punch, block, parry, counter and stun enemies as well as fight with virtually any item in the environment and call upon your pack to attack a single or group of enemies. And like the Batman Arkham games, brawling is free flowing and combo driven. But unlike either game, Bernard can whip out a gun at any moment and unload a hail of bullets.
While shooting, Saints of War most resemble Saints Row and Gears of War. Bernard can fire weapons and jump behind cover. Wielding a huge arsenal of weapons, Saints of War could be simply focused on being a shooter and be amazing just for that. But why be only that when at the touch of a button, Bernard can drop onto all fours and attacked people doggie style?
In dog mode, Bernard is much faster and harder to hit. But Bernard loses the ability to punch, shoot, block and use cover. But in doggie style Bernard can dig holes to trap enemies in, pee on fire hydrants, and bite enemies in the nads. Too boot, Doggie Style is not relegated by some meter that has to be filled up, no. At any moment Bernard can let his wild side take over. But be wary, all of Bernard’s enemies can do the same.
Example of Controls
- Left Analog Stick: Move
- Right Analog Stick: Camera
- Human Style
- A/X: Run/Evasive Roll/Cover/Mantle
- X/Square: Light Melee Attack
- Y/Triangle: Heavy Melee Attack
- B/Circle: Bark
- Left Bumper/L1: Block
- X/Square: Parry
- Y/Triangle: Counter
- B/Circle: Stun
- Right Bumper/R1: Interact
- Right Bumper/R1 (Held): Doggie Style Mode
- Left Trigger/L2: Aim Down the Sights
- Right Trigger/R2: Ranged Weapon Attack
- Doggie Style
- A/X: Dive/Mantle
- X/Square: Dig (at the ground or an enemy’s face)
- Y/Triangle: Pee
- B/Circle: Bite
- Left Bumper/L1: Activate Special Ability
- Right Bumper/R1: Interact
- Right Bumper/R1 (Held): Human Style Mode
- Left Trigger/L2: Sneak
- Right Trigger/R2: Run
- D-Pad Any Direction (Held): Weapon/Ability Radial Menu
- D-Pad Up: Hotkey
- D-Pad Left: Hotkey
- D-Pad Right: Hotkey
- D-Pad Down: Hotkey
Now, in both Human Style and Doggie Style modes Bernard would have a number of abilities that he can select from a radial menu and activate. While in Human Style mode these abilities is be divided between powers and weapons (both guns and melee weapons). The game includes the standard fare of shotguns and assault rifles, but also have more interesting weapons like the Tennis Ball Launcher, the Frisbee Slinger, water guns, dog whistles, and much more. Melee weapons consist of normal weapons as well like katana swords and baseball bats but also include rolled up newspaper, rope to play tug o’ war with, leashes and even more.
But where it really gets interesting are the Doggie Style powers. Since in this mode Bernard cannot carry weapons he has a number of abilities at his command like the aforementioned It’s Slobbering Time. In addition to that, Bernard is also be able to command his allies to sic enemies, have access to Doggie Vision (where everything is slightly color blind but smells and sounds can be seen) and be able to howl and bark so ferociously that enemies run away in terror. And this is just the tip of the proverbial ice berg.
Saints of War: Bernards Gone Wild is meant to be a number of things; it’s a return to when game weren’t various shades of gray and brown, a return to the 80s and 90s, but more importantly is a step forward in gaming because never before have you been able to clean the streets of gang violence as an anthropomorphized dog. And that, that is what gaming needs.
Then there would be the much needed and anticipated sequels Saints of War 2: Jaws of Vengeance (in which Bernard becomes the head of the San Perro police force) and Saints of War 3: Cry Havoc (in which Bernard leads San Perro in a brutal war with the vicious dictatorial nation of Gatti). And in the middle of it all is a bright and colorful world to which Fred Armisen could really sing about.
That's it for this week's If I Made a Game. Check back next week for the next edition of The Backlog.
Jonathan is the host of the DarkCast, DarkCast Interviews, and Gamers Read. He loves books, video games, and superheroes. If he had to pick favorites, they would be Welcome to the Monkey House, Mass Effect, and Superman respectively.