I’ve jumped into four new campaigns in single-player games over the last few weeks: Vampire Bloodlines, Torchlight 2, Saint’s Row The Third, and Dungeon Siege 3. Saint’s Row emerged as the surprise winner of my free time after I discovered the Bloodsucker DLC. I can play Saint’s Row as a vampire while waiting for Riders of Rohan.
I know. This sounds like absurd silliness for an over-the-top game, but a vampire character can explain all of the aspects of Saint’s Row 3 that are silly, making it perfect for a zany roleplayer. Bear with me. I’ll explain in the bullet points below, but first let me explain the origins of the idea, and why I bought yucky DLC in the first place.
I’m not a fan of DLC. If I buy a single-player game, I want to play a discrete, “complete” game. I almost never play DLC. A little extra chunk of content often isn’t worth the inflated price, the download, the install process, and re-playing the game.
For Saint’s Row 3 though, DLC works because the next sequel is coming next year, and the SR3 DLC is mostly over at this point. You can get it now all at once. In fact, their most recent mini-expansion content, “Enter the Dominatrix” is being rolled into the next game instead of being released as DLC, and THQ is now releasing a new complete/GOTY edition titled “The Full Package” this November.
I downloaded Saint’s Row The Third from Steam a few weeks ago and played the free promotion. I played the standard game a few hours, and I was thinking all the while–this would be a great vampire game! The scrolling city street on the start menu screen even has a tribute to Troika’s Vampire: Bloodlines–a “Smiling Jack Diner” on the left side. (Bloodlines is a classic older game that I’d recommend to anyone, if you can get it to run.)
So I decided to buy the game because it was full of guilty sub-machine gun pleasure, and I noticed in Steam that they had a vampire DLC called the Bloodsucker Pack. You can also purchase werewolf and zombie costume-type DLC, but the vampire deal is a little better because it gives you a feeding power. You can grab a human shield and suck their blood to heal.
To be honest, I’ll be the first to mourn the conversion of the Saint’s Row franchise from a gritty gangland roleplay into silliness with shark guns, vampires, werewolves, and pink ninjas, but they are letting me create and play a female character, and that’s almost mandatory for me to play the game in the first place. The Mafia franchise has a lock on gritty realism and integrity anyway, almost like Saint’s Row’s schizophrenic opposite.
The great thing is that in Saint’s Row, you don’t play some man-hunk that the devs have selected to tell their story like in so many other games these days. You play the character you want, and people just call you “boss”, which is brilliant. I like that respect from my underlings. Saint’s Row character creation is also better than most MMOs. (The breast slider of course is par excellence, as the French say.) You can also choose your character’s voice actor and animations, which is a very rare roleplay-friendly feature.
On that note, let’s talk about playing Saint’s Row as a vampire, and how roleplaying a vampire can completely explain game mechanics that otherwise makes no sense, even bad AI from the NPCs. I’ll just make a list and prove it to you! Prepare yourself for a hailfire of roleplayer imagination, a vampire gang manifesto.
Saint’s Row Mechanics, A Vampire Explains That:
Regeneration. This is a big immersion-breaker in Saint’s Row. Your character regenerates health like a D&D troll on crack, as long as you can get some separation from the heat of combat. This is supposedly a feature to increase fun at the expense of realism. You just need to hide behind a dumpster and rest, then you’re good to get back in the battle. Guess what? Vampires regenerate like trolls on crack.
Ability To Absorb Enormous Damage. This is another immersion-breaker in Saint’s Row. You can take a lot of bullets without any ill effects. You can even purchase more raw damage resistance as you level up! As with regeneration, playing as a vampire explains that perfectly. In fact, the ability given with the Bloodsucker Pack allows you to heal up in combat if you play very well, without having to run, hide, and wait for regeneration. Vampires rarely have to do that. They suck blood and commit mass violence, just like your character in Saint’s Row.
Immortal. You can take dozens of bullets and a grenade and hit the floor in this game, and your homie (follower), if alive, can simply “revive” you. You get back up and keep fighting. Obviously the enemy didn’t take time to put a stake through you.
Not-So-Smart Humans. The hostile NPCs in Saint’s Row sometimes stand there and hesitate before they pull the trigger, or they’ll end up a couple feet away from you and not react to you immediately. Vampires widely have a power of Presence (awe), that can compel humans to stand and drool, at least for a few seconds. Human AI behavior in Saint’s Row can be explained this way.
Your Businesses Are Safe Zones. It’s silly to be able to run into a business you own and erase all faction hate/aggro, including that of the police, but that’s how Saint’s Row rolls. They don’t have much surround-the-house or search-for-the-suspect programming. Since there is no way to roleplay a Masquerade in Saint’s Row, the concept of a vampire code of morality is out. After all, feeding on humans kills them, which is unacceptable in itself. The only explanation is that you’ve built secret safe rooms under your businesses, and entering the buildings effectively hides you there thanks to your complicitous, mind-influenced employees. You learn very early in the game that the police are corrupt and bought out, anyway.
The Lore And Environment:
The Saint’s Row 3 campaign is similar to its predecessors in that you go to war against one gang at a time, defeating gang leader bosses with the progression of the storyline. The story fails a little bit, however, at making it feel like there is much at stake. It doesn’t make it personal enough to your character, which is the golden key to a good story.
The answer is to re-frame the gang leaders as your personal rivals. They are immortals just like you–trying to beat you and rule the world. Yes, that’s Highlander, the movie. It works. Why are all the humans crazy in this game anyway, mindlessly roaming the sidewalks and crashing into you with their cars? Because one of your rivals is sowing chaos through mental realm, of course, causing the city to descend into madness and dementia. Yes, that’s a Malkavian vampire power. Are we there yet?
There is no visible clock in Saint’s Row 3 to manage day and night, but the times of day do change. There is no night cheat either, and of course you’re not going to die or burn in sunlight. To daywalk, dark glasses and a hat should be mandatory at least, or you can use a weather cheat, entered via the phone: “overcast”, “lightrain”, “heavyrain”.
Your car windows should all be tinted dark, with no sunroof, and “The Blood” radio channel is recommended. There is a kinky/bondage shop in the game that sells some appropriate Gothic-style clothing, because vampires are sexy, darling, like Vodka. And that’s all she wrote, because this blog is rated “T” for teen. Saint’s Row The Third is not.