State of Anarchy: Master of Mayhem for the Nintendo Switch Review
As a child, I’ve fond memories of entertaining myself with scrap pieces of paper and a pencil. I’d imagine intense battles between stick figures, equipping them with unrealistic weaponry. Explosions covered the page as combat raged on & periodically, I’d erase to signify casualties. It’s something I hold dear & thanks to the aesthetic of State of Anarchy, it reminded me of it. The question, however, is if this lived up to that same excitement or falters in comparison.
State of Anarchy: Master of Mayhem is a top-down shooter that’s akin to the late 90’s entry of Grand Theft Auto. Like GTA, you’re able to murder, leaving stick figures in a pool of blood. You’ve also got the ability to steal vehicles, however, unlike GTA, SoA only allows you to hijack those parked. As a PC port that garnered 9 out of 10 among users, I came into SoA with bated breath; I was in for a good time. Upon playing it though, I was met with utter disappointment. How could a game so well-regarded on PC be an absolute mess on console? Well, I’ll explain.
The canon story is simple, aliens have invaded & as one expects, this throws the world into chaos. There are crazed gunmen everywhere, some have even taken control of offices.
Before I get into my thoughts, I want to first point out a positive I enjoyed. Between certain levels, you’ll receive an illustration that depicts what is happening. I thought this was effective in keeping the player engaged & I never felt lost. This, however, only occurs a hand full of times. You’d then go through several levels devoid of narrative. It seems Lapovich – developer of State of Anarchy – wanted you to interpret your own experience. My issue is that in those instances, I was just playing the game. SoA was doing a horrible job at keeping me engaged.
While the presentation of events were well-done, their order failed to connect to one another. As I mentioned, there are crazed gunmen but why are they only targeting you. Brainwashing is an option but because it’s not a gradual build, it seems forced. What I mean is that upon booting it up, you’re immediately hunted. This lone thing rules out brainwashing as a viable reason because you have yet to assault the aliens. If, for instance, it began with you only being targeted after committing a crime, that’s understandable. Then, for example, as you begin killing aliens, an illustration shows individuals being brainwashed. That provides context to the actions & doesn’t come across as pointless. As an author, story is very important to me. It’s why I nitpick because I believe, however minuscule, that having a coherent narrative creates motivation. This triggers our inherent curiosity & we find ourselves wanting to learn what happens.
Another issue I had were the crazed men that held offices hostage. Why were they there & how did that play into the aliens invading. Furthermore, why is it after defeating 3 or 4 of them, you’re thrust back into the alien plot-line. It felt like those battles were ultimately throwaways, only used to collect new guns or to pad out the game.
The Gameplay is interesting & has a lot of potential but again, it wasn’t well executed. For instance, I loved that during boss battles, it was like a miniature bullet hell. You’re minimal speed makes you have to be strategic so you can avoid being hit. When I encountered this, I was looking forward to seeing how they’d expand on this concept. After a long playtime, I was still waiting. One of the things State of Anarchy suffers from is repetitiveness; there’s no variety to the game. It falls into a trap of regurgitating the same few scenes. Fight a crazed madman for a few levels & then, it’s alien time. I feel like changing up the scenarios a bit would have added a lot. While you do get to go to the moon, it’s just a change of scene with the same game-play. Definitely on the right track but only changing the background didn’t prevent this from being a dragged out experience.
The controls were responsive but I did have a few issues elsewhere. Since SoA is a PC port, I’d assume it was built with those extra buttons in mind. On console, however, thanks to it’s limited supply, it lead to awkward implementation. For example, there’s a a few times that you’ll be chasing a saucer through town in a car. ZR is the acceleration, right analog is to point your ridicule in the direction you’ll shoot & R is to fire. The left analog is used to move the vehicle & on the Switch’s small joy-cons, holding it felt odd. There is a solution as the right analog has another function; it allows you to shoot. The problem here is, however, that it seems there’s a limited number of times it fires. Finally some realism, your character is reloading & now there’s a bit of strategy. Press the R button though, it shoots endlessly so why does the comfortable option require reloading? Are we being punished for wanting blood to flow to our extremities?
I’ll say it again, State of Anarchy does have potential to be something fun. The poor execution of ideas is what is holding it back. There’s also something else, although rare, I did have stability issues. While fighting a crazed gun man, the game suddenly crashed. I was doing the exact thing I had been prior to this but for whatever reason, it decided, enough was enough.
There are also RPG elements in State of Anarchy & that excited me. It’s one of my favorite genres but again, the implementation was bland. For example, there is a skill tree & while minimal, it presented motivation to level up. I thought, a reason for me to grind out my levels & improve my character; was I wrong. Skill points are only gained every few levels. What’s worse, the bonuses don’t supplement for the rarity of these. If I’ve expected to wait three to four levels before gaining a point, let me increase my speed by 10%, not 1%
State of Anarchy is a game I can’t recommend, not in the state that it’s in, no pun intended.
Review by Fernando, reviewed on the Nintendo Switch. Provided by Sometimes You