Title: The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners
Developer: Skydance Interactive
Release Date: May 6, 2020
Reviewed On: PSVR
Publisher: Skybound Entertainment
Genre: First-Person Adventure
Every year, the game industry seems to make progress in the VR space with interesting titles that experiment with gameplay experiences. The latest trends have seen ideas on how players interact with physics-based objects in a VR environment. When it comes to The Walking Dead Saints and Sinners, Skybound Entertainment and Skydance Interactive have brought those ideas to the PlayStation VR. However, this enjoyable experience ends up held back by the hardware’s limitations.
The story follows a protagonist named The Tourist, whose passing through the New Orleans area with a fellow survivor in search of a lockdown bunker called the Reserve. Rumor has it that the Reserve holds a large amount of weaponry and food to last for months. However, after a violent event, the survivor uses his last breath to guide the Tourist to the whereabouts of the haven. It is then up players to find the hidden bunker regardless of the Walkers and rivaling factions that get in the way.
The story is, unfortunately, one of the weaker parts of Saints and Sinners, especially compared to its comic and TV counterparts that made The Walking Dead franchise popular in the first place. What The Walking Dead is known for is providing information on the cast so that fans can feel more immersed in their lives. This adds a sense of humanity in a post-apocalyptic setting.
The only characters that Saints and Sinners focus on is the main protagonist and a faceless survivor over the radio named Casey. Given that the main character is meant to be portrayed as the player, he or she is origin-less. Meanwhile, Casey pretty much leads the conversation for the entirety of my 18-hour playthrough.
The lack of story elements made the consequences nonexistent in an established franchise where decisions aren’t so black and white. Without spoiling the story, a later mission had me choose to help a bad guy in exchange for key items. However, given that I didn’t know or care about this guy, I killed him. This made a faction side with me for a while, but the next time I encountered them, they were hostile towards me. This gives the impression that the developer tried to incorporate deeper interactions with NPCs but without executing the system entirely.
Thankfully, the gameplay in Saints and Sinners had me most impressed with the VR experience. Adding to early ideas of first-person VR titles, items and weapons have weight and inertia to them, which means that in addition to larger objects feeling sluggish and unwieldy to use with one hand, they also need particular handling to be effective.
Driving screwdrivers into a walker’s skull takes a lot more effort than sharper weapons, like shivs and knives. Shotguns need more than a simple movement from the controller that uses the pump to load the next shell, but also the feeling of leverage to do it efficiently. Finally, there’s an inherent difference when using melee weapons like an ax or sword to slice through a walker. It’s these physics-based mechanics that make Saints and Sinners satisfying even after the hundredth time stabbing a zombie in the head.
Still, there are times where the combat systems fail just as much as it succeeds. Axes, for example, tend to need a particular angle to kill a walker that wasn’t clear to me. This caused walkers to simply stumble, with my weapon’s durability receiving the most damage from the action. These incidents can happen often enough that it can be frustrating as the days go by.
Saints and Sinners is played on a day cycle system that allows for one mission outside of the safe zone per day. As each day passes, specific item categories are seen less often, like food, medicine, and high damage ammo.
There are three upgradable crafting benches for ranged, melee, and consumables. Both blueprints and the benches themselves need ingredients and parts from salvaged items. Given that everything found is pretty much considered a limited resource, there’s an added challenge when trying to decide if crafting something is crucial or if it’s better to wait a few days and craft something more substantial.
The developers did a fantastic job of making New Orleans apart of The Walking Dead universe. Everything is open to the player to explore and even allows them to climb the sides of buildings or crawl through house foundations to evade enemies are strategize a sneak attack. It’s this level of immersion that makes you feel like a part of this post-apocalyptic world, and it’s one of the game’s strongest features.
The most significant criticism I can give to Saints and Sinners is actually for the platform it’s on. PSVR has a tenancy to lose tracking when the Move controller lights are in the way of the headset’s lights from the camera, causing drift at the worse times like in the middle of a gunfight with a group. Also, the Move control is still the most awkward way to move a character in a first-person title. Skydance Interactive uses the most tried and true method of pointing the controller in the direction of where players want to go, but making small adjustments or strafing comes off clumsy.
Much of what holds back The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners on PS4 is the hardware. The game does its best to work around these limitations, but it only ends up hindering the overall immersion. Sure, the story is lacking in its narrative as you go through the game without any real attachments to the characters, but there’s just something so satisfying about kitting out and heading into a zombie-infested world.
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