The Saints Row series began in 2006, introducing players to a beloved cast of characters over the subsequent decade. After 2013’s Saints Row IV, where players entered a computer simulation to battle aliens, and 2015’s Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell, where players literally descended into the depths of the underworld to fight Satan, Volition knew it had taken the series to the farthest reaches. Volition decided to take a short break after Gat Out of Hell.
Volition was at a natural stopping point. Rather than trying to improve on the series’ previous entries with more bizarre scenarios and bombastic characters Volition returned to the drawing boards. “It was never spoken out loud with clarity of something like, ‘This is it. We have specifically taken this as far as we would like, and when we do the next game, by God, we’re going to reboot it!’” Volition chief creative officer Jim Boone says. “But I think that everyone had that vibe that we just had fun taking this thing as far as we possibly could and leaving it all out there.”
After putting the series temporarily on ice, Volition developed 2017’s Agents of Mayhem. The game featured much of the Saints Row DNA, but fans clamored for the return of the studio’s most popular franchise. The groundswell of community enthusiasm combined with the studio’s own passion for the franchise to drive them back to Saints Row. However, the team didn’t want to just continue down the path it was going, stretching further and further into the realm of absurdity.
Volition thought of options such as flashing back in time to Saints Row IV. But the best option was to restart the series. This gave the team a new story and a clean slate. “[This approach] allows us to build on top of it,” narrative designer Jennifer Campbell says. “Once you add everything and the kitchen sink to the game, it’s difficult to then plan for future games after that because if you start with the climax, where do you go from there? A lot of fans have been wanting us to go back to … a more grounded game. We were trying to set up this reboot for its best chance for evolution.”
Volition decided that this direction was clear and that it would create new characters to tell the story of the origin story of the Saints who were born in a city that is inspired by the American Southwest. The initial class of Santo Ileso’s Saints includes four characters from disparate backgrounds. The customizable protagonist (who later becomes known as “The Boss”) starts out in Marshall, a tech-heavy, highly trained faction. Meanwhile, Neenah gets her start in Los Panteros and Kevin comes from The Idols, the other two rival gangs found in Santo Ileso.
It turns out low-level members of street gangs don’t make a whole lot of money, and apartments aren’t cheap, so they decide to put their rival affiliations aside in the name of saving money on rent. While their situation as roommates is not ideal, there’s no denying that they are in a difficult spot. They quickly form a mutually beneficial policy where they leave work behind when they get home. They’re joined by their fourth roommate, Eli, who came into the group not as a gang member but rather as a man moving to Santo Ileso chasing real-estate fortune.
Even if they split their expenses, the members still have to work side jobs to make ends meet. In fact, the first mission I play during my hands-on time is called “Making Rent.” The group works well as a unit; your character is the motivating force behind the group and puts the mission above all else. Kevin has a great command of his hands, is very caring about his friends and is one of the most connected people in the area. Neenah is the most reliable driver in Los Panteros and also has the highest quality mechanic. Eli, the heart of the operation, is what holds everything together.
“[Eli is] the one that keeps telling them through a lot of motivational tapes and motivational books that, ‘We should be out doing this for ourselves and controlling our own destinies,’” creative director Brian Traficante says.
Shortly after a successful heist of a loan office called Payday in “Making Rent,” the group realizes there might be something special between them. “They’re not the Saints at that point, but they realize they’re kind of good at what they’re doing, and they should maybe seek to scale their ability to do some of these things,” executive producer Rob Loftus says. “That’s where [your character] starts to point out like, ‘No guys, I think we can turn this into a bigger thing than just sticking up a Payday loan place.”
The unlikely roommates-turned-business-partners begin looking at each other as a family and eventually decide to form a group where they can grow their own criminal empire and make the riches they’ve only dreamt of to this point. Eli, being the businessman he is knows the importance of office space. Neenah has a suggestion for a church that the group could rent in the Mercado area.
The church begins in a poor state. However, it is possible to improve its HQ by making some changes. They are immediately struck by the symbol of saints Catholic fleur-de lis when they first arrive. The sign becomes a logo for the crew, and they adopt the name “The Saints.” With your character serving as the spark for the crew, you’ve officially begun down the path to becoming “The Boss.”
Saints, newly named Saints, begin operating as an autonomous faction in the city. As you might imagine, the three gangs already in control of Santo Ileso don’t take kindly to a new player showing up, let alone one consisting of former members of their gangs. This creates the potential for new conflicts around every corner.
We’ll be getting into those rival factions, customization, and plenty more in future articles and videos, so be sure to keep an eye on our Saints Row hub by clicking the banner below. Saints Row will launch on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 4 on February 25, as well as on PC.