The lights are on
We’ve had several chances over the last year to get our hands on Mercenary Kings, from E3 demos to early alpha playtests. With the game steering towards a final release on PS4 and PC in the coming months, we return to the game to highlight five reasons you should keep this downloadable game on your radar.
The Art Style
If you are a fan of 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game, part of your love likely stems from the project’s awesome pixel art. Mercenary Kings features visuals from the same talented artist; Paul Robertson’s colorful style oozes from every screen of the game. The art does a fantastic job of presenting larger-than-life heroes and a wide variety of crazy bad guys to confront, and makes a solid case for why pixel art still has a place in modern games.
The action in Mercenary Kings can get pretty intense, but it’s worth it to stop running around and shooting from time to time just to watch the amusing idle animations on the characters. Moreover, check out the incredible detail drawn into many of the backgrounds, and you’ll fall in love with this game’s presentation.
Classic Gameplay With A Modern Flair
Play a few missions of Mercenary Kings, and you quickly recognize the game’s roots in classic 2D action and shooting. Whether it’s the military firefights of Metal Slug or the enemy placement and level design of Mega Man, Mercenary Kings nails the homages by serving up the chance for one level after the next of exploration, shooting, and boss fights.
On the surface, the basic shooting and jumping mechanics seem relatively straightforward. The more time you spend with Mercenary Kings, the more it reveals its complexity. Gun reloads use the same active reload system popularized by the Gears of War franchise. Character speed is dictated by the weight of the weapons he or she is carrying, which also helps determine how far you can jump, so you must choose carefully how much to weigh yourself down. The roll maneuver starts to become essential for getting out of tight spots quickly, demanding quick reflexes and careful observation. Everything comes together to force players to strategically approach every battle.
Mercenary Kings plays great all by your lonesome, but if you’re looking to have a party, the game has you covered. The game supports either 4-player online or local play, letting you and your buddies confront the forces of CLAW together. In split-screen, each character gets a corner, and if you don’t have a full complement of troops, the unused corners house a helpful map.
Multiplayer is especially valuable on boss stages, since the big bad guy can often show up at one of several locations around the map, and will regularly move between those spots. It’s wise to spread your team out to track down the enemy’s location before converging for the kill.
While Mercenary Kings does not feature traditional leveling, it does include a robust weapon and armor upgrade system with nearly endless customization options. Throughout your battles across the island, you find materials like aluminum, leather, or springs. Bring those materials back to camp, and you’re allowed to craft dozens of gun parts that can be mixed and matched to your specifications.
By changing out your receiver, barrel, magazine, sight, stock, and ammunition, you can craft a crazy amalgam gun that mixes sniper-rifle parts with submachine-gun pieces, or armor-piercing rounds on a handgun.
While weapons certainly offer the most flexibility, players also use materials to craft new bionic mods, armor, food (for one-off mission bonuses), or even ornaments and flags for your character’s tent.
Mercenary Kings features only a few game maps, but each one is positively gigantic, and there’s a lot to explore and learn about each stage. Missions take you back to these maps repeatedly, but often change up the enemy layout to keep you on your toes. These level maps often help to tell the story, and new areas of the map unlock as you complete new missions. You might spend a chunk of the game wondering what’s up with the ancient closed-off temple in one corner, but you can rest assured that an answer is forthcoming.
As you slowly uncover the breadth of each map, you learn about its secrets. Where can I reliably get some additional C4 to blow up a barrier? Where are the infirmaries I can enter to regenerate some health? Where is the hidden passage that always holds a treasure chest with some good loot? By learning the smart traversal paths to get around, you can help to assure your victory in later stages that often involve challenging time limits and dangerously powerful bosses.
Are you considering a purchase of Mercenary Kings? Have you tried the Early Access version on Steam? Let us know your thoughts about Tribute’s new game in the comments below.
Email the author Matt Miller, or follow on Game Informer.
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