Mercenary Kings Reviewed
By Nathaniel Liles
Mercenary Kings is a game that slipped past my radar in a big way back when it was originally brought to Kickstarter, and I honestly hadn’t even heard the name until it was released. Even then, I really didn’t give it that much attention until I was asked if I’d like to review it. I was asked, I said “Hell yes, please”, and then I played it, all excited and whatnot. I was really psyched to take this game for a spin once I got my eyeballs all over the Metal Slug inspired graphics and animations, but there were quite a few things about the game that I just had to learn as I played. What did I learn, you ask? Well, maybe I learned that this game is the second coming of Video Game Jesus. Maybe I learned that it was just a derivative Metal Slug clone with no soul. What was the outcome of all this? Well, you’ll have to read a bit more to find out, because I just love it when you read my articles.
I know I typically list my complains before all else, because I love ending on a high note, but due to the overall quality of Mercenary Kings (and the spirit of experimentation), I’m going to tell you guys what was great first. So, what was great? Most of the game. Most of Mercenary Kings is just fabulous, from the look and feel of the game to the crafting and local multiplayer. The look of the game is heavily inspired by the classic shoot-em-up series Metal Slug, which I’ve been a medium-sized fan of for about a decade now. I’ve enjoyed every single installment that I’ve played, and a big part of that was the fantastic art style and the blood-soaked death animations of each individual enemy. That attention to detail is carried over fantastically in the 16-bit art style of Mercenary Kings, and if someone told me it was a genuine Metal Slug game, I’d have no reason to disbelieve them. Mixed in with the gritty is a big heaping spoonful of adorable, illustrated in all the little kitty cats and capybaras running around. Music is also extremely catchy and fitting to the gameplay, keeping the player energized and in the moment throughout gameplay, right from the title screen.
Gameplay is also very Metal Slug, allowing you to run, jump, and aim in one of the four cardinal directions while walking around, climbing on ladders, zip lining, parachuting, and crouching. Enemies use a wide variety of defenses from agility to shields and cover, but every kind of defense has a weakness that you can exploit via strategy or clever weapon crafting. For instance, one of the more annoying enemies starting out has a shield that blocks all fire from one direction when the enemy isn’t firing. Bummer, right? Well, if you load your gun with acidic Caustic rounds, you can melt right through that shield, no problem, while dealing a little extra damage to everyone who doesn’t have a shield. Bosses are badass (if a little recycled from time to time), and navigation and platforming controls extremely well. Reloading is even fun, using an active reload system that rewards people who pay attention with a faster reload and better bullets. Weapon, armor, and buff crafting is also extremely fun and accessible, and figuring out recipes for one-mission buff-granting foods is just as fun as it was in Monster Hunter. There are a ton of weapons to craft, and mixing and matching parts from various guns provides a massive amount of customization, allowing you to very much build any gun you could ever want.
Combine all that with local multiplayer, and you’ve got one of the most fun experiences available on Steam to this date. My only qualms with this title lie in the repetition. Difficulty is well balanced, but every mission is a given tier typically takes place in the same level, albeit a large level, but the mix of various objectives does make for a fun, varied experience. Multiplayer is drop-in/drop-out, which is good for parties or having friends over, but every fresh character starts off with the basic gun, no money, and no crafting materials, so it gets a bit unbalanced if you want to use your existing character to play with a friend who’s just starting out. Online multiplayer is also supported, however, and things don’t get wildly out of balance, just enough to be a bit discouraging. Overall, Mercenary Kings is a fantastic game, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a great single or multiplayer experience in the run-and-gun category. Things get a bit repetitive, but the grind is justified for completionists, and no real grind is required to simply beat the game. Characters are vivid and fun, controls are perfect, and art is a feast for the eyes. I will continue to play and enjoy Mercenary Kings for months to come, and will probably come back to it later on.
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[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/nathaniel.jpg” ] Nathaniel Liles is a freelance writer, writing major, and indie musician based in Southern Indiana. While procrastinating or avoiding real-world responsibility, Nathaniel enjoys playing rhythm games, action RPGs, and very colorful games with many bright, flashing lights. You can listen to Nathaniel sing songs or download his music for free at http://nathanielliles.bandcamp.com/. [/author]