You probably don’t know how bitter it feels when a criminal organization abolishes all your former mercenary mates. Not until you and your partner boot up for the revenge in Tribute Games’ Mercenary Kings. Bringing back a lot of memories from the past, it’s yet another thriving Kickstarter funded project that sparkles of a lot of promises. Running-and-gunning genre fans will surely love to have this game, while a little more depth on the gameplay could turn this into a stunning success.
A game like Mercenary Kings doesn’t really require a story, but Tribute Games supplies one anyway, with a motivating tale that sets the players eliminating a dangerous organization called the CLAW. The game lets you opt between two skilled mercenaries known as King and Empress. During missions, you’re required to kill foes and do some rescuing or capturing. Players can shoot in any direction while running and jumping. They can through grenades in close range, and knife down the enemies when they come too close instead of shooting. Sounds familiar! There’s more. Players now have the ability to collect materials dropped by the dead and use them for crafting different equipment later. A crew can upgrade players armor and even assemble new weapons.
Mercenary Kings has a progression system that lets players rank-up by completing missions. New missions are unlocked by completing given objectives and the more a player ranks up, more missions unlock. Completing extra objectives helps players level up faster. Each mission has a time limit upon replying any. Sound exciting, but there’s always ample amount of time to complete any missions. Rank points are given based on the completion of main objectives. Extra objectives randomly appear under the health bar during the game stating what needs to be done to accomplish them. A sub menu shows the map, status of the mission, proficiencies, inventory and mission info during play. There are missions that require you to check the map often so that you don’t get lost in directions.
Besides the gameplay, the inventory system is something the players need to get used to quickly. Each time players ranks up, difficulty level increases and using of additional means such as Adrenaline Shot, C4, Shock Bomb or Riot Shield becomes a necessity. These items can be purchased using the money earned by completing missions. Depending on the boss and the frequency of enemies to encounter players need to pick the right items. For instance, during a mission when the boss needs to be captured, you can’t simply kill him. Using of Shock Bomb to stunt him when he’s most vulnerable is the right approach.
The 4 player’s co-op mode in Mercenary Kings is the feature that doubles its fun. In terms of gameplay everything remains the same except for killing the bad guys becomes much easier. Since it’s not a competitive mode, players hardly need to coordinate except for the directions they are taking. For instance, if it’s a rescue missions, players can play in different areas of the map and make the rescues in a very short period of time. Whereas during boss fights one player can keep the boss distracted and another can take him down at ease. Collecting materials is also easier as each item gets added to everyone’s inventory. It could’ve been even more captivating if there were competitive elements such as leaderboard or ranking system.
Presentation wise, even with its 2D visuals, Mercenary Kings pulls off a decent job. Backgrounds remain as still while the characters are only animated. Even with the character’s repetitive animations it never gets dull. There’s this sense of veiled comical existence in every animation that helps the game stay off the radar of monotony. No matter how many times you perform a headshot, it’s always amusing to watch the way enemy heads explode. Some of the movements by the characters such as front-rolling, sliding or gliding are delights to watch. Even the shortest clip when an enemy is dying has a comical message to deliver. Background music blends pretty well with the gameplay too. It surly brings back memories from Contra, but it really doesn’t bother much as this game intends to proffer an old school feeling.
Speaking about intensity, what I felt Mercenary Kings missing is its originality in terms of keeping the gameplay inventive. Players have the ability of going back to the same mission over and over again, but the only purpose of that would be collecting materials. And utilizing these collectables grows to be fruitless at times due to the lack of gravity this whole inventory system provides. This feature’s understandably one of the strongest aspects of the game, but its intricacy makes it vulnerable. There’s also the rigidness during some movements such as shooting down a shielded enemy while jumping that feel awkward at times. And not to mention that the enemies including the bosses feel dumb most of the time. Their movement is predictable and it’s rare dying during the game if paid proper attention the enemies.
These shortcomings, however, won’t matter much unless you don’t want to be too critical about the game, and enjoy without comparing it with Metal Slug. Mercenary Kings is truly a fun game to play and has enough missions to keep players entertained for hours. Anyone looking for a non-stop action platformer with the inimitability to move towards any direction, aided with RPG elements, Mercenary Kings is the game without any doubt.