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nanashi avatar 8:22 AM on 05.20.2014  (server time)
The Problem With... Mercenary Kings


My main problem is that whenever I get the urge to do a full review of a game on here, it never goes anywhere and I'm left with a bunch of jumbled words in a messy beta blog. Well it hit me that maybe all I really want to do is complain about the game?

Not as spry as I used to be, video games are getting more complaints from me than anything else. So here's the idea: Take a game that could probably be reviewed, don't review it, instead focus on what bothered me about it. It's shorter, it gets one main argument across and there's still room to be creative... and so forth.

So here's the problem with...
Mercenary Kings

..."difficulty curves." Well I am about to commit a cheap ass gamer sin: I'm going to complain about a free game!
Hello and welcome. In this week I will run through a very fun but frustrating indie platformer shooter known as Mercenary Kings. I got this indie goodness for the PS4 so be aware that that is the version I played.
I am going to be direct, which is good because that is quick and I need all my time for I am writing while healing life in a Medic room for the thousandth time: The problem with Mercenary Kings is the difficulty curve. Specifically, all the horrible things that make it "difficult". There will be a lot of opportunity to call out that bad design may not necessarily mean difficulty, not in a pure gaming sense but to hell with that. I say a game can be intentionally crafted difficult, or, like in this case, it can have a bunch of problems resonating at once to make it difficult to play. At the end of the day some "difficulty" is merely the mechanics obstructing you from breezing through a video game. Who is to say they're really inherently different?


The navigation, pee-yew. An ugly, occasionally difficult to tell which rooms connect to which green and red map is your basic source of navigation. Now to really piss on your shoes, the time is still winding down and you can't zoom out. Really? Is the developer that boarding school teacher from Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall"? WRONG DO IT AGAIN, I believe he'd say. And he's right, I was wrong and I had to do it again. Over and over because (bonus complaint: traversing the map is time devouring) what I thought led to where I needed to be was actually blocked off or I took an unnecessary route and ran out of time or I died along the way or literally anything else that could be a problem.


Enemy health and "shields". Enemies eat a lot of damage. But that itself is fine. We're not talking Pak-80 guy health (Uncharted 3) or Drek health (Ratchet and Clank) but just enough health that would make you think they ask for bullets on their Subway footlongs. What really makes enemies tedious is attack windows, let's call them. They have certain attacks or from one side they are invulnerable until either they open up for a beating or you aim with absurd precision. By the way I am specifically talking about the bosses and these tank/drill enemy types.

The bosses have all these intricate moves that fall into varied patterns of onslaught. Fantastic, the animation team earned their pay. Problem is, someone decided to make the bosses shielded from harm's way for the majority of these moves and patterns. This gives the player an honest 1 in 10 shot at getting a few, and I mean a FEW, shots in.  Then it's back to jumping around, rolling across the floor dodging the Michelle Kwan of video game enemy bosses, waiting painstakingly for that next opportunity to get hits. So at this point, that just a little too much health becomes really problematic since the extra health is magnified with the tedium of landing blows. Side note: there's a fucking trophy to kill one of these bosses with your knife only, no bullets. Good luck bro.

And the drill guys? Yeah, a little less to say about these since they're only normals. They have a drill that covers roughly 2/3 of their height so you again have to be precise with your shots. Since the Kings and Empresses don't use rocketboots you will need to jump and you will miss most of your magazine save for a couple of rounds. It's better to fire less but more accurately, yet you're still going to have to jump several times. Jumping several times, is difficult to do because you need to pay attention to how close they are to you versus how much space you have behind you so they don't get you with their long reaching go-go gadget drill.

Also you can't just roll past them with the invulnerability rolling mod. Well you can, but you got to be for-fucks-sake-again really precise in when you time the roll  so the last pixel doesn't touch you upon exit roll. It feels like you can skip ALL of that and just jump over them problem is they're usually parading in small corridors with low hanging ceilings. Sometimes with spiked ceilings too, so your jumps have to be even more careful -- see a pattern yet? --since this is one of those games that has one jump button but varying jump heights that you can control. This was poorly implemented as well, discussed next paragraph.


On a larger scale, one of the key issues is the stiff movement which has been the main complain about this game it seems, and hence it won't have a big presence in this blog, but I will say that the stiffness is a problem throughout the entire game and it makes every other problem worse. Like having a pizza full of toppings you hate and then you find out the pasta sauce expired a week ago and the chef kneaded the dough with his feet .....and the box it came in is radioactive. And the reason this is a problem additionally is that the level design gets trickier and deadly cluttered with enemies, obstacles and harsher platforming. So having harder levels to navigate through becomes yet harder so thanks to the poor movement mechanics. Woah my complaints are piling onto one another.

I'm sorry if this episode is a bit hard to follow, but I will stand by my complicated-ness. The game has several flaws that keep interlacing. This becomes more apparent and makes for a frustrating gaming experience as you progress. Like I said in the intro dog, the difficulty curve is a bunch of flaws in the design of this game, this game isn't about fighting C.L.A.W. it's about fighting you playing it!

BUT COMPLAINING ASIDE this game is still worth getting, SOMEHOW! It has a fun story and an artstyle to die for, killer soundtrack that gets you lost into the game -- when the gameplay works, when it isn't falling apart. Because that's the thing, Mercenary Kings was like taking a $5 umbrella out into tropical level rain, it's fine as long as it holds out but eventually it becomes too much for the umbrella and just crumbles on top of you. Personally I would recommend playing it all the way through with multiple people (4 max) all the way, which should alleviate some of the unnecessary difficulty.

I hope you enjoyed this old man complaining. Thank you for reading through and please discuss away in the comments. Joining Next Times When I talk about.... mobal games.


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