Mercenary Kings is an old-school side-scrolling shooter in the same vein as the popular Metal Slug series. The inspiration is pretty clear as soon as you boot the game, and it even has the same character select screen. The inspiration stops here though, as the rest of the game doesn’t come close to the fun levels and unique boss battles offered by Metal Slug. The focus of the game is more on a mission based structure where you go through a variety of ranks and the emphasis on playing this in multiplayer is pretty clear cut.
Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition is not exactly a brand new game. It originally launched for the PS4 and PC back in early 2014. The game was available on PlayStation Plus as a free release so those who didn’t buy it were still able to play it through the subscription. It had a strong focus on co-op and a difficulty curve that might prove a little too steep for some players. The reloaded version features new characters and weapons in addition to some quality of life improvements. Although on the surface, a lot of the gameplay design is kept intact. The best part about this upgrade is that it is available completely free of cost, but does it really offer enough enhancements to give it a chance again?
You are dealing with a standard shoot-em up gameplay here, but with the twist of upgrades and the ability to customize weapons. There is a also a randomly generated loot based system that can offer materials needed to craft or upgrade your weapons and armor. The missions are all given through a central hub which remains intact from the original release with some minor tweaks. This central hub is where you will spend your time by crafting and customizing weapons, upgrading your armor, installing mods, or getting items that can help you during a mission.
On the surface, this all sounds interesting however the execution in Mercenary Kings is ultimately a little disappointing. The mission structure is repetitive and the same applies to enemies. It is incredibly hard to play through each mission just alone and fairly boring if you attempt to do some of the higher level challenges. It is a completely different story if you attempt the game in co-op and this is where the true potential of the game begins. In co-op, you have almost every option available from local split-screen that supports up to 4 players, or by playing online where people can join you in a lobby through the central hub and then attempt missions together.
The missions that you can attempt in Mercenary Kings don’t have much to offer in term of story. The story is mainly presented through codex based conversations that seem to be inspired from Metal Gear Solid series. It is best to ignore them since the story is your standard Mercenaries on a rescue mission affair where you are trying to save a scientist from an evil organization. The mission design is divided among a variety of tasks and the game basically loops through each of them with a different map or rank. For most of the game, you will be either performing a rescue mission, killing a set number of enemies, finding and gathering a set number of resources, or killing a boss. It is the repetitive nature of the missions here that makes it so unappealing in single player, but it is a completely different story in multiplayer.
As I have said before, the true potential of Mercenary Kings is unleashed in its multiplayer mode. Each mission is limited by a set amount of time so if you have more players, it will be easier to deal with a boring mission. It can also be fun to play it with friends because you can assign yourself each task for a mission. Aside from completing the main objectives, you can also attempt some of the optional objectives that can be a part of a mission. The reward is usually money that can be used to purchase items or upgrade and craft weapons or armor. Whether you play it online or through local co-op, it is the only way to get the best experience out of Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition.
If the missions are not as fun to play, what about the loot system then? Well to be honest, it suffers from the same fate as the missions. The upgrades that you can get in the game feel lackluster as there is not much variety to offer here. I would have been more than happy with just a standard weapon system that offered alternative forms of fire instead of the current customization system. The damage that you deal can be seen in an RPG-like system where numbers show up on the screen so you will have an idea of how much your current weapon is proving to be effective in combat.
I found the portable mode the best way to play Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition. The multiplayer mode is set to offline by default and to change it for local or online play, you will need to go through the central hub. The online multiplayer experience wasn’t exactly smooth since I noticed that lag made some of the player movements a little hard to follow, especially when they shoot an enemy and it simply disappears on your screen. This doesn’t seem to effect the enjoyment of the game as much though, because you will be basically working towards a single objective during most of the missions. Getting help from other players makes some of the mission easier to complete when you are attempting the higher ranking missions.
Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: In this frantic 2D action game, you are part of the Mercenary Kings, the most skilled team of warriors-for-hire on Earth, but when your comrades have fallen and the fearsome forces of CLAW have seized an island-wide top secret Laboratory Base, you must do what it takes to stop them.
Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition works best in co-op however the frustrating difficulty and repetitive nature of the mission design are still a problem if you want to play the game alone.