The version of Mercenary Kings available through Early Access is not a completed version of the game. Currently it only has 60 missions available out of more than a hundred total in the final build. But by being available now to players, Tribute is able to collect feedback during the final stages of development to fully flesh out their vision before a full release this fall.
Gaming Illustrated was lucky enough to get some hands on time with Mercenary Kings at E3. Fans of the Metal Slug series will recognize some familiar notes with not only the visuals but gameplay. Using a variety of weapons to demolish the evil forces of CLAW, players must also dodge hails of gunfire while taking on large bosses. Where Metal Slug often focused on twitch gameplay and frequent deaths, Mercenary Kings has a vibe similar to a platformer along with a few RPG elements. Enemies don’t kill the player with one hit but there is still strategy involved when navigating levels and lining up shots.
One of the coolest aspects of the game is the gun crafting system. Materials dropped from enemies or found in the environment can be crafted into a wide variety of guns. Each gun has a a slew of interchangeable parts that will affect performance in different ways. Because levels aren’t just straight left-to-right affairs, it encourages players to explore every nook and cranny for new upgrades while also making the game not feel too linear.
Those who played Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game will likely recognize the distinct art style of Mercenary Kings. Paul Robertson, who headed the work on Scott Pilgrim, also has taken the reigns for the wonderful looking sprites and more on Mercenary Kings. Not only does the game look great with a classic edge, it runs at a brisk pace. This harmony is no doubt owed to the fact that Tribute Games is formed from members who worked on the Scott Pilgrim game.
As mentioned, the version of Mercenary Kings currently available is not completed. That being said, the game still has much of its content still intact. The very enjoyable online multiplayer/co-op is still present in the Early Access build of the game. Things like item and difficulty balancing, the remaining missions, cutscenes and more have yet to be implemented.
Many aspects of the game such as customization, selecting missions and upgrading your solider are very menu oriented. It isn’t always clear when a weapon part will unlock or how exactly it will affect the gun but a firing range allows for some decent experimentation. Missions are fairly cut-and-dry at the moment. Players are tasked with collecting certain items or killing a specific number of enemies. Some missions will take longer than others because the map or the game doesn’t do the best job at communicating where the player should go. But because most of the early missions take place in the first few maps, navigation does become second nature. While it does take away from some of the surprise, it helps the player familiarize with the controls and gameplay.
What makes Mercenary Kings fun at this early point in the early access is the desire to discover new items and watch the art style in motion. Character animations might not be as varied or intricate for a game that so closely resembles Metal Slug but they succeed on their own merit. Hearing the same theme over and over can be a bit tedious but knowing that more sounds will be put in with future updates, it doesn’t seem so bad. One can only wonder what kind of experience will be had on the PS4 version of the game. The addition of co-op play will certainly add life to the title. Yes, it’s rough. But it’s also Early Access. However, the foundation for something truly fun lies in wait.
Tribute Games has stated that the Steam and PS4 versions of Mercenary Kings are the priority. Eventually they do want to release other versions as well. For now, players can get instant access to Mercenary Kings on Steam for $14.99. Be sure to check out the Early Access trailer below.