Mercenary Kings looks like it has it all: excellent pixel art style, throwback Metal Slug gameplay, RPG crafting, tons of missions and characters, local and online co-op… but why don’t I like it more? Mercenary Kings, already out on PC and PS4, comes in its Reloaded Edition this week on the Switch (where I played it). Every big of this game screams “Bill, you will like me”, but when I’m playing it I’m merely frustrated by what could have been. It’s an alright game, with an incredible premise that deserved a bit more TLC. This is our Mercenary Kings Reloaded review for the Nintendo Switch.
The premise is simple. You are one of the Mercenary Kings, elite soldiers brought back to life with a super serum to stop the evil CLAW organization. Think GI JOE if it was super bloody and somewhat adult-themed. The game lets you pick and swap between available characters, but they’re different in looks only. The real choice comes in your weapon loadout, which you craft addons for as you progress through the game and collect loot off the dead and destroyed.
There’s a home base, filled with NPCs that offer different services, stock like health kits, rations, etc, and of course missions. Think of it like Tristram in Diablo. In a lot of ways, MKR is basically Diablo meets Metal Slug. But where Diablo nailed combat so critically, making it a joy to hack and slash your way through hordes of enemies, Mercenary Kings falters. Shooting, jumping, and killing the bad guys in MKR isn’t fun. It’s tedious, slow-paced, and often feels like even the weakest of enemies is a bullet sponge. It’s also worth noting that you can only shoot in four directions, making the killing of some enemies on the screen absolutely impossible. You wind up being better served by just moving on from them, which is often preferable because as soon as they’re off-screen, enemies respawn.
I could handle the grind of collecting loot, crafting slightly more powerful weapons, and tackling increasingly difficult bosses and enemies if the combat was more fun. I’d even allow the fact that the enemies are pretty unvaried in the early hours if they were more fun to fight. Instead, the main way you interact with all content in Mercenary Kings feels rough around the edges, and all the fun of Diablo + Metal Slug is lost in the shuffle.
Still, if the combat sounds up your alley, there’s a whole lot to love in Mercenary Kings Reloaded. The content is not at fault, nor is the level design and replay value. This one’s a blast to play with friends, and that may be its most saving grace. The sluggishness of movement and shooting is halved when you’re playing with a good friend who can share in the mayhem. It also allows online play with friends, strangers, or by invite only so you can tailor your desired experience. Playing solo is doable, but MKR is a whole lot more fun when it’s played with friends.
Note: Our copy was provided by PR for review.
Compare to: Metal Slug, Diablo, Borderlands