Hands-On With ‘Mercenary Kings’ An Old-School, Early Access, Shoot-‘Em-Up

Mercenary Kings Title Card

The team behind Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game has come from Ubisoft and formed their own studio, Tribute Games. After a $116,000 Kickstarter campaign, their latest side-scrolling shooter, Mercenary Kings, launched through Steam’s Early Access program. This Early Access version plays like a near-complete version of the game, with everything seemingly intact except for the latter half of the game’s missions.

Mercenary Kings Screenie 1

At first glance, Mercenary Kings appears to be a hybrid of the gorgeous pixel art and animations from Scott Pilgrim and the gameplay from Metal Slug. Your character is a mercenary fighting against a terrorist group named CLAW, and you undertake various missions to bring them down, and more importantly: make a lot of money. The gameplay is a simply run-and-gun experience, with varying basic objectives (rescue the hostage, kill the boss, capture the enemy, etc.) depending on the mission you take on.

With the money players make from missions, they can buy different upgrades for their guns, different bio mods to change their character’s loot drops or damage output, or spend it at the general store for supplies for the next mission. The customization options are very deep and the options for guns alone are cool, funny, and everything in between. You can swap out the barrel of your gun for the end of a trombone, or build a sniper rifle with a machine gun’s magazine. I found myself building guns and testing them almost as much as I actually used the gun on a mission.

Mercenary Kings Screenie 2

The multiplayer is very seamless, especially for an early build. You can host and join matches with little lag or error, besides the currently shallow player base. There’s even local split-screen, which I am always very happy to see since it’s slowly becoming extinct in the PC gaming world. For those who like to ride alone, the game is not tailored to any one experience, unless that experience is playing with the keyboard. I found it really frustrating trying to use keyboard controls for this game. I plugged in a controller after about 15 minutes.

Most enemies will drop a material when they die, creating a small kind of loot system for the player. It’s interesting, but it feels more like a way to stop people from buying their way through the game than actually rewarding the players for a big kill. However, it does not detract from the game at all, it’s pretty non-intrusive as well. But, I guarantee you that frustration will arrive at some point when you can’t find that damn last material to build a gun part.

Mercenary Kings Screenie 3

Mercenary Kings is a solid buy for anyone interested in side-scrollers or run-and-gun games. If you were a fan of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, you’ll be right at home with this one. You can buy the game on Steam to get early access, and follow Tribute Games on Twitter for updates.