Mercenaries Blaze: Dawn of the Twin Dragons
Developer: Rideon Japan
Publisher: CIRCLE Entertainment
Genre: RPG, Strategy
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Also available for: PlayStation 4)
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 17/12/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Mercenaries Blaze: Dawn of the Twin Dragons is the fifth instalment of the Mercenaries series that’s been released onto the Nintendo Switch. It’s a turn-based strategy RPG that takes place on an isometric grid. Whilst this doesn’t sound particularly unique, what sets Mercenaries Blaze apart from its competitors is a vast story and fairly interesting characters.
Set within the kingdom of Euros, the story revolves around the country’s war with its neighbour, Westa. Some time ago an influx of immigrants from Westa into Euros caused tensions between the two nations to reach a breaking point and war soon followed. To help pacify the tensions, the Church and Government of Euros have decreed that any immigrant who converts to Euros’ religion will be granted asylum, providing they provide a form of labour.
Our character through the narrative is Lester, a descendant from a long fallen royal family. Now, leader of a team of mercenaries. Lester aims to not only restore his family’s namesake but to also survive the Euros/Westa war. The overall premise is quite an interesting one that dives into many political and religious themes. The main theme running throughout is how both sides see the other. The Euros treat the Westa immigrants with disdain and are seen as almost slaves. Whilst the Westa see the Euros as an oppressive force set to eradicate their culture. It’s a story that’s a little too close to the real world, but it’s interesting to see a video game tackle the subject.
While the story is an interesting subject, its execution could do with a little more work. The dialogue takes place in between battles and apart from these moments, we spend no time getting to know our party members. After each battle you’re taken back to a generic menu to either shop, save or pick another mission. While some of the text conveys a sense of passion, you’re never driven to care for the characters and their motives. It would have been nice to be able to walk around and interact with people, rather than through scripted scenes.
As I touched on above, there aren’t any towns or roads to explore. The majority of Mercenaries Blaze‘s gameplay comes from selecting missions via a menu. This “hub” also allows you to select party members, upgrade their skills and equipment, and finally access a shop. The game is incredibly basic to play and everything is done via menus or point and click battles.
Combat takes place in a self-contained grid arena that uses a turn-based format. Before the battle starts you’re given a flyby which shows how the enemy’s units are positioned. From this point, you’re free to select who to lead your party and its overall formation. The formation doesn’t do too much, if anything its purpose is for you to defend your support characters, but the maps are quite large so you are never forced into extremely tight spaces. There are plenty of vantage points for you to utilise, although doing so doesn’t offer much of an advantage – if any.
When it comes to attacking, each character has their class abilities and traits to utilise. It may seem simple on the surface but it’s surprisingly in-depth. Rather than out punching your opponent, combat comes down to what skills you use combined with team synergy and their equipment. It’s a clever idea, although its execution could do with more work.
Each class comes with its skill tree for you to upgrade. This is combined with a character trait that’s unique to each party member. These skills are all used in combat and can be performed once you’ve filled a meter. It’s very reminiscent of games such as Final Fantasy and stops you from spamming the same skill. While these special skills are helpful, you don’t need to depend on them to get you through.
Once you’ve invested enough skill points into your character you’re then able to upgrade your class. This then opens more skill points for you to learn. With the sheer amount of skills at your disposal combat can feel like a chore with selecting which ones best suit the moment. Thankfully Mercenaries Blaze gives you the option to re-arrange and even hide un-used or unfavourable skills.
Levelling characters never feels like a chore and you earn experience points at a steady level. Mercenaries Blaze also has quite a few side missions for you to choose from if you fancy farming for equipment or utilising every opportunity to gain more experience.
Mercenaries Blaze: Dawn of the Twin Dragons is a surprisingly accessible game. There are two initial difficulty settings to choose from, with two more unlocking after your first playthrough. I played through the game on Normal which took me 23-hours to complete. On occasion, there was the odd spike in difficulty but it isn’t anything to complain about. If anything failure is due to outdated equipment rather than tactics.
Much like other SRPG titles, skill points and equipment can be auto-assigned via various categories. This is particularly helpful once you’ve got a few classes levelled up and to keep on top of things. Parry members can also be controlled via the game’s A.I. if you’re struggling to utilise them effectively.
The game’s visuals are very reminiscent of the 32bit era of video games. They reminded me a lot of those seen in Final Fantasy IX, small pixelated characters, but with enough detail to look modern and maintain their distinctive style. The combat arenas are also fairly varied in their designs. While you’ll be fighting in various towns and countryside locations, each feels different from before and the concept remains fresh.
The soundtrack does a great job in fitting in with the game. There’s a great display of soft melodies and a more upbeat tempo when the situation demands it. Considering the strategic nature of Mercenaries Blaze, the music fits in with the story rather than the gameplay.
Mercenaries Blaze: Dawn of the Twin Dragons is a fairly competent SRPG. While it’s lacking in some areas it makes up for it with its wealth of characters, accessible combat and difficulty settings. The story isn’t particularly memorable and it does have the odd pacing issue, but it’s still engaging enough for you to see it to its inevitable conclusion.
Rapid Reviews Rating
Mercenaries Blaze: Dawn of the Twin Dragons can be purchased from the Nintendo eShop by clicking here.