Introductory Tactics With Appealing Price Point –
Circle Entertainment has become one of my favorite game companies. While I have not reviewed their entire library, the Circle games that I have played have been surprisingly entertaining. For only a few bucks, each 3DS eShop Circle title offers an amazingly high level of fun factor at a minimum price. Their game design philosophy reminds me of Nintendo – simple gameplay that is easy to understand but extremely captivating and entertaining. Mercenaries Saga 2: Order of the Silver Eagle, a tactical RPG, isn’t like anything they have released on the eShop before but is just as fun and addicting as other Circle/Fly High Works/Rideon games like Witch And Hero or Fairune. In fact, at the time of this writing I was also trying to play through The Elder Scrolls Online on Xbox One, a full blown AAA new gen console RPG, but was having more fun playing Circle’s $4.99 eShop download. My guild members will have to wait.
While not as fancy as Final Fantasy Tactics, Mercenaries Saga 2: Order of the Silver Eagle is easy enough for a newcomer to quickly understand while offering just enough strategy to please even the most hardcore of tactics fans. Restricted to a stationary isometric view, all gameplay takes place on a grid similar to many 16-bit tactical RPGs. Using a turn based system, the player uses a combination of melee, ranged and magical attacks to defeat enemies composed of humans, monsters, and giant bosses. If you have played any tactical RPG before, you will know exactly what to expect as Mercenaries Saga 2 doesn’t reinvent the wheel in any way. It does, however, create an addicting “just one more” atmosphere. Also, the “2” in the title can be a little confusing because the original Mercenaries Saga was a Japan-only mobile title.
There are three things that make this downloadable title so great. First is the story. While Final Fantasy Tactics and the Tactics Ogre titles become complicated and often difficult to follow, Mercenaries Saga 2 carries a straightforward plotline that is easy to understand. Basically a loyal knight goes on a quest to gather an herb for his poisoned king and a domino effect takes place. Outside of an occasional translation error and over friendliness of the main character, it is difficult to find complaint within the narrative. The player will never get lost trying to remember who is fighting who, who is double-crossing, and which land is country is fighting which country. And thankful, nobody has amnesia. My only complaint is the ending of this 20 hour campaign – it just sort of ended without closure. Perhaps the true ending unlocks once one of the higher, unlockable difficulties are beaten.
The biggest hook is the leveling up system. Like the narrative, it is easy to understand but ultimately makes the game so addicting. Success on the battlefield yields experience points, which is nothing new, but players are free to level up spells and abilities and eventually change class. For example, any other RPG will have players learn Cure, then Cure2, then eventually Cure3 and so on. Here, players will learn Cure but can level it up again and again by spending more experience points. However, the strength of the Cure spell may become stronger with each level but might wind up costing a couple more magic points to cast on the battlefield. This give-and-take system opens up all sorts of possibilities and is a refreshing take on the typical leveling up mechanic. Uniquely, this system remains balanced throughout the entire campaign and players are free to grind for levels after each mission. Luckily, grinding is not necessary if you are a skilled player. Eventually, players will be able to change class that unlocks the opportunity to learn new skills. Skills also carry over from the previous class and there is no perma-death, giving gameplay a lighter tone but remaining fun from beginning to end. Even though the cast of playable characters is small, each retains purpose in the story and has unique abilities, encouraging experimentation.
The final bullet point as to why Mercenaries Saga is so great is the visual and audio quality. Looking like a 16-bit SNES title, the visual style does a great job of not only providing character emotion but also helps explain the narrative. For example, the characters speak with a dialog portrait and subtle emotional animations can convey feeling while each environment does a stellar job of helping to explain the story, like the relative size of the cave monster in comparison to other enemies or the pirate ship stage creates that close quarters combat difference as opposed to the earlier open field stages. It is also worth pointing out that most art assets are fresh, only a handful of things are simple pallet swaps. Outside of an occasional weapon clipping issue and the static general background texture, there is nothing to complain about as the overall aesthetic is rather pleasant. The visual style wouldn’t work as well if the audio cues were not there to back it up. From the leveling up sound effect to the somber but accomplished tone of the menu screen theme between battles, the sound track is higher quality than many fleshed out new gen console titles.
Mercenaries Saga 2 is another unexpectedly high quality Circle Entertainment eShop title. For a meager five dollars, you will be hard pressed to find a better way to spend your eShop credit than with this newly released tactical RPG or any other Circle game for that matter. While it isn’t as flashy as FFT, it is just as addicting, has a very low price point, and should be a great springboard for gamers new to the TRPG genre. Circle has does it again… now that I finished the quest I guess I will go back to ESO.
Not As Good As: Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (PSP)
Better Than: Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgment (XBLA/PSN)
Wait For It: Fire Emblem Fates (3DS)
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com