Mercenaries Saga 3 – Gray Wolves of War 3DS eShop Review
Addicting leveling system
Tie in with Mercenaries Saga 2 (one battle towards the end is especially exciting)
Low price, charming visual style and catchy soundtrack
Agro feature doesn’t really do anything
Same game as Mercenaries Saga 2 only with new story and characters
Misspellings are everywhere and character sprites will occasionally clip through the environment
More Saga. More Mercenaries.
Everything that I said in my Mercenaries Saga 2 review holds true for Mercenaries Saga 3: Gray Wolves of War as it is essentially the same exact game only with a new story and new cast of characters. From the 16-bit visual aesthetic, to the abilities and leveling system, to the soundtrack and sound effects, there really is no reason MS3 can’t be considered DLC for MS2. While it would have been nice to see some upgraded features, I still can’t deny that I had a blast playing through this 20-hour quest.
Like its predecessor, MS3 is a grid-based tactical RPG that is a 3DS eShop exclusive that sells for under $10. Despite the low price tag, this strategy title does not skimp on quality as the addictive nature of the leveling system and plot will keep the 3DS glued to your hands. Like any RPG, each character grows stronger with experience. These experience points can then be used to upgrade abilities and eventually change class which unlocks even more abilities. But upgrading abilities is a give-and-take system. For example, a level one melee ability might only cost a few ability points whereas this same ability maxed out will be more expensive to use but will also deal much more damage. So even though the player has the option to make abilities stronger, you might not want to depending on your play style. It is an interesting mechanic that isn’t seen in other games. Leveling up that Cure spell will heal more damage but will also cost a lot more to cast, as another example.
The only enhanced gameplay feature in MS3 over MS2 is the larger focus on the agro meter. Apparently, the more combat a unit sees will result in more enemies focusing their fire. However, this feature didn’t seem to make any change to my style of play as the AI can be manipulated with some experience. Like other tactics games, bad guys only advance towards the player when they enter their attack distance. Because of this, the player can pick off enemies one by one by inching their way forward. While enemies will surround the player in a few stages, the player can easy take advantage of the patient AI by breezing through the campaign with little challenge although there is a bonus for completing stages in a short amount of time. Once the Revive and Resurrection abilities are learned, dying is near impossible especially if you stick with the same six characters. The player roster will grow to a set number of playable characters but only those that fight will earn experience points to level up.
The good news is, pacing is set solidly whereas the player will only grind for ability points if desired. While the pacing is set casually, one of my small gripes with this title is the lack of a new game+ option when completed. Completionists might want to take the time to max out stats and search stage’s tiles for secrets. If this is the case, you are basically screwed once you complete the last stage as the game asks you to save that completed file and start all over. It isn’t a make or break deal but seems like an odd choice when the game’s leveling system is one of main focuses. There is also a weapon and armor synthesizing mechanic but since puzzle pieces – hidden items that can be found on each stage if you take the time to search – are so rare and limited that I felt guilty using this feature thinking that something better will come along if I hold out long enough. This feature is welcomed but isn’t fully balanced or fleshed out as it could be but since it can be ignored entirely it doesn’t take anything away from the experience.
My other complaint revolves around the protagonists. Not that the story is bad it is just that these are mercenaries. Mercenaries only care about one thing – money. Even though these characters are “mercenaries,” there is no job board, they don’t hunt people down to collect a pay check, and they always do the right thing as if they are noble knights instead of trained killers. Because of this, some of the plot is a little cheesy and it is only amplified by some humorous and obvious misspellings. I don’t want to give away spoilers here but the ending was rather abrupt and it is ideal for players to complete MS2 before playing MS3 as there are some references between both games although not required.
MS3 is a fun game at a low cost. If you are new to the tactical RPG genre, MS2 and MS3 are probably some of the places to start while giving Final Fantasy Tactics fans something to salivate over until the next desperately waiting sequel arrives. Although disappointing that MS3 doesn’t make any strives forward other than an agro meter that ultimately doesn’t affect gameplay, I still appreciated the casual nature and challenge of gameplay. Let’s just hope Mercenaries Saga 4 makes some new enhancements before this sleeper hit franchise grows stale.
On Par With: Mercenaries Saga 2
Wait For It: Final Fantasy Tactics 2
Also Try: The Banner Saga
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com