People don’t talk about the Mercenaries games a lot on the Internet, but there are a decent number of titles already available. Mercenaries Blaze: Dawn of the Twin Dragons marks Rideon’s 5th Mercenaries title on the Nintendo Switch. It’s another turn-based SRPG that uses a grid-based battlefield, but the real question everyone wants to know is, how well does it stack up against its rivals?
The story takes place in Euros, a kingdom that’s been having more than its fair share of illegal immigrants from the neighboring Westa. As the number of refugees increased, the people of Euros began to grow wary. Tension inevitably grew between the two races and eventually gave birth to riots. The people of Euros demanded action be taken against the immigrants. To help regain peace, the church and the government have ruled that any immigrant who converts their religion will be allowed to stay in Euros as long as they are content with some labor work.
The narrative revolves around Lester, a descendant of a fallen royal family. As the mercenary squad leader, he aims to restore his family name from the ground up. It’s an interesting take of a story, but its execution could have used some more work. It’s mediocre at best—you enter a story sequence, and some dialogue goes by. After, you’re back at the menu screen to decide if you want to shop, work on strengthening your character, or head into battle once again. Even the sad moments may not have you shed a tear. There is some emotion in the writing. However, there is not enough when it’s needed the most to grow strong attachments to the characters or trigger surprising moments.
You won’t find towns or routes you can travel through in Mercenaries Blaze: Dawn of the Twin Dragons. The majority of the game comes in the form of levels you’ll have to select from a menu. As a matter of fact, you do almost everything in the game through menus. All of these options will be available straight from the main menu, such as shopping for items or strengthening your characters.
The basics aren’t difficult to pick up. At times you may wish you could have permanently set the movement highlighter to get a better view of where enemies can reach, but it’s not an issue for people with a good memory. Using the left analog stick and D-pad is suitable for traversing the map; getting accustomed to the analog stick will make the D-pad feel inferior.
Character Classes and Weaponry
Even though the game has its fair share of character classes, each character is limited to its subset. It’s not a bad thing unless you prefer absolute customization of your characters. Each class has its own division of weapon types to differentiate from each other. There is more than enough weaponry and armor for a budget game such as Dawn of the Twin Dragons, which is appreciated. On top of the additional special gear that you can exchange for rare puzzle pieces, the ability to synthesize equipment adds another objective to aim for, although it can get expensive.
Each class has its own set of acquirable skills; however, each character also has a unique ability that isn’t bound to a specific class. As a battle continues, you fill a gauge; eventually, you’ll be able to utilize these special skills. They aren’t typically required to overcome the challenges that battles bring, but they can be useful in tight spots. The more cycles the gauge fills, the stronger this skill becomes. There’s no value lost from the game without these unique skills, but they can be essential during the heat of a moment.
It can become tedious deciding between skills if your character has acquired many of them. As different skills inflict different damage, you can expect to swap between them to find the greatest damage you’re able to deliver. It may take above the usual number of clicks to achieve this in Mercenaries Blaze: Dawn of the Twin Dragons. Three clicks to move and four clicks to view how much damage you can deal to an enemy. Now multiply this number for each skill you want to check with an additional click to cancel. Doesn’t sound too appealing with the way it has been implemented. It’s not all bad, though. There is a way to hide unfavorable skills from the list and rearrange them, which can help.
Combat takes place on a small grid-based battlefield in turn-based cycles. The maps aren’t large and almost always fit on a screen or two. You play a rotation of the board before you’re able to set your squad members on the map. Although the rotation isn’t entirely helpful, it immediately gives off a better idea of the map’s size and the enemy placement, so there’s no time wasted with manual scrolling. Character placement for the frontline enemies is vital when starting a match, as the backline enemies won’t move until you get near enough. Most maps allow all of your recruits, but you’ll normally never need them all because of how slowly you recruit characters. You’ll never have the opportunity to decide between a large number of characters to battle with.
Battles may seem short and simplistic on the first impression, but there’s more to it than what meets the eye. It ditches the simple attack system for a more robust one. Instead of building your character with classes and suitable gear, you have various skills at your disposal. Despite its imperfect implementation on the battlefield, it’s still a marvelous addition nonetheless. Investing in the best skills, obtaining optimal gear, and effectively utilizing items during combat are critical components for returning victorious from battle.
Stages and Scenarios
The stages may pass faster than you’d like, but the visual attacks on the map are what a game like Mercenaries Blaze: Dawn of the Twin Dragons desperately needed. It keeps the gameplay entertaining for both casual and strategic players, and it works for what Dawn of the Twin Dragons is. Stages can occasionally feel bland because of missing hazards and the lack of high areas you can go to for maximum damage. Aiming for back attacks for higher damage is an interesting concept and is mostly utilized during combat. All of this adds to the game’s strategic portion, and the enemy AI is actually smart enough to give you a run for your money.
The game includes scenarios where you’ll have different objectives on the map, although low in number. More of these situations would have added more flavor to the gameplay to prevent its consistent, repetitive goal. The little set of different events the game has is entertaining, but the lack of more can be concerning. The gameplay still tries to maintain its freshness with new enemy faces to encounter even without this addition. The extra stages have new enemies you wouldn’t have seen from the chapter levels, which is applauding to the developers considering the concept behind additional farming stages that are usually kicked in in games such as this one.
Mercenaries Blaze: Dawn of the Twin Dragons has two starting difficulty modes. The highest starting difficulty doesn’t tax the brain; however, it will demand that you clear the extra stages and occasionally equip gear with higher stats. Failure to do this will make a small number of stages seem impossible to clear; these stages are usually the levels that spike in difficulty because of new, stronger enemies. Regardless of how many times you try to subdue these foes with your current strength, it may seem hopeless until you’ve further strengthened your team.
Two new difficulty modes, Hard and Maniac, are unlocked upon finishing the first playthrough. Higher difficulty modes raise the enemy strength, determine if you can equip weapons and gear during a match, and decrease the number of turns before a character cannot revive. The lowest difficulty mode, Easy, refills the character’s HP on level up. There’s a difficulty for everyone, but it can be upsetting to the hardcore players that the Hard difficulty isn’t available on the first playthrough. Even so, the Normal difficulty does its best to satisfy these players.
Level Farming and Upgrades
Mercenaries Blaze: Dawn of the Twin Dragons isn’t too tough on you when it comes to leveling up your characters and upgrading their skills. From start to finish, you’ll immediately notice how easy it is to level up your characters. After every victory, each character will obtain a hefty number of points to invest in skills. There’s never an occasion where you won’t earn sufficient Skill Points to invest in your character’s skills. There will be times you’ll need to farm for more, but you won’t be breaking your back over it.
Skill Points and Side Battles
You won’t find any wasted Skill Points in this game, either. There are always options to invest these points in. When you’ve finally run out, you’ll likely be more than ready to change your character’s class. This allows you to expand the number of skills the character is capable of using. These upgrades are essential in keeping up with the enemy’s strength. As previously mentioned, there will be situations in which upgrading your characters’ skills will be necessary. Sometimes you’ll encounter a superior foe that demands that your characters’ stats are in check—at least on Normal difficulty. While this is essential to becoming victorious, the game doesn’t require the tedious grinding you may find in other games just to subdue them.
Side battles are unlocked as you progress further in the game. While optional, their existence is there in case you need to grind for levels. As you’re unable to replay chapter battles, these battles are crucial for level farming. Some will let you replay the previous chapter battle. However, others will have new faces for you to sink your weapon into. These battles all come with a reward upon the first victory; afterward, a secondary prize may become available. It could have been a daunting experience replaying these levels for the sake of leveling up, but thankfully that isn’t the situation with this game.
Clearing your first playthrough may not be your last. In addition to the two higher unlocked difficulty levels, the game has two branching routes to explore. The alternate route you choose will contain different missions and new units to make a second playthrough feel different enough to enjoy. The ability to skip story cutscenes leading up to the big decision further helps this.
The game also adds five new stages as post-game levels to expand the 20 hours a single playthrough provides. Even though you’re restarting the story campaign, the first stage becomes accessible only after the first mission. Each of these stages has its own recommended level. Therefore you won’t be able to play them straight away from the beginning of your new playthrough.
Graphics and Soundtrack
The game’s art style takes a step back into the old school department but remains detailed enough to be praised. The pixilated characters can change with the different classes and gear they’re capable of wielding. Further personalizing a character’s appearance with all of the unlocked designs would have been most welcomed, as not everyone will like every design. The grid-based battlefields even vary to keep the environments intriguing. Zooming in and out also shows its worth when interchanging between handheld and TV modes.
The soundtrack fits the game, and it chooses the perfect time to swap between its calming and more upbeat tunes. It never feels repetitive, and it’s capable of hyping your brain up for a strategic battle. The music also isn’t distracting, allowing you to make tactical decisions with ease. There’s no doubt that the composer did an exceptional job with the music.
Mercenaries Blaze: Dawn of the Twin Dragons brings a great addition to the Nintendo Switch SRPG collection. It doesn’t have the most mesmerizing levels, but what it lacks, it makes up for with its enemy variety, combat system, and various difficulty levels. The writers could have put more effort into the game’s writing, but its story is still capable of taking you for an enjoyable ride.
Mercenaries Blaze: Dawn of the Twin Dragons gets a 6.5/10.