Mercenaries Saga Chronicles is a bundle of three previously released titles, all launching on Switch for the very first time. The first, Mercenaries Saga: Will Of The White Lions, was a mobile title originally, making this the first time it has ever appeared on a dedicated gaming platform. Rounding up the collection are Mercenaries Saga 2: Order Of The Silver Eagle, and Mercenaries Saga 3: Gray Wolves Of War, both of which originally launched on Nintendo 3DS.
If you’re familiar with games such as the Final Fantasy Tactics series, or the recently released Ambition Of The Slimes on Switch, you’ll instantly feel at home here. The Mercenaries games are tactical role-playing titles that feature battles taking place on isometric grids. As you win fights, defeat monsters and enemies, and open the treasure chests present on the field, you’ll earn gold and skill points which allow you to buy potentially life-saving items and level up your party of characters respectively.
Acting very similarly to a game of chess, the game tasks you with placing and moving your characters around the grid, taking turns to either attack your opponents, raise a shield for added defence, or use a magic skill. Each character you unlock will be one of a variety of classes, such as ‘Fighter’, ‘Wizard’, or ‘Thief’, and each of these will rank up to new classes when you get them to specific levels. Even if you haven’t played a game of the genre before, you’ll likely pick things up after a few moments of tinkering around in battles; the battle menus are all relatively friendly and you are eased into the shenanigans relatively gently. That’s not to say that the games are easy, however; many battles had us waving a white flag of surrender for quite some time.
One feature that strays from the norm slightly, and is therefore actually a very welcome idea, is that characters start battles with zero mana (points which are used to cast spells or magic abilities), gaining several points each as every turn ticks over. While you would usually enter a battle with a set amount, slowly carving away at it as you use up skills, this approach means that you can never go into a fight all-guns-blazing, and instead need to work out how to move around the battlefield safely.
Similarly, when you move one of your characters around the field, you’ll be asked to specify which direction you want them to face. Your fighters will take more damage if they are attacked from behind or from the side, so this need for careful placement adds another element to the strategy of each battle. A mechanic called ‘aggro’ is also in place across all three games in the series, which theoretically tells you how likely one of your fighters will be targeted thanks to their previous actions but, in all honesty, this never really seemed to have much effect on our battles.
Each game revolves around the idea of different kingdoms at war with one another, but despite having different places and characters in each title, each game feels like a carbon copy of the last. Each story is fine in its own right, and the quality of the games’ translations are great, but the plots are all so mundane and dull that you won’t be interested in them anyway. Sadly, after several chapters had passed, and especially as we began to explore the second and third games, we were desperately wanting to use the built-in ‘fast-forward’ option to skip every bit of dialogue.
Unfortunately, this issue bleeds through into every single aspect of the trilogy. All three titles are identical in almost every way; the graphics and presentation, the gameplay itself, the menus, skills, and attacks have all been lifted directly from the first game and plastered onto the other two. Upon starting up your second, and then third, game, you’ll be wondering if you accidentally pressed on the first one again by mistake.
This wouldn’t be too much of a problem if the games were engaging, but that isn’t really the case. With each story essentially sending us to sleep, and thanks to a rather bland overall feel to the presentation as a whole, we were heavily relying on the gameplay to keep us interested. Luckily, the gameplay itself is of a high enough standard that it manages to save the whole package; if you look past the monotonous dialogue you’ll find a more than competent tactical RPG lying underneath.
Essentially, to make a decision on whether or not you should buy this collection, you’ll first need to know exactly what you are hoping to get from it. This isn’t a package that will excite you or have you completely hooked, and it doesn’t offer anything new that is worth the purchase alone, but what it does present you with is hours’ worth – and by hours we mean a lot of hours’ worth – of repetitive tactical battle gameplay done very well. If you’re happy to just play endless battles, levelling up your characters and using them to pass the time, this will be a decent way to do that – just don’t go into it expecting to fall in love.
Mercenaries Saga Chronicles offers an awful lot of tactical turn-based strategy content for the asking price, but the dull storylines, repetitive gameplay, and absolutely identical nature of all three titles make us question the reasoning behind packaging them all together as a bundle. In their own right, each game will provide you with hours of well-designed battles, but we doubt many players will genuinely want to sit through all three games as they would be effectively playing the same game three times.