League of War: Mercenaries: squad building done right

League of War: Mercenaries, developed by MunkyFun Inc., lured me in with it’s 3D models and 3D combat space, I saw tanks, infantrymen, and helicopters all fighting on a battlefield together.  It actually looked like the combat so many other games such as Mobile Strike promise in their ads but fail to deliver in gameplay. The building aspects are light and always feel like they are a reflection of the player’s progress as opposed to gates for gameplay or content. While it features an engaging real-time battle simulation, the place where this game shines is in its in-depth unit and squad development systems.

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(League of War: Mercenaries boasts an impressive number of customizable units)

Deeply unique unit variations

Each unit has 3 unique game facets:

  • Type: What the unit is, either infantry, recon, tank, aircraft, or artillery
  • Art: What the unit’s armor looks like as well as its weapon and weapon animation, i.e. rocket launchers, flame throwers, mortars, missiles, etc.
  • VS: What the enemy unit type deals extra damage to (denoted by color: red, green, blue, white, and yellow, for: infantry, recon, tank, aircraft, and artillery respectively), for example a red infantry unit deals extra damage to infantry, while a white infantry unit deals extra damage to aircrafts.

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(Units sorted by VS illustrating a blue squad ready to face a tank heavy enemy squad)

The combination of these facets provides the player with an enormous amount of freedom, not only in how they organize their squad but also what their squad looks like on the battlefield.  A player could have an all infantry rocket launcher squad with counters for each enemy unit type.  The beautiful blending of gameplay and aesthetic choices the player has to cater to their playstyle and squad vision is remarkable.

 

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(Infantry units showcasing the different weapon art and VS strengths)

Gameplay modes that encourage using all your units

The game also executes different mission types that truly promote the idea of playing with your different unit types and squad formations.  In Flashpoints the player must create a squad of all one counter to take on an AI squad of said type, i.e. an all green team against an all recon enemy.  This game mode provides two very important experiences for the player; it illustrates the weaknesses and strengths of having a team of all one type, and also gives the player a firm example of how counters impact gameplay.

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(The player assembles a team of green units to take down a recon enemy in a Flashpoint challenge)

In Onslaught the player can fight enemy squads with incrementally increasing difficulty for medals, the caveat is that they can only use their units once during that day’s Onslaught progression.  This forces the player to use all of their units and in doing so gives them a break from focusing only on their strongest units to enjoy the art and feel of their up and coming units.

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(An all infantry team featuring different VS strengths in Onslaught)

By including a variety of game modes League of War: Mercenaries cleverly sidesteps the issue of players grinding only their strongest units and discarding the rest.  By including modes where the player has to create a diverse army of units, with types and counters of every kind to participate in the various game modes, MunkyFun Inc. has been able to design an experience where the player gets to revel in the progression of each unit as they all contribute to the different squads the player will eventually need.

A distilled RTS experience that excels on mobile

League of War: Mercenaries takes the experience of strategic combat from RTSs, along with the minion wave battles of MOBAs and boils them down to a rewarding battle experience.  It reminded me of how it would be to see the minions fight out a match on League of Legends, substituting the standard minions for the tech heavy units you’d expect to see in Starcraft.  It also mirrors Starcraft in its emphasis on using complimentary unit compositions and the tactical decisions of whether to send out quick units to capitalize on a rush or wait for the ability to send out a complete wave.

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(A forward wave gains traction as the enemy units cannot emerge fast enough to defend their base)

It delivers all the action a combat builder should have and does away with excessive building and downtime between battles its competitors in the genre have produced thus far. I am hopeful that MunkyFun Inc. will continue to develop games with this level of attention to design detail and that other game developers will take notice and pivot to producing games that innovate on the player experience instead of focusing on the payer experience.

 

Andrew Mantilla is a ludologist and video game journalist for Play Professor.  You can check out more of his content on Facebook, and Instagram.

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