Witching Hour Studios is no stranger to strategy games, and their previous Ravenmark entry, Scourge of Estellion, is proof of their pedigree. The free-to-play Ravenmark: Mercenaries is an excellent follow-up to the original game, acting as a triumphant return to the land of Eclisse. Though it can take some time to learn, it’s a full-featured strategy adventure that you should take some time out to experiment with, especially if you’re a fan of the genre as a whole.
The Dame Galea is your tour guide throughout the sprawling land of Eclisse, and you’re first tasked with organizing a prison break. Not five minutes into the game and you’re already acting like a petty criminal, right? These missions act as your tutorials, and do a great job of showcasing the many elements that will come into play throughout the game. Breaking a bard out of a tightly-guarded prisons is one thing, but determining what choice of nation you’re going to side with is another. You can side with the Federation of Vanshah, the commonwealth of Esotre, or the Empire of Estellion. You musn’t forget, however, that you’re a mercenary, so alliances are fragile as it is. If you feel like you want to score points with each different nation, that’s possible as well, earning Success or Favour points with each completed Contract you take out.
These points come into play on the field as you’re contemplating your next moves, with Success contributing to your silver count and Favour keeping you afloat in the bigger picture. Failing a Contract will ensure that your band of mercenaries must sit out the action for a period of time, barring you from completing missions as quickly as you could have otherwise. Gameplay is divided into rounds, so any time lost is precious in the grand scheme of things, considering what all can be accomplished in one turn. Staying cold and calculating will win you the race to the finish line, but prowess in battle is important as well.
To better yourself in combat, you need to recognize the weaknesses both you and your foes possess. Like that of Fire Emblem or similar games, there’s a circle of weakness to refer to when in doubt. For example, Infantry is superior to Ranged foes, and Polearm foes are weak against Cavalry foes. For this reason it’s prudent to select from a diverse mixture of classes. During each turn, you’ll specify where your units will move, which enemy to pursue, and whether to guard or not. Specific formations grant powerful augments, especially when you flank.
Because of the massive amount of planning that goes into even the smallest move, the game moves at a plodding pace. That’s one thing to consider if at any time you feel the action isn’t moving as quickly as it could be. Thankfully, smaller play fields make the missions easier to manage, and with both sides vying for victory, things are kept interesting. There’s an excellent mixture of strategy and tactical elements here, and though it can take some time to get a feel for, it’s one of the deepest war games we’ve seen on the platform — of course, save for the original Ravenmark.
Multiplayer is asynchronous, and acts as a great way to extend game time, especially if you and your would-be opponents (or strangers) are on different schedules. There is a time limit of three days for the opponent to complete their move, otherwise initiating a forfeit, but that’s actually a decent amount of time. Three days seems like a gracious period for moves to be made, and with such an involved game of planning the extra time is appreciated.
While graphically and aurally the game isn’t so memorable, the dense nature of Ravenmark: Mercenaries is reason enough to give it a chance. Whether you’re playing alone or with a group of friends to try out asynchronous multiplayer, you’ve found a strategy lover’s treasure trove here, especially if typical mobile game fare feels too simple these days.