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Hearthstone’s Mercenaries Mode Can’t Stand on it Own

Hearthstone has always been something that has fascinated me. As a World of Warcraft spinoff, it’s steeped in the lore and characters that I grew up with and condensed it into a fun card game. I had a solid go of it when it first came out; I built my decks, constructed my cards, and even climbed the ranks of Hearthstone’s ladder. However, like most games, I eventually stopped playing. It could have been out of frustration or because I found a different game to focus on — I honestly don’t remember because it was years ago. I did want to get back into it, but as the days turned to months, months to years, and one expansion to various expansions, I felt like I could not catch up.

This is why Hearthstone’s new Mercenaries mode really intrigued me. This game mode gave me a second chance to get back into the game, to find a new foothold I can build upon once again. However, while there is plenty of fun to be had in the new Mercenaries mode, it is still weighed down by the standard mode of Hearthstone.

Not completely a stand-alone game

Mercenaries, for the most part, is a stand-alone mode in Hearthstone, where the player builds a team of mercenaries who go off to fulfill bounties and earn some loot. A game of Mercenaries takes place on a board with branching paths that represent what kind of match the player will face. If you are familiar with Slay the Spire, you will understand what I’m talking about. Each team the player creates is filled with six mercenaries. Every mercenary has their own unique abilities and they can play off each other, meaning synergy is vital for success. If one of the mercenaries dies in the game, they cannot be used until a run is complete. Once the game is finished, the player is rewarded with mercenary coins that can be used to upgrade or construct troops.

Mercenaries blends together normal Hearthstone gameplay with many ideas from deck-builder roguelikes. While there is progression and leveling system for mercenaries, each run is somewhat fresh — a tabula rasa-lite, if you’ll allow me to make up words. Building a team of mercenaries can be a thrill. Examining the characters and seeing what kind of “decks” will synergize well made me remember how much I enjoy deck-building games. The roster is still rather low, especially compared to the gargantuan size the normal mode of Hearthstone has. I, however, consider this a blessing as it is extremely easy to wrap my head around a couple of mercs instead of sifting through hundreds of pages of characters.

Mercenaries gameplay.

Once gold becomes an issue, and the bounty board runs dry, the glaring problems of this mode become apparent: It can only stand with the help of the standard game of Hearthstone. The progression in Mercenaries is borderline nonexistent on its own. I do not have years of gold hoarded up in my purse like most Hearthstone players. After a couple of upgrades and Mercenary packs, I was looking at my empty coffers and pondering on how to remedy this. There is no way to earn gold in Mercenaries outside the lucky Daily Quests. Experience for the Season Pass also comes in at a snail’s crawl. The only way I could earn gold was to jump into a normal match of Hearthstone.

Like a foreign language

I looked at my old decks with absolute confusion. I have no memory of making half of them. All of them were unusable in the Standard mode of play. I had to go into Wild mode like a fool with only C’thun to back me up. I don’t even know if he is still a good card to have. It clearly didn’t help me as I lost painfully in each match I played. Everyone had cards with mechanics that were completely foreign to me but are probably old hat at this point in the game’s life span. Nothing is more miserable than sitting in a Hearthstone match knowing full well you will lose, and having your opponent drag out the match like a sadistic cat playing with a cornered mouse.

I did not let it bother me too much, I rolled with the punches, got some gold, and headed straight back to Mercenaries. The real gut punch was the realization that I am going to have to do this again and again in order to earn a steady stream of gold. All I want to do is play this mode, a mode that got me excited about the Hearthstone brand, and not touch the part that I no longer consider fun.

Mercenaries is a well-crafted mode that is incredibly inviting to players of all skill levels. There is enough complexity to make you think about it even when you are not playing it, but is easy enough that you can slap a team together and still have plenty of fun. Things only turn sour when you exit this mode and trek through the normal mode of play to hunt for gold like a desperate miner. People who have been playing Hearthstone, have up-to-date decks and understand the current meta will not have an issue with this. But players like me who no longer understand this language of play will have a frustrating time.

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Resident Evil Village: The Mercenaries Beginner’s Guide

Mercenaries Mode was noticeably absent from Resident Evil Biohazard after being included in every game since Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Thankfully, the franchise’s latest installment, Resident Evil Village, has revived the fan-favorite mode. The Mercenaries pits players against swarms of enemies as they keep their eye on the clock. The goal is to achieve the highest rank possible on each map to unlock unique in-game rewards. Here’s how to unlock The Mercenaries in Resident Evil Village, along with some helpful strategies for achieving high scores.

How to unlock and play The Mercenaries in Resident Evil Village

To unlock The Mercenaries in Resident Evil Village, you have to beat the campaign. Afterward, you’ll earn Completion Points, or CP, to spend in the Extra Content Shop. Don’t worry, The Mercenaries only costs 200 CP, and you should have upward of 30,000-40,000 upon completing your first playthrough. You can now access The Mercenaries from the Bonuses menu. It’ll be right at the top.

The Mercenaries: mechanics and gameplay

There are eight stages in The Mercenaries, beginning with The Village, The Castle, The Factory, and The Mad Village. Those four stages repeat on a more challenging difficulty and are called The Village II, The Castle II, etc. We’ll refer to them as “front four” and “back four.” Spread around these stages will be gold time-extending orbs and blue ability orbs. These will play a crucial role in achieving high scores in The Mercenaries.

Before you embark on your Lycan-slaying adventure, you’ll purchase weapons, equipment, and upgrades from The Duke. Each mission has a set number of areas for players to clear, and they’ll be stopping at The Duke between each location. Spend your Lei wisely, and make sure to upgrade your guns before heading back out. Conserve ammo, avoid damage, and, most importantly, keep your combo alive. Let’s get into some of the more nuanced strategies.

All abilities and what they do

Resident Evil Village Mercenaries mode choose an ability screen.

Keep an eye out for blue ability orbs spread around each area in The Mercenaries. Approach and interact with the orb to break it and gain a new ability. These are like perks or power-ups for Ethan that will aid in his quest for SSS rank. Here is a list of every ability in The Mercenaries and what each does.

  • Agile – Speed increases
  • All Brawn – Attack increase but speed decreases
  • Adrenaline – HP recovers slightly when attacking with a gun
  • Blade Master – Knives do 5x more damage
  • Break Shot – Initial attack does more damage when enemy’s HP is full
  • Corpse Combustor – Enemies will likely explode when killed with a gun
  • Fiddle Shooter – Attack increase when switching between enemies
  • Gruesome Gourmet – Recover a little HP when an enemy is defeated
  • Healthy – Max HP increase
  • Infighter – Close-combat attacks do more damage
  • No Brainer – Headshots do more damage
  • Out of Reach – Long-distance attacks do more damage
  • Pistol Master – Handguns do more damage
  • Shotgun Master – Shotgun damage increases
  • Slow Motion – Enemies’ movements decrease
  • Thick Skinned – Damage taken decreases

Additionally, you can unlock four other abilities by achieving A ranks on the front four stages. You can activate orbs while on the move and even have a split second to do a quick turnaround before entering into the ability selection screen. Those milliseconds add up quickly when trying to keep your combo alive.

The front four stages

The Duke from Resident Evil Village.

While these first four stages aren’t a walk in the park, they are significantly easier than their level II counterparts. The absolute best thing you can do is buy and upgrade the sniper rifle. Before embarking on a new area, sell all your handgun ammo and most of your shotgun ammo. Skilled players can afford to sell their first aid spray as well for extra Lei.

Players who can achieve a B rank on each stage will be permanently rewarded with 5,000 bonus Lei for that mission. To unlock new stages, you must achieve an A rank on the last stage unlocked. For example, The Village is the first stage available. To unlock The Castle, you must get an A rank on The Village.

The rewards really ramp up once you achieve S rank. Players can increase their score even further for SS and SSS ranks. We’ll get into those rewards later. S ranks on the first four stages will reward you with new abilities. They are:

  • The Village S Rank: Magic Magazine – Ammo capacity doubles
  • The Castle S Rank: Execution – Attack greatly increases when enemy health is below 30%
  • The Factory S Rank: Lightning Speed – Movement speed increase, but so does damage taken
  • The Mad Village S Rank: Masamune – Knife attacks are 10x stronger, but damage from other attacks decreases greatly

How to get S rank (front four stages)

The gunsmith in Resident Evil Village.

To achieve an S rank on the front four stages in The Mercenaries, you’ll want to focus on upgrading your Sniper Rifle. Assuming you’ve already achieved a B rank and gotten the bonus Lei, you can sell your shotgun ammo, handgun ammo, and First Aid Spray for an additional 11,250 Lei, giving you a total of 51,250 Lei to spend. Here’s how to spend it.

  • Buy the Sniper Rifle for 15,000 Lei
  • Max out Rate of Fire and Reload Speed
  • Upgrade Ammo Capacity twice

We aren’t worried about the Sniper Rifle’s firepower during these first stages as it’ll one-shot every enemy. You’ll also start with 10 bullets in your pistol and find plenty of handgun ammo along the way. You probably won’t need it, though.

Try your best to get multi-kills with the sniper. Let enemies line themselves up to kill two or three at a time. This will save precious ammo. Multi-kills will also aid in keeping your combo alive and bumping you up to a 1.5x and 2x score multiplier.

Memorize the map layout and enemy spawns. The Mercenaries will spawn and trigger enemies the same way every time, similarly to Dark Souls. However, those enemies will still think for themselves and may not attack in the same fashion each time. Other than enemies, Time Extending and Ability Orbs will spawn in the same spots. However, the abilities will be randomized each time.

Memorize the enemy spawns to determine the best path through the level. You want to be constantly running and gunning. Don’t feel pressured to kill every enemy in front of you as fast as you can. Weave in and out to extend your combo, grab the orbs, and avoid damage.

Killing all the enemies in an area will net you 50,000 bonus points toward your score. You’ll hear the announcer say, “Great!” once the last enemy falls. Killing every enemy without breaking your combo will net you the best possible score. You’ll know you’ve done this when the announcer says, “Amazing!” Of course, the faster you can pull all of that off, the better. You’ll receive additional bonus points based on how much time you’ve got left on the clock. The most important thing to remember before completing the area is don’t reload.

Once you’ve cleared an area, you’ll end up back at The Duke. Now’s the time to upgrade your Sniper Rifle damage and buy the W870 Shotgun. Again, sell off your First Aid and handgun ammo. However, don’t sell all your shotgun rounds. Save between 10 and 15.

Upgrade the ammo capacity on your sniper to fill up your current magazine. That’s why you can’t reload before going back to The Duke. It’s free ammo. If you can, upgrade the Ammo Capacity and Fire Rate on your new shotgun as well.

The Factory is, by far, the most challenging stage in The Mercenaries. The best thing you can do to achieve an S rank on the first Factory stage (other than what we’ve mentioned above) is to memorize where the Sniper Ammo is on the map. Right before entering The Foundry room at the beginning of Area 1, look to your left to find ammo. Then, in the room where the Propeller Head enemy spawns in, you’ll find more Sniper Ammo on the low maze-like walls.

How to get S rank (back four stages)

Resident Evil Village Mercenaries Mode Drill Enemy.

The back four stages of The Mercenaries in Resident Evil Village ramps up the difficulty. Ethan will take more damage from incoming attacks, and he’ll be significantly handicapped by the items The Duke has available. You’ll no longer have access to a Sniper Rifle and Shotgun. Instead, you can buy the Magnum and Grenade Launcher. However, the Magnum only comes with a handful of shots and doesn’t allow for additional rounds to be picked up or bought. Use them wisely. You can buy Explosive and Flashbang rounds, but at 50,000 Lei for the weapon itself, you’ll never make it through the first area.

It’s imperative that you stun-lock weak enemies with your pistol. Shoot the skinnier enemies in the legs to make them fall down and then unload on their heads. If you can’t manage to get the kill, you’ll be able to escape and reposition. Stun-locking enemies is also a great way to damage them, grab an orb, and kill them to keep your combo alive.

For Lycans, you’ve got to score headshots. They don’t stun as easily as the skinny enemies do when shot in the legs. Headshots will stagger them and occasionally cause them to fall backward.

How to S rank The Factory (back four)

The hand gun gunsmith from Resident Evil Village.

As mentioned, The Factory is the most challenging Mercenaries stage, and the back four stages exemplify that. It was hard enough taking down all those drill enemies with the sniper; now you’ve got to do it with your pistol or with a well-placed magnum shot.

Do the following at The Duke before embarking on the first area of The Factory II:

  • Sell 50 handgun ammo and 1 First Aid Spray
  • Buy the Magnum
  • Upgrade your handgun to LVL 4 damage
  • Max out your Fire Rate
  • Bring Reload Speed to LVL 2
  • Bring Ammo Capacity to LVL 2

Remember, you’ve only got a limited number of shots in the Magnum, and you’ll need at least three to take out Lady Dimitrescu’s daughters. However, you don’t have to kill every enemy on the back four stages to achieve an S rank. Conserve ammo, and once you’ve defeated the three daughters, book it for the finish line. As long as you’ve managed to build a decent combo prior, you should earn enough points from the first stage when combined with your time bonus.

When you’re back at the Duke, sell the Magnum and buy a Grenade Launcher. Buy as many launcher rounds as possible as well. Use any leftover Lei to purchase First Aid spray and pipe bombs if you’d like.

Try to use your pistol as much as possible in the second Factory area. Use the Grenade Launcher to stun the drill enemies, then quickly switch to your pistol and blast away at their red cores.

Keep an eye on your score and book it to the escape area as soon as you’ve killed enough enemies. The time bonus should get you to the desired score of 545,000.

The Mercenaries rewards

Resident Evil Village lightsaber and enemies.

Other than unlocking more stages, abilities, and Bonus Lei, players can unlock a secret reward in Resident Evil Village Mercenaries Mode. We are, of course, talking about the LZ Answerer melee weapon. To unlock the LZ Answerer, you have to get an SS rank on all missions in The Mercenaries.

The LZ is a lightsaber that will eviscerate enemies through the entire Resident Evil Village campaign. It’s red and dual-sided like Darth Maul’s iconic weapon. Once you’ve gotten SS ranks on all Mercenaries maps, you can buy it for 70,000 CP from the bonus content shop. Then, while playing the campaign, buy it from the Duke. The LZ Answerer is essential for completing the Knives Out challenge. Knives Out requires players to complete the story using nothing but close-combat weapons, i.e., melee weapons.

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