Crimen – Mercenary Tales Review – A Solid Swashbuckling VR Adventure

Crimen – Mercenary Tales Review

Crimen – Mercenary Tales, from developers Carbon Studio, is exactly the kind of game the Meta Quest 2 needs right now. It’s got decent visuals, solid writing and fun, sword fighting gameplay. Those are all things lacking in some VR titles of late, and they make Crimen a game you should check out.

I like my Meta Quest 2 but lately, the mediocre visuals have sometimes left me wanting more. So Crimen comes as a breath of fresh air. It’s got a beautiful cel-shaded aesthetic, akin to Borderlands. Character designs are whimsical and well-rendered. And they’re animated with care, unlike some of the uncanny-valley VR experiences I’ve seen lately. There’s also lots of detail in the environments, making Crimen’s medieval environments fun to be immersed in.

I was impressed with the depth of the visual detail as well. Travelling up winding stairs in a vast mountainside castle, I stopped often to admire the moon-lit valley below. While many VR games of late seem to offer simplistic or block Minecraft-inspired graphics, Crimen had me actually looking forward to seeing what came next.

Fun Combat

A first-person adventure game, Crimen – Mercenary Tales has you playing through eight linear stories. Gameplay is almost exclusively sword combat. And it’s swashbuckling fun, especially at first. It employs a nice parry mechanic, whereby you anticipate enemy attacks and block them. Then, you counter-attack in an unguarded spot. It’s intuitive and takes good advantage of physicality as you swing your arms to defeat bad guys.

Voice acting and writing are a strength in Crimen. Characters, each of whom you meet in a hub-like tavern, are a bit flat and stereotyped, to be sure. But they are a colourful and engaging motley crew who help you feel immersed. Body animations are also well done and accompany the spoken lines well.

Needs More Variety

Crimen – Mercenary Tales has its downsides, though. For one thing, the combat, while initially enjoyable, gets quite repetitive and too easy after a while. Enemies change in superficial ways – humans, then werewolves, and zombie humans with red eyes, and so on. But beneath those swapped-out skins are essentially the same opponent over and over. They all use the same moves and despite varying hit points, they are defeated the same way. The one exception are archers. To defeat them, I had to awkwardly hit their arrows out of the air and back at them.

There’s also a disappointing lack of variety of gameplay in the various stories. The settings and main character change, but in each one you’re doing the same thing. You’re moving through a linear path, slashing enemies and sometimes climbing walls (a welcome and well done aspect). Crimen does have a feature where you can “catch” a gun or other weapon from a falling enemy. But even when you’re able to pull it off, their ammo runs out fast. Then it’s back to running sword fights.

Dumb AI

In combats, enemy AI could be better. Their attack moves take some getting used to at first, and you need to pay attention and learn to parry them. But once you do figure it out, you’re set for the rest of the game. And that’s not really a good thing. You realize that enemies telegraph their attacks a mile away, so you’ve got ages to react. After a while, I was frankly bored of the combat, casually blocking and counter-attacking to an almost mathematical pattern.

Crimen – Mercenary Tales seems to sense this one-dimensional shortcoming and tries to add challenge by having AI crowd up close to you in combat. Groups of enemies like to surround you and move out of your field of vision. Yes, it does add some challenge but it mostly just feels annoying. I would have preferred to see more multifaceted challenges like enemies with different move sets.

But despite all of these irritations, I still enjoyed Crimen a lot. It is repetitive, yes, but it’s pretty fun most of the way through. It gets a lot of things right, and it’s a great example of how a VR game can be much more immersive than a 2D game. Carbon Studio have put love into Crimen, and it shows. Fun, action-packed and immersive, Crimen – Mercenary Tales is a VR adventure that should be in your Meta Quest 2 library.

** A Meta Quest 2 code was provided by the publisher **

The Good

  • Pleasant visual style
  • Good voice acting
  • Nice combat mechanic

The Bad

  • Repetitive gameplay
  • Too easy