Merchants of Brooklyn Review

Merchants of Brooklyn is a futuristic, dystopic FPS, developed by independent studio Paleo Entertainment, a group of Half-Life 2 modders turned game developers. The game is set in Brooklyn in the year 3100 AD, when global warming has caused the sea level to rise so much that much of the city was flooded. The upper classes moved higher-up, away from the sea, while the half-drowned lower ruins were turned into slums.

Crime rules down in the slums. On the one hand, a complete army of defective or superfluous Neo-Neanderthal clones (originally created for hard labor on the upper level buildings) swarmed the dilapidated buildings. One the other, the mob has a large interest in various illegal activities down below, including using the Neanderthals in deadly pit fights. You are such an arena fighter, called Matteo. Once the champion, your arm is torn off in your last fight before the game starts. You are fitted with a new, mechanical arm, and the man responsible for doing so – Antonio Salvio – plots to escape the mafia’s grip with your help.

Matteo’s mechanical arm is the core focus of gameplay. Various weapons are uploaded into it by Antonio as you go through the storyline. Each weapon has a standard attack and a charge-up attack. This includes your fists, as you can either punch with your normal arm or charge up and punch with your mechanical arm for one-hit kills, though it is exceedingly hard to land a hit with the charged-up punch.

The guns vary between nuke, bio and techno types, each type having its own ammo. Nuke provides the game’s equivalent of a shotgun and SMG, while bio provides more interesting weapons such as a sniper poison dart gun, or a gun that shoots blobs of toxic goo that bounce around like tennis balls. Techno provides the more destructive fire-power. All in all, there’s no more than 10 different guns in the game.

The lack of gun variety is not helped by the gameplay, as Merchants of Brooklyn plays like an old-fashioned run’n’gun shooter, with no mechanics to utilize cover or shoot around corners. A lack of real difficulty combined with the fact that Matteo regenerates health pretty quickly means you have little reason to think much about combat, making MoB a fine game to just pick your favorite weapon and then run around causing carnage whilst laughing maniacally.

The carnage is an obvious selling point for Merchants of Brooklyn. The game gives you heaps of gory and over-the-top violence, as you can make someone explode with a charged attack, to then pick up a body part, charge it with electricity and use it as a grenade. If an enemy’s health is low, you can press the E button to execute, which displays a variety of killing moves from pushing your thumb through his eye into his brain to punching his face so hard it explodes. It’s a bit of fun, but obviously a crutch to cover up some of the combat’s short-comings by keeping you distracted, and it really does not do a good job of that.

Merchants of Brooklyn does have an interesting setting, and attached a pretty unique look to it. The art style has a clear comic book stylization to it, with thick black outlines to characters and objects and characters having hulking, unrealistic physiques. It combines this look with gruesome violence and a bit of realism to prevent it being completely cartooney.

It’s an interesting visual style, but the game itself doesn’t do too much with it. Throughout the game, the areas are simply not interesting enough visually to really pull you into the setting. The heavy utilization of the Neanderthal model – pretty much the only enemy you’ll encounter other than some turrets, flying strike robots and end bosses – makes for a generally “same” look to much of the game.

The game is short enough to pull it off with the repetition of assets, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. The game stands at about 3 hours long, 4 hours tops. And it ends its storyline rather abruptly, with a simple to be continued for this planned episodic storyline. There is a multiplayer component, but — to be blunt — multiplayer doesn’t really work when there’s no one to play.

Part of the reason for this is that this is an independent game and without the PR and hype of a mainstream game it can be hard to roll people into online gaming. But even worse, Paleo pretty much blew their own game-launch by accidentally putting a beta version of the game up for download. They fixed this quickly enough, but even the real launch version felt pretty unfinished, crashes and a bevy of graphical glitches included. To their credit, Paleo is churning out patches at top speed, but at this point it may be too late to salvage multiplayer. One thing I’m not sure they’ll fix is the optimization, as this game is a big resource hog that does not look nearly good enough to excuse the amount of hardware it requires.

That means we now have a 3-4 hour episodic FPS, slightly broken but getting fixed at top speed. It costs 16 bucks at a discount, 20 at full price (the 20% discount was supposed to be dropped March 24th, but either Steam forgot or they decided to extend it). That is simply not a reasonable price-point. 20 USD is fine for episodic content or it’s fine for an indie game, but it is certainly not fine for an episodic independent game. Merchants of Brooklyn is a fairly amusing game with a pretty interesting visual style, fun to play as long as it lasts, but it does not offer enough content for that price.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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