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Mercenary

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Released: 1985

Genre: Adventure

Format reviewed: Atari 8-bit

Publisher: Novagen Software

Developer: Novagen Software

It’s amazing to look at Mercenary now and think how immersive it was. With little more than wireframe objects, some text and slabs of colour, you could really get into the narrative that you were stranded on the alien planet Targ and trying to find a way off it. Of course, part of what helped with that was simply the ability to fly anywhere, get into combat situations and even wander underground. However, for me the true draw of the game laid elsewhere.

There are two warring factions on Targ, the native Palyars and the invading Mechanoids. When you’re a skilled combat operative, you can sell your services to the highest bidder, so that’s exactly what I did – and that’s how I ended up siding with the Mechanoids, in an act of questionable morality. If games can reveal anything about an individual’s personality, what they revealed about mine is that I believe personal success is more important than external moral the ends justify the means, even if that involves bombing the crap out of buildings in order to hand control of a relatively blameless planet to a hostile invading force.

Once I’m drawn into doing some dirty deeds, it doesn’t matter how abstract the visual representation of my target is – I can settle into my natural way of doing things, even if getting involved in a conflict I have no personal ties to is somewhat dubious. But that’s okay, isn’t it? After all, I’ve never pretended to be a nice person.