Merchants Of Brooklyn, Impressions, Lamentations

By Jim Rossignol on March 30th, 2009 at 11:34 am.


A couple of hours into Merchants Of Brooklyn and I’m considering fetching that brick from the front garden. I could beat myself around the face with it. Perhaps a trip to the hospital will put things into perspective. Perhaps not. Merchants Of Brooklyn is beautiful, brutal, horrendous and infuriating. It looks fantastic: often colourful, occasionally monstrous, always stylish. The ultra-detailed cartoon visuals, where everything is outlined inked and outlined, certainly promise much. A cyborg neanderthal gladiator using the dismembered limbs of his enemies and a transforming bionic arm to defeat the future Mob of Brooklyn – these ideas promise even more. And then there are the crash bugs, the instant deaths, the quicksave attrition. Why oh why.


If we can step back for a moment – and get that perspective without self-bruising – it’s worth remembering that Merchants of Brooklyn is a commercial outing in CryEngine 2 from a small, indie team. Paleo Entertainment are modders turned pro: they can’t be expected to have QA’d this one into smooth gaming butter. Their visual achievements, with the comic-strip cutscenes and cel-shaded thuggery, really are something. But they don’t save the game.

The combat is messy: hand to hand combat means flailing about in the vicinity of the enemy. Ranged combat means blasting away meanly with one of a number of uninteresting weapons, the variety of which simply introduces less and less utility. You start out with the flak cannon from Unreal Tournament – pretty cool, yes – and then get increasingly crappier armaments from there. Standard FPS weapon tree in reverse.

What is far more crucial to you progress is the ability to pick things up, “charge” them, and fling them at your enemy with explosive effect. This has the awesome side-effect of being able to pick up the head of a slain opponent, charge that up, and use it to blast his buddies into further meat. More boney missiles for your war. The down side is that it occasionally insta-kills you. In fact plenty of stuff seems to occasionally insta-kill you, which would be fine if my game didn’t occasionally crash to desktop. The quicksave attrition soon mounts, and the repetition feeds into an ugly, biley feeling of frustration. Merchants Of Brooklyn is a sloppy experience that I cannot recommend.

Incredibly, Paleo initially (accidentally) put up an early, unfinished version of their game for download on Steam. Someone has suggested to me that this mistake makes the finished game look pretty buff by comparison. That’s a sad way to look at it. It’s been fixed and patched since then. A better way to look at it is to see this as a sad misfire of game design, by a team that is obviously amazingly talented in the art department. This is, after all, their first outing. Few, if any, indies are this accomplished in building characters and environments in a top-end FPS engine. It’s just a shame, then, that they couldn’t craft the game to go with it. Maybe next time, eh?

Merchants Of Brooklyn is out now on Steam.

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20 Comments »

  1. phil says:

    It’s a shame this didn’t work out – Experiencing having your arm ripped off and shown to you from a first person perspective looked fun.

  2. danielcardigan says:

    That film script was brilliant. Certainly better than the last episode of Primeval.

  3. bansama says:

    And then there are the crash bugs, the instant deaths, the quicksave attrition. Why oh why.

    Well since the second patch I personally haven’t experienced the instant death bug again, neither have I had a crash as long as I didn’t try to use a pre-patch save. Neither have I had any issues with quicksaving at all.

    However, there is still definitely something seriously wrong with the code (perhaps a memory leak) as 10 to 15 minutes in, the game will just suddenly grind a halt with a huge drop in FPS. No matter where in the game you are.

    Here’s hoping they get another patch out soon. It’s still got a lot of promise as long as they don’t just give up and do a runner with our money =)

  4. A Delicate Balance says:

    Having just read that film script and based on Jim’s assessment of the game – seems like it could well be the best thing to come out of Merchants of Brooklyn. Pretty damn funny!

  5. Tom says:

    What a shame – looked like such a laugh.

  6. Gap Gen says:

    That film script is amazing.

  7. Wizumer says:

    That script was amazing. I propose an RPS competition along these lines, where you give us some obscure and ludicrous game blurb and we have to write our screenplay adaptations.

    Wouldn’t that be fun? :D

  8. SlappyBag says:

    Damn roBurky stole the link I was going to post hehe. Tis good indeedy though.

  9. the probe says:

    That’s the dude who made Concerned.
    Too bad MOB isn’t a Source game, or else an epic G-mod comic would be in order.

  10. Garg says:

    I hope this isn’t a premonition of Zeno Clash, that other beautiful indie close combat centred game.

  11. Tei says:

    @Garg: Or make the victory of Zeno Clash more epic, becuase we all know “mele in a FPS game is haaaaaaard”.

  12. dc2005 says:

    I think games like this one or eternity’s Child really hurt the indie scene… people start to distrust new games or new developers after such dissapointments… There are good indie games out there, really polished and with a lot of QA, but it takes a couple of the broken ones to make people suspicious of anything new…

  13. the probe says:

    I don’t think the people who follow games enough to know that this is an indie title would form stereotypes based upon it, eh?

  14. Ziv says:

    I think people should buy it just so the company will get a second chance and won’t be closed, that would be a loss of some pretty talented people.

  15. Tei says:

    Is a good thing to remenber that having a Indie developer is not a magical wang (inser penny-arcade jokes) to make a game good..

    ..maybe the other way, most Indie games suck. But these that are original, are really original, and these that are interesting are very interesting.

  16. Rich_P says:

    Indie games need demos. It’s a worthwhile investment. The folks behind Defense Grid said that sales increased noticeably after they finally released a demo on Steam.

  17. catmorbid says:

    I’ve found out that most of the games I buy impulsively, without demoing them first, are mostly crap. So that makes a person lean more to getting the real thing without paying for it, instead of buying it, since sure they might be interested, but still afraid of a crap product, and instead DL a warez version. A demo can either help sales or maybe kill them completely. Sadly I bought M.O.B. :/ The result is that the next possibly-good game I wanted to buy I might not, for fear of repeating this dissapointment :\

  18. stavrosthewonderchicken says:

    This was possibly the worst game I’ve ever been tricked into trying by my own GameAttentionDeficitDisorder. It is truly, deeply, offensively awful, from the 18-year-old-who’s-reaching-for-gravitas voiceover to the execrable and ludicrously stupid writing, right down to the almost-magical skill of making CryEngine 2 look like one of the tweaked-out Q2 engines.

    It is so bad it makes me want to punch people. It makes me want to punch my computer. It makes me want to punch myself.

    But it doesn’t make me want to punch ingame, not even a goddamn little bit.

  19. MeestaNob! says:

    We should give it a few months to see if they learn from their experience and can patch this into a better game.

    Heck, they’ve released on the perfect platform to do just that.

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