We’ve been lucky enough to get an early look at Merek’s Market, which will be launching on PC, Playstation, Xbox and Stadia on September 15th. Merek’s Market is a builder/crafting game from Big Village Games, based in Sheffield, UK. It sets out to bring you an experience where you are crafting, building, haggling to try to make your business survive and thrive. One thing that is worth mentioning straight out of the gate is that Merek’s Market is the creation of a team of 2 that spans 40 years worth of experience in video games between them they have contributed to over 50 video game projects too.
Merek’s delightful British humour with its cast of Merek’s friends in Tess and Len. Tess is a west country friend out to bring your more blueprints for items so that your craft them in your soon to be busy store. Len arrives to add to the mix, hailing from Scotland, always trying to help by contributing where he can, buying bread and milk, finally he teaches you the art of haggling so that you can try to maximise your money for items in demand by the various customers who will grace you with their presence in your store, all set in medieval times.
This game can be enjoyed either solo or with up to 4 people local co-op, so you get a real mix between taking on those challenges on your own and then looking at squeezing in some fun family time or simply that time where you want to have a laugh with your girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband.
In Merek’s market, whilst your primary focus is to craft, make money and help your business grow and survive. The element of competition is thrown into the mix. At each stage or level within the game, you will be up against the clock to see how much money you can truly earn but that’s not all. Each level has a Bronze, Silver and Gold rating for how well you do through each level, which then ties into a leaderboard to bring that competitive edge out in you and amongst your friends.
Graphics & Audio
Merek’s Market has an art style that perfectly matches the overriding theme of the game and more importantly, the voice acting that goes with it. It is really well optimised in terms of its performance and during my time with the game, there hasn’t really been any evidence of dropped frames, stuttering or any screen tearing.
It’s an art style that will appeal to many and is also one that will attract the kids in the family as the characters look friendly, easily identifiable and have an element of humour about them. So I would certainly say that their approach in game design has been to capture a varying age range and they’ve done this extremely well.
Whether you are crafting pottery, glass, shields, swords, sculptures or even carts. You can see that everything has been thought about and the items you craft have an intricacy, which leaves you feeling with a sense of achievement and accomplishment as you craft bigger and better items.
Audio-wise, I think it’s fair that this is broken down into two elements. Firstly music, I found the music to be friendly, fun and strikes those notes of medieval times. After sitting down and playing Merek’s Market, I often found myself with the sounds ingrained in my brain and I couldn’t get them out of my head until I’d watched or listened to something else.
The other element to the audio is the voice acting. Now being from the UK, I can say that the elements of accents, humour completely landed with me and I got it. You find yourself listening to your friends who come to the shop to help, customers and placing those accents and personalities to people that you will have come across from all walks of life. The only thing this really left me questioning was that I got it, but will players further afield in the US, Europe and beyond resonate with the humour and those accents?
Even several hours in, I’m still unsure as to the answer to that question and I’m sure only time will tell and of course it also depends on the target audience for the game. I will re-affirm that I fully appreciated it and at points even had me throwing those accents out as I found myself narrating the characters lines as they displayed on-screen.
Gameplay & Mechanics
Merek’s Market’s controls are easy to pick up, intuitive and will not take long to pick up at all. This lends itself to being a fantastically fun game, especially if you get your kids involved in gaming, meaning that you can buddy up with them and take on the campaign together.
I played through with a controller and found it really simple to navigate my way around and carry out the crafting.
Big Village Games have thrown some great variety into some of the gameplay/mechanics in terms of either remembering sequences when constructing statues, the button combinations to successfully get paid for the items you’ve crafted for customers when they come to pay for them, which also acts as a multiplier for each one that you get correct, meaning that you can continue to earn more money. Another element is when you get to the stage of crafting your cart, following the on-screen little movements in order to fill the bar up or rotating your left joystick to fit the wheels on the cart.
It really feels like they’ve tried to pack in some variation to ensure that not every challenge or crafting experience feels the same.
When it comes to crafting specific items, your crafting book is your friend. It will show you what materials go together in order to make the objects that the customers will require from you, but be mindful to pay attention though because as you progress, you’ll find that you need to combine two materials, to make a component and then couple that with other materials to make your final item.
As with most stores in real life, you get those characters that just come in to waste your time (I have retail experience so I appreciate the dread this fills staff with), so being up against the clock, time is of the essence and if you feel like the conversation with those characters is going nowhere and there’s no sale in sight, get hitting that Y button on the controller to get out of that conversation and get back to crafting!
As you play through the game you’ll find various things that try to stand in the way of your budding empire, whether it be competition, dragons, there’s nothing that will get in your way as you seek to be a success.
If we go right back to the top, I mentioned that this game is constructed by a team of two and given the level of visual representation, details, dialogue and everything else that pulls Merek’s Market together to become the game that it is. Big Village should be extremely pleased with the end product because I’ve had a tremendous amount of fun with it and it would certainly be something I’d recommend for families with kids that want to get their first adventure under their belt.
My biggest frustrations with Merek’s Market is that despite the variety of items to craft, the scenarios you face that after a while it does begin to feel like it enters into becoming monotonous but given that traditionally this style of game is not something I would have played, I may be being a little on the harsh side there especially considering how well it did actually motivate me to come back and play more. So as much I do level some criticism here, I think it’s fair to say that this game is still great fun and will keep you occupied.
I smiled. the music was addictive and I even got in on the voice acting, so I would certainly say it’s well worth checking out and especially if you have a family as it will be a great couch co-op game that will bring laughter, confusion, fun, oh and chaos.
Keep your eyes on our YouTube channel too as we did a live first look of Merek’s Market, so you can see it in action with me at the helm of the controls.
In summary, a game launching in 2021 that can have a net thrown far and wide to capture its audience is always appreciated as it brings people together, gets more people involved and more importantly, brings you fun. Merek’s Market certainly does that but it will certainly need your British humour engaged to get the most out of its comedy value. I have real admiration and appreciation for what the team at Big Village have created with Merek, his friends and the game overall.
We’d like to extend our thanks to the team over at Big Village Games and their representatives for providing us with a preview/review key as we really appreciate these opportunities to have fun with new, up and coming titles.
Merek’s Market is due for release on September 15th on PC, Xbox, Playstation and Stadia, so there’s plenty of opportunities for you to pick it up and enjoy it.