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Following an unfortunate crash landing on the planet Targ, Mercenary sets a ship-wrecked protagonist the task of escape. An early example of an open world game, Mercenary's universe was realized using wireframe graphics.
Exploration is a major theme; though the player receives occasional guidance from an aimiable AI named Benson, the player must accumulate clues and cash to assist eventual escape. The game allows the player to enter and exit vehicles, including the iconic Dominion Dart, an elegant vessel that is offered to the player following the fateful surface splashdown.
Targ is a green planet hosting a single city arranged in a grid system. Buildings, some with explorable interiors, are situated alongside roads or at intersections. The planet is in the midst of a civil war between two warring factions, the Palyars and the Mechanoids. Seldom seen on-screen, interaction with these factions is a big part of any escape plan.
Unlike many of its contemporaries, the game is non-linear. Benson will emit the occasional tidbit of advice, but players are free to explore of Targ at their own pace, and are able to use a variety of strategies to escape Targ and complete the game.