A brand new building and two new troop types have been added to Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire! This article covers the newly released Mercenary Fighting Pits and the two new troops that you can recruit from within. We’ll also discuss the strategic implications of the new City Guardian troop type.
UPDATE 12/16/17: While the Fighting Pit itself is still available, the specific mercenaries covered in this article are no longer available in the game. The Pits themselves appear to have new mercenaries being introduced periodically, the newest being the Winter Troops at the time of this writing. Keep an eye on the blog as we'll be covering future mercenary-related developments.
Unlocking the Mercenary Fighting Pits
The Mercenary Fighting Pits (formerly known as the Advanced Training Grounds) is the Colosseum-shaped building just to the left of the Training Grounds.
To unlock this building, you need to use the Mercenary Fighting Pits unlock item found in the new unlock pack. The pack also contains specialized blueprints which you need to upgrade the building along with some specialized items related to mercenaries that we will discuss in the next section.
After you have unlocked the Fighting Pits, you will be able to purchase the new troop types and upgrade the building. We’ll discuss building upgrades in a section of this article farther down.
The new mercenary units are the City Guardian and the Chocobo Caravan. Both are highly specialized troop types that fill specific niches in the game, and both use new items to recruit.
The new recruitment items are the Caravaner’s Saddle, the Guardian’s Shield and the Mercenary Rations. These items along with regular old t1 Food are used to purchase the new troops. You can get the new items from either packs or from the Kingatrice monsters that have been recently introduced to the game.
The Troops are relatively expensive as you can see in the screenshots below, with each City Guardian costing 100 Food, 80 Rations and 48 Guardian Shields; while each Chocobo Caravan costs 50 Food, 80 Rations and 48 Saddles. With the amounts currently available in the Thanksgiving Sale that pops up after you unlock the building, that works out to about a pack per 10k of each troop. That’s a lot of packs to flesh out these troops.
Further, you can only have so many mercenaries. They do not share a troop cap with normal troops. With a level 1 Mercenary Fighting Pit, you can only have 50k mercenaries in your empire. Each level above 1 increases this troop cap; level 2 gives a troop cap of 100k mercenaries and level 3 gives a troop cap of 200k mercenaries. Enough for a couple of marches or a lot of Guardians, at least.
Given all these constraints, the question becomes: how good are these mercenaries? Let’s take a look at each one.
The new Chocobo Caravan has two things going for it: Load, and Speed. 30 Load gives these troops twice as much carrying capacity as a t3 siege and more than 1.5 times as much as a t4 siege, which is impressive given that they are available well before t4 if you have the building unlocked.
On top of that, the Chocobo Caravan is extremely fast, on par with t1 non-siege troops. They have almost no fighting power however, being as strong in combat as t1 troops. But that isn’t what they’re for. The Chocobo Caravan is intended as a superb looting and lair gathering force, not for fighting.
Since lair gathering success is based on load, this makes these troops the best in the game currently at gathering from monster lairs (which you’ll want to be doing with or without these troops because of how good the Beastmaster Armor is).
The downside is that these troops are extremely squishy, so if you do end up purchasing them, make sure to follow the advice in the Combat Defense Guide and NEVER gather with them while you are offline so that you can pull them back if they are attacked. The is doubly important if your hero is included in the march.
While the Chocobo Caravan is pretty good, I don’t feel that it justifies the price tag on the new building and the rations/ saddles. So let’s take a look at the other new troop type.
The City Guardian is a defensively oriented troop type, as the name suggests. And wow what a defense:
The City Guardian is basically a t5+ damage sponge that sits on the front lines in the damage resolution step, at the cost of almost no attack or speed. Given that you can get these at just about any level, that’s insanely powerful on defense.
On top of that, the City Guardian is untyped. That means it has no weaknesses to other troop types. It doesn’t matter what your opponent attacks with (cavalry, mixed, siege..), your City Guardians will take the same damage.
These guys are basically a highly effective meatwall, although they are constrained by the Mercenary cap and/or your Hospital capacity. Buffed by good gear and research, these things would make an incredibly useful addition to a Trap Empire.
Do they justify the cost of the new building and the cost in rations and shields? I think that depends entirely on what you are doing in the game. If you are some mammoth t4 or t5 Empire with millions of high-powered troops that make you impervious to all currently available attacks, probably not. Likewise if you are not a very strong empire.
But if you’re a geared Trap willing to drop on packs, then these things are an amazing addition. Although you may still want to wait until price drops or the packs provide more rations/ shields before you dive in.
Upgrading the Mercenary Fighting Pits
The Mercenary Fighting Pits are currently upgradable to level 5. Each level costs an increasing number of the special blueprints, with level 2 costing 200 blueprints and level 3 costing 400. At each level, the training speed of the mercenaries and the number of mercenaries that your Empire can hold goes up.
Right now this isn’t honestly much of a reason to upgrade the building (unless you are looking to flesh out several marches of Caravans or get above hospital limit on the Guards). The blog post mentions in passing that higher-level Fighting Pits levels may unlock other mercenaries in the future, but right now there are just the two. I'd definitely recommend doing the math on how many of each new troop type you need exactly before upgrading the building too much, given the cost in blueprints.
Update: Salvaged Mech Mercenaries
A new mercenary type, the Salvaged Mech, has been added to the Level 4 Mercenary Fighting Pits. Clocking in at a whopping 6 attack (with 4 HP and only 1 Armor), these troops are very clearly meant as attacker shock troops.
While that amount of attack is impressive, given the lack of corresponding defensive stats, I would hold off on these for the moment unless you have pack money burning a hole in your pocket. They might make an excellent way to zero an empire you cannot normally, but the cost in casualties is going to be immense compared to t4 troops.
The Chocobo Caravan and the City Guardians are really interesting additions to the game. The Caravan fills a really useful niche (fast, effective gathering) while the City Guardian is just incredibly solid on defense.
Right now though, the cost is prohibitively high for all but the most dedicated of players who really need the City Guardians. If you are not in desperate need of strong defenders and your existing siege gathering force is working fine for you, I’d suggest focusing instead on Proving Grounds packs for better gear while fleshing out your research or leveling your Citadel. Or on Prompto, if you aren't a Trap empire.
It will be interesting to see if the mercenary tribe is expanded to provide even more specialized troops. There is a lot of design space here for some very potentially interesting game mechanics, and hopefully we will see that explored a bit more.