In one corner, a large, helpful man who sells weapons and cooks meals. In the other corner, a mysterious figure who has a lot of good things on sale today, stranger. He also might be infected? It’s time to figure out who’s better: The Duke from Resident Evil Village or The Merchant from RE4.
The Duke and the Merchant serve similar functions in their respective games. Both men sell and buy items, can upgrade your guns, and can increase your inventory space. They both set up shops in different spots of the world, and these areas are often devoid of enemies or threats, providing another handy service to the player: a moment to catch your breath.
While they might have a lot in common and even seem to be friends, this is the internet. We can’t just say two things are good and move on. We need to smash our action figures together like a Marvel Cinematic Universe producer and figure out who’s the best of the best.
(Spoilers for Resident Evil Village and Resident Evil 4)
While both of these men are mysterious, RE4’s Merchant is the shadier character by far. The Merchant hides his face and never shares his name with you. However, you can tell from what little of his face is visible that he is a Ganado, aka an infected villager. Yet, strangely, he doesn’t seem to hate Leon or even want to attack him. Instead, he sells Leon weapons and more, in effect betraying his own kind. Maybe he knows that the parasite infecting all the villagers is terrible and he’s helping to stop the dangerous infection from spreading. Or maybe he’s a greedy bastard who saw an opportunity to make some money and took it.
Meanwhile, Village’s Duke is also mysterious, but in a different way. He isn’t sure of his origin, telling Ethan as much towards the end of the game. While some early concepts and designs of Village had the Duke as one of the game’s villainous lords, that’s not canon as far as we know in the finished game. So while we see his face and get a title beyond merchant, ol’ Duke is still a bit of an enigma.
This is a tricky category to judge, but I’m giving the Merchant from Resident Evil 4 the minor win on this one.
The Merchant shows up early into the game and quickly establishes himself as the only shop in Resident Evil 4. His main focus is selling weapons and buying treasures. However, as you play Resident Evil 4, Leon will find shooting ranges that the Merchant runs. Here you can compete for a high score to earn prizes, including thousands of dollars. It appears the Merchant is a wealthy man, which isn’t surprising. But beyond weapons and shooting ranges, the Merchant doesn’t offer much else.
Meanwhile, the Duke in Village is the king of extras. The Duke often provides Ethan with useful information about what’s happening and what to do next. He also helps Ethan out directly a few times, in one instance even saving Ethan after he is nearly killed. Finally, the Duke is a great cook, able to whip up a whole host of meals for Ethan that provide much-needed bonuses if you can provide the meat and other ingredients. (Hot tip: Don’t sell the meat to the Duke.) Oh and don’t forget The Duke runs some ball puzzles, too.
While I love both vendors, the Duke easily wins.
The Merchant in Resident Evil 4 seems to have the ability to teleport instantly around the map. You’ll see him in one spot, then quickly run to another area to find him waiting for you by all his stuff and his blue light. Some players have theorized that this is because the Merchant isn’t one person, but many folks who all look and sound the same. In most universes, this would be a wild theory, but in Resident Evil, multiple clones aren’t outlandish at all. More evidence for this theory: You can kill the Merchant. When you do, he will still appear in other parts of the map. On lower difficulties, he’ll even return after you kill him. Hmmm!
The Duke also seems to possess the ability to teleport, though he’s often seen in a carriage. Perhaps that’s how he gets around so fast. Unlike the Merchant, the Duke is a singular character, referencing past events as Ethan visits his various shops. It’s also interesting that the Duke is allowed to freely work and live within the various castles and keeps of each Lord. What kind of deal does the Duke have with Lady Dimitrescu? Unlike the Merchant, The Duke is less fragile; you can toss pipe bombs at him and he doesn’t even flinch. Impressive stuff.
This round decides the winner. And I’m going to give it to… the Duke!
I love both characters, but the more I’ve thought about and compared the two salesmen, the more I realize that I prefer the Duke. He might have some nasty feet, and he might be a little suspicious, but he’s a talented chef and has some great items to sell. Plus he provides you with helpful info and often lends Ethan a hand (which Ethan desperately needs.)
If this was a contest purely built around who has the better, more memorable catchphrases and dialogue, that would go to the Merchant any day of the week. It’s hard to beat “What’re ya buyin?” and “I’ll buy it at high price!” So hold on to that, Merchant fans.