Jagged Alliance 3 Hands on Preview
Updated: Apr 27
*Thanks to the devs for code for preview purposes
Video version https://youtu.be/vT93wWSnkVs
Jagged Alliance has a storied history, the original was in 1995 , the second was in 1999 and Jagged Alliance 3, the game I got to play this last week for a hands on impressions was announced in 2004.
What has happened and how it all culminated in today's experience is a article all on its its own, but what is Jagged Alliance 3 and how does it play right now?
Lets find out.
Reminder that for many of us we were told to delay our Dead Island 2 reviews so instead of it being today it will be Thursday. No clue why
When the first Jagged Alliance released more than 89% of my audience didn't exist yet. Just a shine in their fathers eyes.
Here we are playing Jagged Alliance 3 a mix of real time and turn based combat, with strict action points systems, dangerous enemies, and the elation of a difficult shot gone well.
A team more like B team. Ok probably C team.
Hired to save a kidnapped leader of a state in political turmoil you, the leader of your A team, or maybe your b or C team, goes out to take out the enemies. Hired mercenaries against hired mercenaries putting your team together through an old style almost dos like connection system as you bid for services to high men and women from a merc database paying for the services of recruits, veterans, elites, legendary, can all be hired if you have the cash and each have their own hierarchy of skills and perks that are specialists for themselves, Mechanical, medical sniper and explosives specialties are indicating easily enough as are the 10 main statistics any of the mercs have and are rated on with bios to get flavor test.
Each of these style of games has their own fine line between what works and what doesn't where the game is testing their tactics against a new foe seeing if stealth before stabbing works better than running and gunning, or various other tools of the trade these games supply
Jagged Alliance has a unique three flavor movement system tied within the steps of the game you find yourself in. The first is an over the table grand commander style with you moving icons that represent your mercenary teams with time passing and if you need resting up mercs to cure wounds between battles, buying new items and finding intel, and skirting scouts taking them on or otherwise.
The second movement systems is when you have an encounter you dive into and the game changes to a Real-time movement system when not actually engaged with those on the map. Moving and shuttling around the location until you or the enemy attacks or sees one another and then the game steps another step into turn based once battle begins.
This 3rd movement system is directly tied to battle and is the tried and true turn based systems. Battle is what you expect with at the same time unexpected turns. For instance action points are tied to movement as well as attacks, to special movements and abilities as well as special items. Throwing a grenade can cost a couple so can an active ability to pin down an enemy with suppressive fire. Moving to another location to skirt out of the way of enemy fire raining down on your current one takes more or less action points depending on your stance, or if you are also sneaking and its all clearly defined
However, the one place Jagged Alliance has made it clear won't be transparent that is how high or low of a chance you have of hitting an enemy, when highlighting an enemy you see body shots, legs, hands and head each may have a sign attached to it that shows a wall to indicate bullets can't get through cover at all or a body protector that makes damage much less likely, each hit and location does something different but how high or a chance you have to hit is nothing more or less than a round circle around the enemy that grows together if you spend more action points to aim. But even if you are locked on and it looks like you will hit perfectly you can still miss or ricochet or hit some cover.
You may find yourself lamenting that lack of detailed information when aiming but It puts a perspective and focus directly on movement, being safe, and figuring out how to really increase that likelihood of hitting. One nice thing is the game tells you any increases or decreases you have like a+ sign for an enemy who has already been shot in the legs and can't dodge as easy. But that's it. Its a logic that I can see rubbing some people the wrong way, but I think it works because they didn't stick that exact number so while it may look like you are dialed in at least its not saying 99% chance to hit and you miss. Here there is always that slight worry that you won't be successful and that same result can be applied to the enemies who face the same challenges as you do.
If your characters are hurt you can heal them with some hit-points but if they suffer real wounds the only times that can go away is in the overland more strategic movement map but when you rest there is a constant readout of situations around you and that might indicate an enemy squad is heading towards you, or god forbid you didn't sign up your mercs for enough days in their contract and you find yourself forced to throw in, 3 short-times into a fight, because they would be no timers the next.
Enemies who die can be looted taking action points as well so you can't always just grab something from them and throw it into an open space, requiring you to think more about what you are doing.
One major element that is so profoundly noticeable even right away in Jagged Alliance 3 is the discussion system. With your characters actually having some stats that add conversation branches to those you find in the game world. Resulting in getting information from a random person you found, or scaring them to the point that it seems maybe they won't tell you anything, or you can kill them or skip talking to them completely.
If this plays out in the entire game, for its entire length that's going to add a huge amount of playability but I saw no signs of its dying on the grapevine when I played my hours.
So far the production value is excellent watching your merc roll over a log to leap behind a rock, or slowly crawl through the mud to bandage one of your mercs who is bleeding out behind a tree all look excellent as to environment effects, rain coming down and pools of water and much dotting the war-space. The rest of the game has a noticeable windows 3.1 and dos feel to replicate the older time-frame the game is in and it reminds you of the ancient movie Contractors with Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Bandereas. Dialing in to a merc database, checking their bios and choosing how to put together and team with the right perks is awesome and the games tracking of each mercs 10 statistics keeps you informed overall of how each works and can work.
You can even field multiple teams of mercs doing their own thing in the landscape.
The same so far goes for audio presentation
Music is gloriously stuck in the past, a ticket to a concert from years past, thematically reminds you of old 1980's action movies like Double impact or even more-so predator at times. That action movie moment of quick percussion and almost imperialistic march kind of patriotic themes.
So far sound effects work well, the first time it is raining in a level it actually sounds like its enveloping you in real rain versus the quiet shhhhh sound that sometimes rain and wind can have, gunfire from different guns are unique with the sniper rifle booming out 50 caliber proud as it ruins some guys day, as well as the smaller calibers hitting and squishing out wet hit sounds.
So far in the preview not everyone is voiced. Those who are, are goofy characters like you would expect each with over the top accents or bombastic statements of how bad ass each one of them is. From villagers to fisherman you find around locations who may or may not be just a villagers or a fisherman.
My time with Jagged Alliance 3 was part discover part death part declining to fully and unapologetically pay for the best and highest tier mercs. Only to watch those with low stats slowly get whittled down more quickly than they would have had they been a bit better and had I also been.
I loved that feel and while I am not sure I am in love with the games UI which can get incredibly messy when trying to parse which body part to hit, what it is and isn't protected by and if its worth that one shot I may have, I still found myself returning to it for one more brush with death.
Or in my case. One more absolutely defined and scheduled meeting with it.
Jagged Alliance 3 finally comes out this year with full campaign coop, after almost 2 decades since its first version was announced.
We will see if it hits.
Check out my dead island 2 review on Thursday