Jagged Alliance 3 review: Classic turn-based battles refurbished by a modern touch
The news about Jagged Alliance 3 got me excited for a multitude of reasons. The turn-based tactical fan in me was happy that gamers would receive yet another new one to try out. After all, there can never be enough! Moreover, this is a sequel that follows a title that is over two decades old. I was still attending primary school when Jagged Alliance 2 Classic became available worldwide.
Suffice to say, the available technology has changed unimaginably since then. What used to be futuristic concepts back then have become a reality now, and I was desperate to see what kind of shift Haemimont Games has put to keep a fine balance.
When making a cult-classic franchise sequel, I believe it’s important not to lose the fundamentals. Then again, it’s crucial to make the necessary changes to keep up with the current trends. After my two playthroughs (the first being a miserable failure), I can safely say that Jagged Alliance 3 hits more checkboxes than it misses, and there’s a fantastic product at its core.
Jagged Alliance 3 manages to uphold the older titles'
Jagged Alliance 3 follows the original roots that made the previous titles big successes in the 90s. It includes the ability to recruit mercenaries, control their choices, and outwit opponents. However, it’s also the execution of these concepts that warrants Haemimont Games a lot of praise.
While there are plenty of complex concepts to understand in Jagged Alliance 3, the core story is simple. You run and manage mercenaries, who in turn will help you complete different missions all around the globe. It all begins with you recruiting them based on their skills and repertoire, and then setting up your squad accordingly.
The first mission takes you to a fictional island where rebels have kidnapped the President. It’s your job to rescue and bring him back to his family. You then start exploring the different lands, removing the enemies, and saving your mercenaries (believe me, this is the real test).
I haven’t been able to finish the story, but it feels lively. The character designs seem interesting, and some of their backstories have personalities as well. Moreover, some of your interactions with them can help you later in missions. By speaking with them, you’ll also get a better idea about the incidents around your squad, which definitely helped me in planning a mission.
Regarding missions, Jagged Alliance 3 doesn’t hide that the challenges will be difficult. When you begin your journey, you’re instantly informed that the game is supposed to be difficult (even at the easiest difficulty). You can use a Forgiving Mode, which makes certain elements easier to manage. Since resource and squad management are crucial, I found that enabling it was important.
While your mercenaries take turns to attack, there’s no probability guidance. You won’t see percentages while making a shot; the only tip you’ll have is a description. I found the usage of action points very interesting. In simple words, you can use more action points in movement or use them more to make a far more accurate shot. I haven’t found this level of control in any other turn-based title in recent times.
You mustn’t overcommit in this game because some fights can be nightmares. I learnt this the hard way in my playthroughs. Not only is the AI intelligent, but it will respond according to your moves. They typically don’t like charging in the open and seem to keep themselves hidden from the line of sight. All of this truly evolves into some battles of epic proportions.
In terms of missions and quests, you get the standard offering. There are main quests that will take you further into the story. Then there are the side missions, which will earn you more rewards in terms of resources. While the overall structure of the quests is the same, I never found two battles go similarly. Moreover, enemies with different weapons will always give you something to consider.
Jagged Alliance 3 makes no attempts to hide the fact that it has strong satiric opinions about global events. For example, I have a mercenary named Kotarski, and his character is built around Arnold Schwarzenegger. He speaks like the big man and acts like the star from his action movies.
When you finish an enemy, they will often say small catchphrases. One of my slain enemies decided to remind me that he has a family, before dropping down to the ground. This little implementation in Jagged Alliance 3 just adds to the overall character of every ally and foe.
The tropical island, amidst all its foliage and enemy buildings, looks picturesque. The maps aren’t huge, and there’s nothing to explore besides completing your mission. However, you can take different approaches for a battle, and using the terrain is very important. Hiding behind a big boulder or a tree could be the difference between your mercenary dying or winning a fight.
The developers have gone for a pretty retro design for the UI and everything else in Jagged Alliance 3. Your main information panel has a very 90s theme to it, and I like it. It goes well with the overall theme, but there’s no lack of functionality.
Sound and performance
One of the biggest positives for me was the overall performance. This review is based on the beta branch of the game. While I did expect bugs at first, I didn’t encounter any. The overall gameplay was smooth, and there weren’t any bottlenecks in my PC performance. I maxed everything out and still got 60 FPS on my setup. If you have a medium-level system, you can quite easily tweak some settings without noticing a major drop in performance.
The sound also feels realistic, especially when it comes to gun noises. The effect of firing a shotgun differs from a pistol, which again varies from a rifle. Your mercenaries may not have too many narrative sentences, but their expressions have life and humor. Add the environmental noises, and you will soon find yourself in an immersive battleground.
Jagged Alliance 3 keeps the series' original essence alive and also brings in a lot of modern features. The overall balance ensures that you can relate to the franchise, and enjoy something visually stunning and packed with important features.
The game also has multiplayer, but sadly the limited nature of the beta access didn’t let me test it properly. You can co-op with another person and share your squads during the mission. I also expect to see a lot of creativity from the community as there will be mod support. The creators will have access to the same tools that the developers use to create in-game assets.
My first impressions of Jagged Alliance 3 are positive, and I enjoyed playing it. Some of the battles became bigger challenges due to my mistakes, and there’s definitely a learning curve. However, the harder challenge also ensures that each victory will feel much more rewarding. I genuinely believe this game’s future is quite big, and it’s a worthy successor by every means.
Jagged Alliance 3 review
Reviewed On: PC (Review code provided by THQ Nordic)
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Haemimont Games
Release Date: July 14, 2023