On July 14, the new strategy game from developer Haemimont Games and publisher THQ Nordic was released, which I would like to introduce to you in my review today.
Story and Plot:
Jagged Alliance 3 is a turn-based tactical strategy game in which you hire and control mercenary squads in the fictional country of Grand Chien. After the country's president is kidnapped and a dangerous group known as the Legion takes over the country, you'll be in charge of defeating the group's enigmatic and dangerous leader and ending the conflict in the region. To achieve this, you'll alternate in the game between battles reminiscent of the action movies of the 80s and managing resources behind the screen of your in-game laptop.
Combat system like the XCOM franchise
If you've played games like the XCOM franchise before, you have a good understanding of what turn-based combat has in store for you, right down to miss rates and dodgy cover systems. Although I had way too much fun scavenging the equipment of fallen enemies and assembling my mercenaries' gear, I have to say that the combat in the game is the weakest aspect in my opinion. It's quite passable and even intuitive in many ways, and will definitely please fans of the genre, especially with the ability to target specific parts of the enemy's body and spend action points on aiming, which reduces the chance of misses a bit. While I've played and enjoyed many similar turn-based games, I find it hard not to get bored because many of these games are too sluggish, which is unfortunately the case with Jagged Alliance 3. The gameplay can drag on quite a bit, especially with the stilted freeze frames between animations and the long periods where characters are just running from place to place. While I understand that this is the third game in a trilogy and no major changes could be made to the gameplay, I really feel that this game would have been excellent as a real-time strategy game ala Men of War instead of the turn-based system they opted for. Fortunately, if you don't want to deal with that part of the game, you can automatically disband the battles and focus on other aspects.
Hire mercenaries and management side
Instead of a team of heroes whose death leads to game over, missions in Jagged Alliance 3 are completed by mercenaries that you hire online and deploy on the map. These mercenaries are individual characters, and when they die, they're dead. Fortunately, you can simply send out a new squad to pick up where they left off. There are no checkpoints or replays, you just keep throwing pros at the situation until it's completed. The comedy manages to find a way into the otherwise serious and engaging narrative through conversations and especially the interesting characters. The mercenaries are full of personality, some better than others, with a number of satirical snipers ranging from a tech geek in a mouse hoodie to a statuesque thug and his flirtatious companion. The management side of the game combines the duty of completing the mission with the task of saving your money and actually profiting from the job. You'll find that you'll have to balance your desire to help the inhabitants of Grand Chien and gather the necessary information and secure resources with the fact that time is literally money. Mercenaries are paid according to the duration of the contract negotiated with you, often weekly, and everything from the various operations, such as training the militia, repairing equipment or just getting some rest to restore morale, to traversing areas on the map, takes time. Slow and steady doesn't always win the race, as your dwindling resources force you to play an interesting logistical game that doesn't exist in many similar titles.
The challenging map
Jagged Alliance 3's map quickly turns out to be the source of another strategic challenge outside of the game's battles. The map of Grand Chien is divided into hexagonal tiles, with each tile representing a section of land that serves as a battlefield in the mission to defeat the Legion. And I mean that literally. Each tile has its own unique map, sometimes with multiple levels and with enemies or allies to interact with. Securing each tile is a challenge, requiring your mercenaries to capture and clean out the nearby outpost. Some areas serve as nodes for friendly or enemy activity, from which the enemy sends out attack squads to retake the area. These squads are often much stronger than the outposts in the area, forcing you to play defensively while deciding which areas are worth defending and which are not. Training militias is one of my favorite aspects of the game, as it means you actually have troops on the board that can fend off these types of attacks.