July 14, 2023
Jagged Alliance 3 is a tactical turn-based strategy game developed by Haemimont Games and published by THQ Nordic. It’s the latest entry in the Jagged Alliance series, following on from Jagged Alliance 2, which was originally released for PC in the late 90s. Jagged Alliance 3 comes with a single-player mode and an online co-op mode.
Set in the fictional Grand Chien, the story of Jagged Alliance 3 starts the moment the country is suddenly thrown into uproar; a military group known as ‘The Legion’ has taken control of large parts of the country and the country’s president has gone missing. In response to the political turmoil, the president’s family decides to contract an organisation known as the Adonis Organisation in order to locate their missing family member. That’s where you come in: heading up a group of mercenaries, it’s up to you to locate the missing president, wrestle back control from The Legion, and restore the order in Grand Chien.
If you played the original Jagged Alliance 2 almost twenty-five years ago, there’ll be plenty of elements in Jagged Alliance 3 that look familiar to you. Jagged Alliance 3’s Grand Chien doesn’t feel that far removed from Jagged Alliance 2’s island, Arulco, which was taken over by a controlling dictator. And like in its predecessors, the core part of Jagged Alliance 3 revolves around restoring order and putting together a team of mercenaries to fight alongside you. Like in previous games, you’ll need to be mindful of your bank balance as you hire different mercenaries. Combat also takes the shape of turn-based battles on Desperados III-style maps. If you haven’t played the first and/or second Jagged Alliance, though, don’t fret: story-wise, Jagged Alliance 3 stands very well on its own, and offers a perfect opportunity for newcomers to dip their toes in the waters of the Jagged Alliance series.
When you first boot up the game, you’ll be presented with a mock-up browser and chat system where you can contact different mercenaries, check their background and fees, and hire them for upcoming missions. Each mercenary comes with a unique skillset, background, and experience level. The more experienced the mercenary, the higher their fee will be. You can check out a mercenary’s specific skills by looking at their merc stats, which consist of different scores across nine categories: health, agility, dexterity, strength, wisdom, leadership, marksmanship, mechanical, explosive, and medical. Each category is self-explanatory: the better a mercenary’s marksmanship, for example, the higher the chance their shots will hit; the higher a mercenary’s mechanical skill, the better placed they are to repair broken weapons or equipment; and the higher a merc’s medical stat, the better they’ll be at patching up an ally.
“…the flexibility of merc stats is sure keep you entertained for hours.”
Once you’ve decided on which mercenaries to approach, you can do so on what effectively looks like an antiquated version of ICQ. This, in turn, initiates a brief conversation in which the mercenary character decides whether to join your crew or not. While these conversations are clearly meant to be funny, the jokes don’t always land. As with previous games in the series, Jagged Alliance takes a lot of inspiration from corny pre-2000’s action movies, meaning that anytime a merc opens their mouth, the developers see this as an opportunity to shoehorn a tonne of jokes into the game. You’ll get a lot of dialogue thrown at you whenever you hire characters, move them around on the battlefield, or sneak around exploring different areas of the map. While these jokes rarely feel malicious or mean, a lot of the dialogue feels naff rather than zingy. In this sense, it’s a good thing that the core mechanic of the game – checking merc stats, putting together a strong team, and plunging straight into combat – are the highlights of the game, and even with some annoying dialogue, the mechanics are interesting enough to keep you engaged.
When you decide to offer a mercenary the job, you’ll be able to specify what squad you want them to be a part of, and how many days you’d like to contract them for. Be careful though: mercenaries come with high daily fees, and if their contract expires, you’ll have to make sure you have enough funds to keep them on. Once you’ve assembled your crew, it’s time to open the ‘satellite view’. This view let’s you see a map of your surroundings, relevant mission destination markers, and different points of interest to travel to. Map points with a skull mean that you’ll enter a hostile area and will have to fight your way through a level consisting of a specific battle map. Similarly to titles like Gears Tactics and Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate, you’ll get an overview of how many enemy units are present in a particular level and how powerful they are before jumping in. This way, you can ensure your mercenary squad is powerful enough to take them on.
Once you decide to load up a level, you’ll be able to explore different areas on the map at your own pace, either with your mercenaries running around at normal speed, or by stealthily sneaking past enemies. While stealth may mean that your squad moves a little more slowly, it’s beneficial for surprising your foe: particularly for mercs with a high level of agility and dexterity, sneaking is a great way to make stealth kills and get rid of enemies quickly. One of the nice touches about Jagged Alliance 3 is the addition of little details that make the game more immersive. If you’re aiming to kill an enemy by sneaking up on them, for example, you’ll have to ensure to equip your mercenary with a silent weapon, so as to not alert other enemies in the vicinity. Other factors, like the weather, will also affect your chances of success: fog, rain, and dust storms all affect visibility and mobility, and you may have to deal with jammed weapons, movement penalties, and a reduced visual range. You’ll also have to ensure your mercs have enough time to rest and recover between battles. If not, they’ll start losing action points, which will make future battles more difficult.
Combat itself in Jagged Alliance 3 is turn-based. Any turn-based tactics fan will be familiar with the basic elements of battle: every turn, your mercenaries have a number of action points available that can be spent on active abilities, like moving or attacking, and passive abilities, like overwatch. Once you’ve spent all your action points, each enemy unit will make their move in response. There are certain things that impact your mercenaries’ chance of success in battle: such as whether your mercenaries are behind cover whenever there’s enemy fire, what level of experience a merc has, and whether the morale of your overall squad is high or low. If your mercs keep getting hurt, their morale will suffer, and if you’re not able to address this, your mercs may have fewer action points available as a result.
“…even experienced players will find themselves thinking more deeply about how to set their team up for success.”
What is perhaps less traditional about turn-based combat in Jagged Alliance 3, is its chance to hit mechanic. Past entries listed the odds of a successful hit by a precise percentage. Now, this has been completely removed, leaving it up to the players to deduce the odds of success themselves. While it may be frustrating to some, it also adds a surprising amount of suspense to the overall combat experience, and even experienced players will find themselves thinking more deeply about how to set their team up for success. Where in other games, you can have one party member with a good aim do most of the heavy lifting, Jagged Alliance 3 will force you to adopt a solid strategy when it comes to your team’s formation and how to successfully ambush enemies on the battlefield. This is especially important when you consider that mercs can die fairly quickly.
If severely hurt during battle, a merc will enter a ‘downed’ stage. From there, they’ll only have a few turns left before they bleed out. If you are unable to get a medic to them in time, it’s game over for that particular mercenary, and you may find yourself spending more money to bring on someone new. This, combined with the game’s merc stats, greatly raises the stakes of putting together an effective team of mercs in Jagged Alliance 3, which, in turn, makes it all the more enjoyable as an overall gameplay experience.
The game makes it easy to select a group of mercs that caters to your personal playstyle, giving a lot of different players an entry point into the game. No matter whether you’re someone who enjoys confrontation by chucking grenades at everything, or you’re keen on taking the stealth route, the flexibility of merc stats is sure to keep you entertained for hours. Added to this that the different level maps are incredibly varied, visually stunning, and come with plenty of indoor and outdoor locations to explore, it’s easy to while away the hours sneaking and shooting on Grand Chien.
- Engaging combat mechanics
- Merc stats cater to different playstyles
- No precise chance to hit mechanic adds plenty of suspense to combat
- Beautiful visuals and varied maps and environments
- Merc dialogue feels naff rather than funny
If you’re a turn-based strategy fan, the combat in Jagged Alliance 3 is not to be missed. Thanks to the game’s varied mercenary stats, it’s easy to put together a team that aligns well with your preferred personal play style and the game’s combat mechanics are accessible yet suspenseful, thanks to the absence of a precise percentage-to-hit chance. While the game’s dialogue feels naff in places and could’ve been executed better overall, it’s a small price to pay for the high level of entertaining battles. And if that’s your thing, Jagged Alliance 3 is sure to deliver.