In recent years, tactical games have been on the rise with many quality games, or greatly appreciated by fans of the genre. Between the very good XCOM 2or most recent Wasteland 3, the players had something to eat. However, there is a very old license which, in its time, enjoyed a large community of fans: Jagged Alliance. With its second opus released in 1999, the series had attempted a comeback with the very critical Jagged Alliance: Rage. Fortunately for the fans, this critical and commercial failure did not prevent the release of the brand new opus of the license: Jagged Alliance 3.
Developed by Haemimont Games, the creators of Tropic 5 And Surviving Mars, the title is published by THQ Nordic. Available since July 14, 2023, it was eagerly awaited by fans of tactical games and shootouts. As much to reassure aficionados immediately, since Jagged Alliance 3 meets expectations and knows how to offer a rich but accessible experience, while offering a gaming pleasure that has nothing to envy to the competition. We detail all this in this test!
Test conditions: We played Jagged Alliance 3 on PC for a little over thirty hours, enough time to complete the campaign and complete the majority of the ancillary elements. It will take between 5 and 10 more hours of play, at least, in order to be able to hope to finish everything.
An inspired title full of inspirations
The first thing to know is that Jagged Alliance 3 features in-depth, yet accessible tactical combat. This mixture works well and provides satisfaction to the player during all the missions. By its tactical genre, the title offers the player to manage a team of overtrained mercenaries to carry out missions and other turn-based assaults. Of course, the squad can be customized and each character has a class, as well as attributes of their own, allowing for great variety in gameplay.
On the plot side, this third opus serves up a simplistic story, where the player is tasked with saving the president of a fictional nation in West Africa. The latter has, in fact, been captured by kidnappers working on behalf of a villain by the name of “Major”. With some funds, you will have to mount an elite unit that will go to his rescue. A plot that, for the genre, sounds like deja vu.
Taking place in 2001, Jagged Alliance 3 also likes to juggle with clichés and other stereotypes from American films of the late 20th and early 21st century. We feel the inspirations very well, as well as the testosterone and the taste for combat that drips from each line of dialogue. Very, even too sluggish, this atmosphere and this humor will not resonate with everyone, but with a certain perspective and a little recontextualization, we easily manage to get caught up in the game here and there, while the we walk the winding hills where many enemies await us who only dream of killing us.
For those who might be disturbed by this very American-American cinematic imprint, Jagged Alliance 3 still offers nice things to be forgiven. First of all, it must be emphasized that the turn-based combat portrayed by the game is excellent. The title also offers diversity by allowing the player to customize his squad by integrating up to six different characters. Each has its own specialty, ranging from heavy weapons to sniper rifles, including of course various explosives. Each player can then decide how he approaches the various missions of the game. It is quite possible to carry out each mission with a doctor and five users of heavy weapons, as it is possible to play it discreetly with various snipers who move slowly. This opus is therefore very permissive in your approach to combat, although some tighter areas will hurt you if you have opted for a team specializing in long-distance combat. But, apart from these rare phases, the title lets you enjoy your experience in your own way, without ever forcing yourself.
Another appreciable point is that the developers thought it best to make each character unique. To hell with the procedural generation of characters who all look the same and have no background worthy of the name. Here, each mercenary has his own characteristics, as well as his past and his behavior. All this has an impact on the missions as well as the morale of the troops. Let’s take the example of Livewire, which, through its sarcasm, unlocks new possibilities for dialogue, or that of the Canadian doctor, which boosts the morale of the entire troop as soon as it performs a successful shot. In short, everything has been thought out so that each choice made by the player opens up new possibilities for him to play. A very beneficial point for the title as a whole.
Many good ideas at all levels
In another register, Jagged Alliance 3 also features a co-op mode, where two players can each hire their own squad and manage it. Of course, everything is done from a common fund so as not to make the adventure too simple. A negative point in this mode is that the two players must stay together, it is not possible for one to clean an area, while the second takes care of another.
More generally, one could also criticize the fact that the “nag” approach is often the most effective. Since enemies don’t always go down on the first try, covers aren’t always functional, and you don’t have endless ammo either, it often becomes easier to get your whole squad in line and do so that all of your characters shoot at the same target until it drops dead. A very unfortunate point as the potential of the title is enormous and its fights exciting.
Nevertheless, this third opus makes up for it by offering one of the most successful world maps, and of a more than respectable size for the genre. Indeed, this map features over 100 different regions, each with its own custom battle map. Of course, diversity is required in these many maps since you can browse many different settings. Urban areas, savannas, lightly wooded plains, beaches, etc. By the way, some of these areas offer no enemies and are only used for resource gathering purposes.
An interesting little note to keep in mind, by the way, is that the title also offers a permanent death mode. As its name suggests, this feature allows a fallen mercenary to die permanently. Bringing more realism to the game and tension in the fights, this mode is highly recommended in order to make the experience more immersive and engaging. Experience which presents a small facility however: it quickly becomes very simple to raise money. It is therefore important, to maintain a good level of difficulty, to avoid relying too much on the latter.
Despite everything, the title remains full of good ideas, once again bringing a good variety in the possibilities as well as a certain replayability. Among these ideas, we find in particular the various options allowing the improvement of the mercenaries. Via the use of components, which you can find on the various maps of the game or by dismantling objects, you can create weapon mods. Having various effects, these mods can provide bonuses to aiming, or even bonuses to the critical. It is also possible to add armor to your soldiers, or increase their level, which will unlock new skills depending on their statistics.
Finally, note that the title, in addition to offering a wide variety of possibilities, also offers a gargantuan cast of characters. Since everyone has their own personality, everyone also has their own lines of dialogue as well as different involvement and impact on many levels. Changing squads during the adventure, or simply starting over by taking other favorite members could then greatly change the atmosphere that reigns in your team, bringing a breath of fresh air to your experience.