Jagged Alliance 3 Review – Get to the Choppa!

After having spent the better part of two decades being absent from the world of gaming, the Jagged Alliance franchise is back with its third entry. Check out our review.

Posted By | On 14th, Jul. 2023

Jagged Alliance 3 Review – Get to the Choppa!

The Jagged Alliance franchise—a series of turn-based tactics games coupled with in-depth RPG and management mechanics—has had a storied history. With the first couple of games being quite popular among fans of tactics games back in the 90s, the franchise’s lack of presence in the modern day aside from a few ill-fated attempts over the last decade has been curious. Despite a tumultuous development period dating in some shape or form since the early 2000’s, however, we finally have a direct sequel in the form of Jagged Alliance 3.

For those among us who might have missed out on playing the previous Jagged Alliance games, the series essentially revolves around you hiring a group of mercenaries and leading them into battles against some sort of cartoonishly-evil villain. What makes the series standout, however, was the general tone in the games bordering on being parodies of classic hallmarks of action, like the Soldier of Fortune magazines or the movie Commando. Coupled with in-depth brutally-realistic combat for its time, the Jagged Alliance games were incredibly unique takes on a genre that is typically dominated by either military realism or left to the realm of high fantasy.

Despite not being developed by the now-defunct studio Sir-Tech, Jagged Alliance 3 still manages to continue the series tradition of offering turn-based combat that makes good use of more realistic concepts, while still bringing in an incredibly level of levity from its tone, and how over-the-top just about every single thing can be. This includes the cartoonish motivations of the antagonist known only as The Major, how time can be spent between missions, and even the fact that you can essentially hire highly-skilled mercenaries over the Internet.

"Jagged Alliance 3 still manages to continue the series tradition of offering turn-based combat that makes good use of more realistic concepts, while still bringing in an incredibly level of levity from its tone"

At its core, while Jagged Alliance 3 can be compared to something like XCOM 2, these comparisons fall apart once you get into the nitty-gritty of the game’s various mechanics. For example, rather than being randomly-generated, the mercenaries in Jagged Alliance 3 actually have a lot of personality, which helps quite a bit in some of the game’s more RPG-centric aspects. Outside of battle, you’ll still find yourself taking on a fair bit of management work, however, from making sure that your captured outposts are safe and secure, to training your mercenaries, all the while keeping an eye on your ever-dwindling cash reserves.

When you start out, Jagged Alliance 3 doesn’t take too long to kick things into high gear. You’re given the basic setup: the president of the country Grand Chien has been kidnapped by The Major. The president’s family decides to pool their resources and hire you to take their country back from the paramilitary group The Legion. You’re quickly thrown into the fray; hire a few mercs depending on what you think you’re going to end up needing and go rescue the president.

While Jagged Alliance 3 doesn’t have many of the rougher edges of its predecessors—earlier battles aren’t really going to be too difficult as long as you don’t go in guns blazing—it still rewards strategic thinking to quite an extent. Stealth is an incredible tool, for example, and can allow you to set up intricate ambushes before you take your first shot.

jagged alliance 3 1

"You’re quickly thrown into the fray; hire a few mercs depending on what you think you’re going to end up needing and go rescue the president."

When it comes to the core gameplay in its battles, Jagged Alliance 3 offers plenty of depth, both in terms of choices as well as in outcomes. Depending on your mercenaries’ equipment, you can have a number of options to deal with enemies, from taking them out with a silenced pistol while maintaining stealth, to going for a quick, tactical kill with the precision of a sniper rifle, to just going in guns-blazing while your medic throws grenades all over the place. When it comes to outcomes, you can leave your own mark on the battlefield by, among other things, destroying cover, turning your enemies’ weapon encampments against them, or even just by doing something as simple as avoiding most enemies and focusing on your main target instead.

Quite a few things can affect how battles play out, from the availability of cover, the general visibility in the area due to buildings or foliage, or even just the simple fact of whether or not someone’s wearing the right kind of armor. Couple that with the level of weapon and equipment customization, and the number of options in just about every aspect of how you might want to handle missions.

Outside of battles, Jagged Alliance 3 more closely resembles an RPG than anything else. You’re going to spend quite a bit of time talking to people, gathering supplies, and taking on side-quests that will ultimately reward you with greater funds and equipment. You’re also given quite a bit of control in just how you go about outfitting your mercenaries, be it in terms of weaponry, armor, or other equipment. You’ll also be doing quite a bit of management work. Aside from acquiring all of your weapons and equipment, you’ll also be juggling the contracts of your various mercenaries, dealing with their training, as well as having them conduct extra operations like scouting or training local militia, and negotiating with them when their contract is up.

jagged alliance 3 2

"Outside of battles, Jagged Alliance 3 more closely resembles an RPG than anything else."

Unfortunately, some of the managerial aspects of gameplay might start feeling a bit tedious. After all, who enjoys having to do financial forecasts and analysis to decide whether training a militia is the best financial option for your group of mercenaries right now. Couple that with the fact that running low on funds can be especially crippling if it also coincides with the contracts of your mercenaries running out, renegotiation can be expensive, and that cheaper mercenaries might not have the skills to match your current needs.

Thankfully, the unique personalities all of the mercenaries show off makes dealing with their nonsense almost entirely worth it. While not particularly deep characters, the mercenaries are essentially parodies of just about every action movie trope you can imagine. From the mysterious Dr. Q being adept at using medicine, to the well-defined muscles of Steroid, to the utter insanity of Ivan’s skills with a gun, just about every action movie archetype, trope, or cliche you can imagine is represented in some shape or form in Jagged Alliance 3.

On the technical side of things, Jagged Alliance 3 is a decent looking game. It does a great job of making use of a vivid color palette, making just the right things pop while keeping other things obscured. In terms of performance, I was able to maintain a steady frame rate while pumping just about every graphical option as high as it could go. For context, the game was reviewed on a mid-range PC equipped with an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti. The game also managed to hold its own on the Steam Deck after tinkering with the settings, but at the time of writing, it lacked a good control scheme option, leaving you with the trackpad and triggers as your best choice.

jagged alliance 3 4

"It does a great job of making use of a vivid color palette, making just the right things pop while keeping other things obscured."

Jagged Alliance 3 does a great job of bringing a classic franchise to a modern audience. While managing to hold on to the depth of gameplay the franchise is known for, it still does a great job of introducing new players to its many systems and nuances, and the over-the-top writing is difficult to not enjoy. The RPG and management aspects work quite well with the minute-to-minute combat gameplay to make Jagged Alliance 3 an incredibly unique title, with maybe BattleTech and Phantom Brigade being the only other similar options.

If playing a turn-based take on classic action movies, complete with the silliness in terms of writing and characters that the genre is known for appeals to you, Jagged Alliance 3 is definitely something you want to check out.

This game was reviewed on PC.


THE GOOD

Excellent gameplay, Funny writing, Unique blend of genres.

THE BAD

Management aspects are tedious.

Final Verdict:
GREAT
Jagged Alliance 3 successfully taps into everything that made the franchise great to begin with, giving us a unique blend of genres that mixes turn-based tactical gameplay with some light RPG elements.
A copy of this game was provided by Developer/Publisher/Distributor/PR Agency for review purposes. Click here to know more about our Reviews Policy.
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