There is no shortage of turn based tactical games on the market, but Jagged Alliance has always held a special place in the hearts of a great many people. It’s been some time since we last saw a proper, mainline Jagged Alliance instalment, and even though Jagged Alliance: Rage! is technically a spinoff, it seems to be harkening to the classic strategy games quite a bit. Recently, we sent across several of our questions about the game to developers Cliffhanger Productions, about everything from accessibility and difficulty to the game’s character roster and how it connects with the events of previous games, and it’s fair to say Michael Paeck, Head of Studio, came up with some pretty interesting responses.
"Overall the biggest changes is that you are fighting against a huge army with just a small group of Mercs, with no HQ support you are on your own staying alive out there."
How have the twenty long years since the last game’s events changed the characters in this game?
All the characters aged and developed certain habits and specialties. The impressively large Ivan for example can now be used as mobile cover by other Mercs. However over the years he also got bad knees which hurt when he drops down from high ground. Or Dr Q: He has mentally trained to focus, allowing him to gain additional action points, but over the years also his eyesight got worse making him a poor gunner.
What are some of the major gameplay changes that we’ll be seeing in Jagged Alliance: Rage?
Overall the biggest changes is that you are fighting against a huge army with just a small group of Mercs, with no HQ support you are on your own staying alive out there.
On the strategy level, the game is quite similar to previous titles and remains to offer a deep strategic challenge with plenty of options on how to approach a target. You can invest additional AP to aim more precisely, change stances, use elevations, etc. But there are also new additions like special skills that are unique to each character, or new stealth features, e.g. you can kill enemies instantly if you manage to sneak behind them without being noticed.
On the tactical level there are major changes since you are cut off from your HQ, and therefore you must try to survive and escape from the island. This results in different economics where you manage various survival aspects. So you take care of your group on a more personal level, which will link you much closer to your small group of mercenaries. This is for example thirst that can lead to dehydration, or wounds that bleed and can become inflamed or even crafting weapon mods from parts.
Can you elaborate about some of the survival and adventure elements players can expect to see in the game?
Survival example: If your characters get wounded and catch a shrapnel, there is a chance of getting an infection if the shrapnel isn’t removed from the body. An infected wound will lower the overall performance of that Merc. All Mercs also have a hydration level, which dictates how well they can perform in combat and how well their immune system works.
Adventure: Over the course of the game your characters meet several NPCs they can talk to via multiple choice. Without spoiling the story, there are situations where the player has to decide whether to help an ally or stay out of it. Further there are plenty of funny dialogues when you Mercs start picking on each other.
How accessible is this game going to be, and how challenging can it get? Tell us more about the difficulty settings available to players in the game.
The game aims to be more accessible than previous titles. This is achieved by a more clear user interface, less complicated inventory management and also plenty of “learning by doing” situations during the first hour of gameplay. However, once this first hour has passed, the game opens up and the challenge increases continuously over the course of the game. There are certain missions which are really really tough, but when beaten they offer great rewards.
There are 3 difficulty settings available: Easy for the casual players that are mainly interested in following the story. Here the enemies are easier to kill and your own Mercs have better chances to survive. But on Medium and Hard difficulty this changes drastically, making it significantly harder to kill enemy foes and keep your Mercs healthy.
"Making this game more accessible means it takes less time to understand the basic rules & mechanics of the game, but this doesn’t mean it will become a dumbed down experience."
In a game like this, it seems like reducing the difficulty would get in the way of the overall experience. How does the game achieve a balance of being accessible while still bringing tense gameplay?
On Easy mode the difficulty is reduced. However on medium and hard difficulty, the challenge is more in line with the series’ predecessors. You’ll have to make sure to use any bit of help you can get and plan carefully before you strike. However, since this game does some things different compared to its predecessors, a 1:1 comparison is not really possible.
Making this game more accessible means it takes less time to understand the basic rules & mechanics of the game, but this doesn’t mean it will become a dumbed down experience. The player will often be surprised, be it by development of a battle or by story elements. In this game it will happen often that you come up with a good plan but then something goes wrong and hell breaks loose!
How large will the game’s roster of characters be?
There are 7 characters the player can control, each with their unique strengths, weaknesses and special abilities.
On a related note, what are some of the unique traits and personal conflicts of these characters, and how do these impact gameplay?
A few examples:
Ivan Dolvich, the former highly decorated Soviet Army Major, is so large that he works as mobile cover for other Mercs, but due to his size he can only hide while being prone. Also he has a bigger inventory and really good with assault rifles and shotguns. When he gets enraged, he can withstand more damage than any other Merc. But he is also an alcoholic, so he needs alcohol to function properly. So overall Ivan is more like a tank and a good choice for players that enjoy direct conflict
Kyle “Shadow” Simmons is an ex-Ranger and stealth expert, making less noise overall and only he can throw knifes for stealth kills. Further he is always concealed when in cover and really good with SMGs. But he is also a bleeder with higher chances to get infections. He is a good choice for players that like stealth gameplay and clever strategies to trick the enemies.
Carlene “Raven” Higgens is a former SWAT team sniper, therefore really good with pistols and rifles. She can is not restricted by own sight range and has a special precision shot that ignores armor. If an enemy gets close, she can disarm them and grab their guns. But since she is also not the strongest person and therefore unable to use heavy weapons. She is a good choice for players that enjoy sniping and striking where it really hurts.
The list goes on for the remaining characters, where each one has really strong differences and supports certain playstyles. Choosing the right Mercs for your playstyle is key to success!
Will the game feature Xbox One X specific enhancements? What can players expect if they are playing the game on Xbox One X? Is 4K/60fps on the cards?
4K is on the cards, but at 30fps. For a turn based game we felt reaching 60fps is less critical than e.g. in a racing game.
And how will the PS4 Pro version turn out in terms of resolution and frame rate?
The game runs slightly better on a PS4 Pro, however there are no differences in terms of resolution and framerate.
"Most turn based games are naturally limited by CPU power, since the underlying battle simulation must do insane amounts of background calculations to provide accurate and believable combat situations. In our case this results that 4K support was quite easy, but since CPU is the limiting factor achieving 60FPS would have been a really major undertaking especially for a smaller developer like us."
From a development perspective, how do you find the Xbox One X to be? With so much GPU power, we are sure you must be doing some amazing things.
This really depends on the type of game and the size of the developer. Most turn based games are naturally limited by CPU power, since the underlying battle simulation must do insane amounts of background calculations to provide accurate and believable combat situations. In our case this results that 4K support was quite easy, but since CPU is the limiting factor achieving 60FPS would have been a really major undertaking especially for a smaller developer like us.
How is the game running on the original Xbox One and PS4, frame rate and resolution wise?
The game runs in 1080p with 30fps on the regular PS4 and on 900p with 30fps on base Xbox models.
Are there any plans to bring the game to the Switch? If not, why?
Unfortunately, it’s too early to speak about this now.
Next gen is coming sooner or later. From a development perspective, what is your biggest expectation from PS5 and Xbox Scarlett?
If 4K gaming will be the norm by then, of course much faster GPU and CPU power will be the key, along with significantly faster hard drives. For smaller development teams like us it is beneficial to have less different variants of a console, as this means we can focus much more on one platform.