Jagged Alliance 1 and 2, the most important formative games from my tender young days, had set an impossible standard for many cloners, imitators, and shameless impersonators. For almost a quarter of a century, Alliances less Jagged crept from their holes like Crepitus bugs from the Tixa prison in Arulco. Everyone and their cat tried to capitalize on the Jagged Alliance legacy, and none could offer a whiff of merc magic that Sir-Tech wielded like a boss. Some developers tried half-assed name recognition sans copyright, which produced crap such as Brigade E5: New Jagged Union. Others tried to get back in action with Jagged Alliance – Back in Action. We also had Jagged Alliance Flashback and Jagged Alliance Online: Reloaded with many crappy DLC. The final insult came in 2018 with Jagged Alliance: Rage!, a horrible game full of cringey German humor. I wasn’t even mad about that last, pathetic clone, which should have been called Jagged Alliance: Sigh based on the merit of emotion it evoked.
Before I had a chance to get a glimpse of Jagged Alliance 3 on Gamescom 2022, I was radiating skepticism. But the guys from Bulgarian Haemimont Games presented such a convincing case that I was sold on it on the spot. After all those years, the magnificent bastards that revitalized Tropico nailed the essence of Jagged Alliance. I went home satisfied, assured that the guys have it in the bag.
Firepower, mate, separates men from the boys
One year later, they delivered all they had promised. Jagged Alliance 3 is a true sequel to the beloved classics. It has everything it’s supposed to have, including iconic mercs, a non-linear campaign, and strong NSFW humor. That last aspect is, by far, hardest to reproduce and emulate, but Haemimontians did a solid job operating within the constraints of the modern-day zeitgeist. What does that mean? It means that some over-the-top dialogue lines and merc blabbing from Jagged Alliance 2 are impossible in the current hypersensitive cultural climate. But they came close enough.
Jagged Alliance 3, like its predecessors, is all about liberating a tiny third-world country by mercenary incursion. After Matavira and Arulco, next in line is Grand Chien, a fictional francophone African nation suffering from many troubles. Chief among them is the Major, leader of the paramilitary forces that ousted the president and took over the country. President’s daughter, aided by the multinational corporation that exploited Chien’s diamond mines before the coup, enlists your help. So you’ll call up some old favorites from A.I.M. (Association of International Mercenaries) and embark upon a great crusade. You will encounter all sorts of people in Grand Chien, some with competing interests and different visions for this poor ex-colony’s future.
Money makes the mercs go round
In Jagged Alliance 3, budgetary concerns were always equally or more important than tactical constraints. Mercenaries cost money, and with very few exceptions, they will leave you on the spot if you lack the funds to extend their contract. Liberating diamond mines is the most important way of securing steady income. You will obtain extra cash by seizing diamond shipments, and to a lesser extent, by hacking computers and other electronics in the field. Depending on the difficulty level, you will either have to watch your finances like a hawk or you could afford some leeway. Best mercenaries are very expensive, and that fact hasn’t changed since the first Jagged Alliance.
As before, the path to success will be yours alone to chart. You will liberate villages, outposts, and other locations, train militia, repair equipment, and occasionally give your mercs some R&R. The dynamic character of the conflict means that the Legion will try to wrest the liberated territory from you, so you can expect a moderate to heavy tug-o-war. The strategic challenge, same as the finances, depends on the chosen difficulty level. If you feel suicidal, you can even play in Ironman mode, where every failure and death are permanent.
Most of those guys will never make it to Mensa
Your mercs are people with talents, quirks, and preferences. Some will get along with others and some will refuse to join your ranks if you hired someone they hate. In a classic RPG manner, they will react positively or negatively to your choices when dealing with key NPCs. Some will even try to extort you if they figure out that you swimming in cash. The thing they all hate, however, are casualties within the ranks. If you keep losing people, they will either raise the contractual price or flat-out refuse to be rehired. Every merc comes with a unique talent, and they all accumulate XP and have skill trees, which is a novelty for the JA series. To quote my avatar from Jagged Alliance 2: „Most of those guys will never make it to Mensa, but they are good enough in a fight“.
On the tactical side, besides gorgeous maps with a lot of verticality, there are numerous enhancements. Weapon classes, for example, are much more meaningful. In previous JA games, shotguns ceased to be viable once you got your hands on non-crappy automatic weapons. This time around, they work like charm indoors, firing in a wide arc and leaving all sorts of debuffs on foes. Machine guns work as proper squad support weapons, enabling prolonged overwatch from a fixed position. Sniper rifles are still kings of the battlefield, though. And marksmanship stat is way more important than anything else. The great novelty lies in eliminating hit percentages. Some people hate it, but it adds to the realism and unpredictability of war.
Hard work and clean living pays off
Jagged Alliance 3 is a worthy successor to two of the best PC military RPGs of the last century. It’s mind-boggling that it took almost a quarter of a century for someone to make the proper sequel, but what can you do? Haemimont guys once again proved to be the most capable fixers of ancient Western franchises. The work they did with Jagged Alliance is even more impressive than the operation they performed on Tropico. Eastern Europeans have the talent, imagine what they could accomplish with more resources and more substantial creative freedoms.
- Solid non-linear campaign with different paths and outcomes.
- Slick presentation, beautiful visuals.
- Different weapon classes make more sense now.
- Worthy successor to Jagged Alliance 2.
- Some new mercs, such as Omryn, are cringe as hell.
- Not as NSFW as Jagged Alliance 2 was.