Jagged Alliance 3 Review – It hits despite the miss chance

Jagged Alliance 3 could easily be three different games, but this amalgamation of deep mechanics and satirical storytelling just seems to work.
Promotional image for Jagged Alliance 3.
Image: Haemimont Games

One of the most important things a game can do these days is make a good first impression. With a massive market of games out there to play, many of which maintain daily player attention, it’s important for a new title to let you know right away that it’s what you want to be playing right now, before you get tempted to go off and do something else. If the game is good, you’ll get a taste of what to expect in the first ten minutes.

Jagged Alliance 3 made a good first impression by throwing me into the game with basically no tutorials. Sure, there were popups here and there explaining controls, but besides an interesting cutscene setting up the game’s plot, I was thrown into the experience right away when the game placed me in front of the laptop used to recruit mercenaries for my upcoming mission. In an age where so many games handhold you or have drawn-out openings, Jagged Alliance 3 gets you into the action basically right away and lets you know that you’ll have to rely on your own ingenuity to navigate this game.

Jagged Alliance 3 is a turn-based tactical strategy game where players hire and control squads of mercenaries in the fictional country of Grand Chien. After the President of the nation is kidnapped and a dangerous group known as The Legion takes over the country, you are contracted to defeat the group’s enigmatic and dangerous leader and end the conflict in the region. To do so, the game will have you switching back and forth between squad-based combat parodying 80’s action flicks and resource management behind the screen of your in-game laptop.

Jagged Alliance 3 Kill
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

The easiest and most obvious comparison for the game’s gameplay is the XCOM franchise. If you’ve played any of these games, you have a good understanding of what the turn-based combat has in store for you, right down to miss percentages and dubious cover systems. While I had way too much fun looting gear from fallen enemies and building my merc’s loadouts, I will say that the game’s combat is easily the weakest aspect in my opinion. It is totally passable, and even in a lot of ways intuitive, and will definitely be fun for fans of the genre, especially with the ability to target specific body parts on your opponents and spend action points to aim, tuning down a bit of that miss chance rng. While I’ve certainly played and enjoyed a lot of similar turn-based games, I struggle to keep myself from getting bored due to sluggish features present in a lot of them, which unfortunately have found their way into Jagged Alliance 3.

Jagged Alliance 3 Attack Bunker
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Turns can drag on pretty long, especially with the stilted frames of stillness between animations and the long periods of characters just walking from place to place. While I understand this is the third game in a trilogy and no major gameplay changes could really be made, I really feel like this game would have excelled as a real-time strategy game ala Men of War instead of the turn-based system they went with. While I need to emphasize that fans of the genre will find no problem with the gameplay, Jagged Alliance 3 is going to have players like me who are drawn to other aspects of the game and put off by the gameplay.

Thankfully, if you really don’t want to deal with this part of the game, you can auto-resolve combat encounters and focus your attention elsewhere.

Instead of having a team of heroes who cause a game over if they die, the mission in Jagged Alliance 3 are completed by mercenaries that you hire online and deploy to the map. These mercenaries are individual characters, and when they die they’re dead. Thankfully, you can just deploy a new squad in to continue where they left off. There are no checkpoints or redos, you just keep throwing professionals at the situation until it’s done.

Jagged Alliance 3 Merc Hire
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

The management side of the game combines the need to complete the mission with the need to conserve your money and actually profit from the contract at hand. You will find yourself juggling your desire to help the locals of Grand Chien and the need to gather intel and secure resources with the fact that time is, quite literally, money. Mercenaries are paid according to the length of the contract you negotiate with them, often weekly, and everything from the various operations (such as training militia, repairing gear or just some R&R to recover morale) and just traversing areas on the map takes time. Slow and steady does not always win the race as your dwindling resources force you to play around with an interesting logistical game not present in many similar titles.

Jagged Alliance 3 Defense
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Jagged Alliance 3’s map quickly reveals itself to be a source of another strategic challenge outside of the game’s combat. The map of Grand Chien is separated into hexagon tiles, with each tile representing a section of the country that serves as a battleground in the mission to defeat the Legion. I mean that literally. Each tile has its own unique map, sometimes with multiple levels and with enemies or allies to interact with.

Jagged Alliance 3 Defending Bunker
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Securing each tile is a challenge that requires your mercs to drop in and clear out the nearby outpost. Some areas serve as hubs for friendly or enemy activity, from which a game of push and pull is played as the enemy sends attack squads out to reclaim territory. These squads are often much stronger than the outposts originating in that territory, forcing you to play defensively as you decide which areas are worth defending and which aren’t. Training militia is one of my favorite aspects of the game, as it actually physically gives you troops on the board to deal with these kinds of attacks.

I should also mention the game’s writing, which pretty brilliantly parodies some of the most famous action movies of our time. Comedy manages to seep its way into the otherwise serious and engaging narrative through conversations and, above all else, the interesting characters. The mercenaries are packed with personality, some better than others, featuring a cast of satirical shooters ranging from a techy geek in a mouse hoodie to a statuesque bruiser and his flirty companion. It’s hard to overstate just how much charm the game has simply listening to how different teams of mercs interact with each other and the world around them.

Jagged Alliance 3 Mouse
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

The Final Word

Jagged Alliance 3 takes a familiar yet improved-upon turn-based experience, a unique resource management system, 4x-Lite strategy and a satirical setting bursting with character and tosses them all together. While the turn-based combat isn’t going to be everyone’s favorite aspect of the game, it is easy to say that Jagged Alliance 3 hits way more than it misses and offers plenty more for players to enjoy.

9

Try Hard Guides was provided with a PC review copy of this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website! Jagged Alliance 3 is available on Steam and GoG.

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges is a hobby writer and a professional gamer, at least if you asked him. He has been writing fiction for over 12 years and gaming practically since birth, so he knows exactly what to nitpick when dissecting a game's story. When he isn't reviewing games, he's probably playing them.

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