by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Filling the Gap
With the release of Jagged Alliance 3 slipping further away every day, fans of turn-based tactical games have begun to wonder whether developer Strategy First hasn’t merely been teasing them with an extended April Fool’s joke. In the mean time, several other studios have attempted to fill the gap. So far, their efforts have not been that successful, but Russian publisher 1C has brought over 7.62 High Caliber to conquer the Western market.
7.62 feels familiar from the start. While I wouldn’t call the game a ‘spiritual successor’ to Jagged Alliance, there are a lot of similarities. The overall map shows the Latin country of Algeira, which is split up into a safe zone and a restricted zone. You have been hired to find a man who has scammed some very dangerous men out of a considerable amount of money. A huge sum will be waiting for you should you manage to capture your target and return him to these men. ‘Capture’ is used loosely here; an identifiable body part will be just as good, and your employers aren’t picky.
Fighting for Survival
After you pick your first mercenary from a list of tough looking pre-determined men and women, 7.62 throws you into a world that most definitely draws inspiration from the Jagged franchise. The biggest differences are that mercenaries are not hired through a mercenary agency and weapons can be purchased only in towns or, more efficiently, pilfered from the dead after a successful combat session. Lucky for you, Algeira is a highly unstable country. Weapon traders can be found in every town, although most will only have limited stock.
Just as plentiful as the weapons are the opportunities to ply your trade. Your seed money will run out very soon and your chances of survival are slim as long as you stay on your own. Earning money by doing other people’s dirty work with companions that you hire along the way is the meat of 7.62. However, some jobs may have unexpected effects. Several factions have set up shop throughout the country. Doing a job for one faction, may rule out friendly contact with others. It isn’t long before you will need to choose which faction to support. Will you back the oppressive regime or join forces with the rebels that are looking to free Algeira? No matter which choice you make, you will end up seeing your ability to roam freely sharply hindered as different groups outlaw you, complicating your ultimate mission to find your mark.
Taking Time to Think
Combat is turn-based, but with a twist. The game features what developer Apeiron calls a Smart Pause Mode, or SPM. What this means is that the game pauses whenever a new situation occurs. A new situation may be entering combat, a new enemy entering the scene or even one of your men being ready for orders. With the game paused, you have time to assess the situation and give new orders to your men. In most cases, you will press space to get the game going again, just like with any other turn based game. But here comes the twist: while time stops because a mercenary has reported he needs new orders, time starts running again the moment that you have given him a new task. This system definitely takes some getting used to and I must admit to overriding the SPM more often than not by pressing the space bar right after giving a new order. If you play well, the SPM turns the game into a stop motion animation that flows forward with the speed of your orders. I am sure there will be people who will hardly ever override the SPM because of how it changes the gameplay dynamics.
Your mercs have a wide variety of weapons and items to equip themselves with. Over 150 firearms can be found in the game, and many can be customized with items such as flashlights, laser-aiming modules, scopes and even bayonet extensions.
Jagged Alliance v.2?
Playing the game, I quickly lost sight of finding my mark. Between the large variety in missions and the balancing act necessary to survive the civil war, it is easy to see why. I chose to tie my fate to that of the rebels and started taking over government controlled cities. It was then that I experienced the high difficulty factor. This game is not for those without patience.
Depending on who you ask, the release date is anywhere between now and September. Judging by the preview build that I have been playing, I would say the release date depends entirely on how much polish 1C wants to put on the game. With enough TLC, 7.62 High Caliber could very well be the first game that deserves to be compared to the revered Jagged Alliance franchise.