by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
The world is your oyster
MMO publisher Gamigo seems keen on developing online versions of fan favorites from back in the days. GamesCom gave us an opportunity to not only see UFO Online, but also Jagged Alliance Online. Like UFO Online, Jagged Alliance Online borrows heavily from its namesake original but doesn’t quite fall into the sequel category. True for both games, however, is that they offer a similar gameplay experience as their predecessors and have been adapted for online gaming.
In Jagged Alliance Online, the whole world is your playground. Unlike the original Jagged Alliance games, it isn’t set on a tropical island and your team of mercenaries will be offered contracts to go on missions all over the world. You will run your operations from a jungle camp where you will be preparing your team for missions by hiring and equipping mercenaries. The camp was said to be upgradeable but at the time, no particulars were given. We expect these upgrades to improve crafting abilities and speed up healing of your mercenaries, among others.
Prepped up and ready to go
The menu screens offer a lot of information about your equipment. Apart from the usual damage and range of weapons, you’ll also be able to see how much recoil they produce and how your merc will handle that recoil. Also shown is just how much damage his armor can absorb from the front, the rear and the sides without being penetrated. So depending on their armor, your mercs may be veritable tanks from the front, but much more vulnerable from any other direction. And no matter what item you equip, you will see it accurately portrayed on the character model. Once fully equipped, it’s time to send your mercenaries on some missions for cold, hard cash!
Wait, not so fast. While the game has around one hundred different missions, not all of them will be available right from the start. You will need to build up a reputation to gain access to many of the higher-paid contracts, along with adhering to certain conditions like for example having a certain number of passes to be allowed into a particular country. You build your reputation by going on missions from people who will hire just about anybody.
The mercenary way
Jagged Alliance Online looks a little grittier than its predecessors and even the mercenary portraits exude the grim but calm confidence of veterans that have been to hell and beyond and lived to tell about it. Having access to the franchise license, Gamigo was able to use familiar faces like Ivan, Shadow and Reaper which goes a long way towards making it feel like a real Jagged Alliance game.
Once inside a mission, this feeling is strengthened even further. Combat is still turn-based and giving orders to your men is quick and intuitive. There are a few changes to be found here though. One of which is that your mercs won’t bleed to death after being shot and med-kits are nowhere to be seen. A critical strike may still kill your people, but it’s more likely that they will start slouching or are having to crawl after having been shot in the leg. A crippled mercenary will return to the camp after the battle and can be nursed back to health over time. Another change is that running mercenaries will have a higher chance of dodging a bullet or exploding barrel as his momentum increases reaction time. The game also sports a number of different AI types, each with their own specific behavior. Some AI characters will flee the scene at the merest sign of your approach, but others act more like berserkers and will continue to fire at you even at overwhelming odds against them.
The online aspect of the game consists of a PvP mode where you can go head to head with other players and a coop mode that allows you to mix and match multiple teams into one team best suited for a particular missions. These missions will be played out on larger maps to support the increased number of mercenaries.
Jagged? Yes. Alliance? Nope.
It’s easy to see that Jagged Alliance Online is akin to the original Jagged Alliance games, and in some ways it gets very close. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical about the game before having seen it in action, but that skepticism disappeared when I saw the game in action. There is a lot to like here and there are many similarities in key areas of the game.
Yet the main aspect that keeps it from being a true Jagged Alliance game is that it misses the territory control aspect. Sure, a decent storyline and quest system are important too, but being able to expand your territory is such an integral part of the original games that it’s difficult to match up Jagged Alliance Online with the games it drew its inspiration from. That said, however, turn-based fans will love this game, no matter what name it carries.