by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
I saw the Jagged Alliance spin off and liked it
Let’s get the elephant out of the room first – Rage! is not Jagged Alliance 3 but a spin off. I know, I know. We’ve been waiting for a solid sequel for nearly two decades now, but I have to say that Rage! whetted my JA appetite more than the previous two attempts at breathing new life into the series.
How to best describe Jagged Alliance: Rage!… Think Jagged Alliance 2, remove the economic simulation and the character progression and then reduce the scope to three in-game days. Got it? Now add a modern game engine, focus on six of the franchises’ most iconic characters, and spice things up with much improved stealth mechanics. There, now you know what Rage! is all about. Oh wait, almost forgot: fast-forward 20 years into the future too!
The world has changed and mercenary agency AIM is struggling to keep its head above water. Most of its mercenaries have left, those that are still there are in bad shape. Ivan has bad knees and developed a drinking habit. Shadow barely survived a gas attack, greatly affecting his immune system, causing him to bleed easily, and the rest have not aged any better either. When Fidel, who is stranded on a tropical island surrounded by enemies, calls for help, the downtrodden bunch does not hesitate at all to come to his rescue. After all, they’re not just downtrodden, they also need cash.
As I mentioned earlier, there’s no character progression as such. As Executive Producer Michael Paeck puts it “how likely is it that anyone significantly improve over a period of three days”? He has a point. Fortunately there is another way to progress. You arrive on the island with the clothes on you back and little else. You’ll have to loot and scavenge to obtain better equipment, most of which will come from the bodies of your enemies. I was excited to see that the equipment you see on a soldiers will drop as loot when you take them down, and possibly a bit extra. I can already see myself sneak around to take down specific enemies to get their armor or weapon.
If you like your games to allow for a bit of stealth, you’ll be happy to learn that the stealth mechanic has been greatly improved. “You’ll usually be able to take some enemy soldiers down and hide without raising the alarm, though this would not be Jagged Alliance if we would not have a shootout on most maps.”, Michael explained as he directed Ivan to sneak up behind an unsuspecting soldier, slid his throat and unceremoniously dump him in the tall grass besides a bush. “Stealth is especially useful to take down the enemies that have a radio on them so that they cannot radio for help”.
Many of Jagged Alliance’s core mechanics make a return in Rage! . Everything is still AP based, moving around in stealth will cost you more AP than walking, and you can spend AP to add to your aim. It’s possible to lock onto specific body parts for various effects - nothing like a headshot, unless it’s a limping soldier with almost no range, and weapons can be modded and repaired.
Recoil is a new mechanic, and it causes your aim to decrease with every bullet fired, so a “spray and pray” has a better chance to hit with the first bullet than it does with the last. Some shots can cause shrapnel damage, which will cause heavy bleeding until dealt with. Just pulling the shrapnel out won’t be enough, bandages are necessary, but watch out that they are clean or your character will get sick and require medicine as well.
Reaction fire has been replaced with an overwatch mode which should give us a bit more control over when this happens. Fun fact: Shadow has a special skill that allows him to melee overwatch. It’s quite a sight seeing him take down a passing soldier. That might be a less likely occurrence with one of the game’s new commanders present though. These guys direct the actions of enemy soldiers, effectively making them work as a team and therefore more dangerous.
Perhaps the most eye-catching change is the addition of the adrenaline bar - and this is where the ‘rage’ comes in. The bar will fill up every time you see someone killed, either by your own hands or someone else's. Once the bar is full, you’ll get certain bonuses, like improved aim. Alternatively, you can spend the adrenaline on a special move, at the cost of losing the bonuses. This may be well worth it though - Raven has Squadsight and Precision Shot, Grunty can give extra AP to the others in the team, Ivan can be used as a shield, and Fidel (ever the sadist) can taunt his team and induce rage.
The Jagged Feel
I think THQ Nordic has their work cut out for them ensuring that fans of the series will see Jagged Alliance: Rage! as a spin off. Michael agreed and was adamant that they would not slap a “3” on the Jagged Alliance name until they would be able to properly fill the franchises very big shoes. Yet Rage!’s tactical battles are so reminiscent of Jagged Alliance 2’s that it is easy to imagine them being part of a game with a much larger scope. The visual style fits the series like a glove, everything is fully voiced and the engine purred like a little kitten during the demonstration.
If this is THQ Nordic testing the waters to gauge interest in the full experience, I’m confident they’ll be able to start work on it soon after Rage!’s release later this year.