Jagged Alliance: Rage is the sequel to the acclaimed Jagged Alliance series, which tells the story of the adventure of a group of mercenaries and their difficult working days. All parts of the series were in the genre of turn-based tactical strategy with role-playing elements and over the long history of the series, and this is for a second since 1994, gathered around a large army of fans and became a kind of standard of the genre. But could Jagged Alliance: Rage! to preserve and increase all this, delighting both old fans of the franchise and modern gamers? Let’s figure it out.
A few words about the series
As already mentioned, the first part of Jagged Alliance appeared back in 1994, and after the release of one add-on in 1999, a sequel was released, after which numerous official and unofficial add-ons were released. According to the plot of the game, there is a certain AIM organization engaged in the supply of mercenaries. Starting the game, we choose a squad of several fighters with their own characteristics and features. The gameplay itself is divided into a strategic component and a tactical one. In the first aspect of the game, we need to deal with the management of the squad and the management of key objects on the map, and the tactical part of the game is expressed in turn-based combat, where the key to success is well-chosen and thoughtful actions of each member of your squad.
First impressions of the announcement of a new game
The return of the cult series about the dangerous adventures of mercenaries and their operations to overthrow dictatorial regimes came as a surprise. Jagged Alliance Rage was announced about 7 days before the start of Gamescom, and in this regard, the prefix “Rage” best described everything that resulted in the game in the early days. After the release of a series of videos about the new part, fans of the first games in the Jagged Alliance series, which were the benchmark for tactical one-step RPGs, filled all possible social networks with their negativity. Poor graphics and stealth at the level of smartphone games looked very mediocre. A more detailed presentation of the game at the exhibition itself brought in a number of key points and clarifications. The most important of them is quite simple – this project was not created as a new part and it is wrong to consider it as Jagged Alliance 3.
Key aspects of the gameplay and a few words about the plot
In Jagged Alliance 2, you had the opportunity to lead the actions of your mercenary wards to wage war in occupied territory. You could: seize resources, create a new army of volunteers, and step by step return the people back to their lands, which were taken from him by the bloody dictator with his army. If we consider the very conduct of battles in this game, then from similar projects only XCOM and BattleTech come to mind, and in terms of the strategic mode, this series is generally unique and there is not even much to compare it with in this aspect. The developers of Rage added the most memorable mercenaries from Jagged Alliance and Jagged Alliance 2, who have aged more than 20 years since the release of those games, and came up with a simple plot like the same “Expendables”. They say that all the key characters have not been in business for a long time, someone was very sick, someone was simply drunk, but they are always ready to dust off their weapons and help the poor people remove the dictator, and at the same time earn some money for a comfortable old age.
As in previous parts, the battles in the new Jagged Alliance: Rage are turn-based. The developers proudly noted that the action points were saved as in the original and they did not follow the trends and do as in the same XCOM. This makes it possible to plan in detail how to move around the map and conduct shooting. For example, just going several times cheaper than sneaking, and if you want, you can spend points on an additional attack, or make your accuracy higher. A tribute to the traditions of the series also allows you to carry out not just a shot, but shoot a certain part of the enemy’s body. In addition, in Jagged Alliance: Rage (in the initial tasks, for sure), two characters can be sent to complete the goal at once. Well, there will be many times more opponents in this case.
It is worth noting that during the presentation, the developers dismantled the stealth passage in the game, when mercenaries eliminated all enemies without noise and skirmishes. It all looked quite easy for a number of reasons: the opponents have a small viewing angle, they do not report to each other and do not really hear what is happening next to them. Well, stealth itself in a turn-based game looks pretty funny. If you eliminate an enemy in front of another enemy, then he will not be able to instantly alert others of the danger. At this moment, the right to move passes to your partner and he already eliminates this opponent. Of course, in this way the creators of the game wanted to show that two mercenaries are attacking soldiers at the same time, but it all looks somehow cheating.
However, all this does not mean that Jagged Alliance: Rage will be easy to complete. As in many games of the past, in Jagged Alliance: Rage, after passing a location, health is not automatically restored, and you can get new ammunition only by collecting them from the corpses of soldiers you killed. In addition, each mercenary has not only positive perks, but also negative ones, which are made not just for the sake of appearance, but create big problems during the entire passage. For example, you took a mercenary who has a problem with alcoholism. If during the battle he does not regularly receive the necessary dose of alcohol (and alcohol still needs to be found), then his hands will begin to shake, which will negatively affect the accuracy of shooting. In addition to such individual problems, each mercenary needs a certain portion of food and water, which are also sought on the battlefield. In this respect, Jagged Alliance: Rage is very similar to current rogue-like RPGs and some strategy games like Darkest Dungeon and FTL. The game also relies heavily on random number generation. By analogy with BattleTech, at the end of a task, it may turn out that the expenditure of ammunition, medicines and provisions several times exceeded the income that you received for this very task. But the game also has its own peculiarities, which were not in the previous parts. One of them – if one of the mercenaries is injured, then he can fall into a rage. This is reflected in the gameplay by the fact that he receives one of the bonuses. For example, go stealthily right in front of the enemy and additional points per turn. In general, a curious and interesting detail.
What was removed and where did the negative come from
The presentation of the game did not show such an important aspect of the series as the management of the squad and the management of combat events in general. As it turned out later, there is simply no strategic mode in Jagged Alliance: Rage, since “otherwise it will be Jagged Alliance 3”. When in the previous parts we had a map of the entire state where you can easily navigate, now we have before us a kind of web of possible tasks (by the way, quite small). But the restrictions did not end there. If earlier it was possible to create characters yourself and hire whoever you wanted to your squad, now the number of available mercenaries is limited by characters invented in advance. There is no longer a need to distribute mercenaries in detail to places to protect key objects, deal with financial issues and train recruits from the militia. Now you just need to choose the required mission, then choose who will be in your squad and go on a mission. Agree, this is much more boring and banal.
The development of the project from the very beginning admitted that their ambitions were not aimed at creating a new high-profile sequel, but were much more modest. The studio planned to create a spinoff with their favorite mercenaries, which would be a good outlet for many fans of the series. However, this will most likely be a big studio mistake. Fans of the series do not really understand why only the presence of famous mercenaries like Ivan and Shadow should cause them delight and admiration. After all, they need a full-fledged continuation of the series in the person of Jagged Alliance 3 with good fighting and thoughtful game mechanics. There is a high probability that in an attempt to please both of them, the developers have made a game that will be poorly received by any audience, both ordinary gamers and Jagged Alliance fans. It will be possible to see how everything will actually be this fall, but I want to believe that the rage will subside and the project will not be so bad.