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Jagged Alliance 3 Review

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As I seem to be the go-to guy for reviewing strategy games here at TheXboxHub, it was no surprise that Jagged Alliance 3 washed up on my shores. 

It’s the product of Haemimont Games and THQ Nordic, and it must be said that the track record for this developer is good – I really enjoyed one of their previous options, Victor Vran, a kind of Diablo clone. So, shall we jet off to a sunny island and attempt to save the day?

jagged alliance 3 review 1
Gather your gang and enjoy Jagged Alliance 3 on Xbox

Now, obviously it is nice to have a story that makes sense in games like this, and especially so when you haven’t played the previous two games in the series. The story found in Jagged Alliance 3 sees us going to a country called Grand Chien, where the President has been kidnapped by a shadowy paramilitary group, The Legion. The President’s family has banded together with a wealthy corporation called Adonis to try and get him back, and this is where we come in. 

Having been given a budget and a list of likely employees (read “Mercenaries for hire) our task is to assemble a team, explore the island and recover the President, making it back home in time for tea and medals. What could be easier? Well, rocket science and brain surgery spring to mind…

These types of games have a very particular style that I’m sure fans of the genre will be fully aware of. The action is split into two halves – the exploration phase and the combat phase, and while the graphics between the two modes are pretty much identical, combat mode has a series of squares overlaying the screen. 

So far, so strategy game, yeah? Well, the islands that we explore are nicely realised, with multiple stages to explore, all with a different layout and even different factions of enemies to fight against. Obviously, the terrain can play a great part in the fights that are to come, and trying to get a higher perspective on things, and taking cover behind various obstacles can be very advantageous. Luckily the camera is up to the job of showing you what is going on, and allows the opportunity to zoom and pan to get the best possible view. Frankly, there’s nothing worse than missing an enemy and combat starting while everyone is all gathered in the middle of a wide open area! Ask me how I know…

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Just a casual jungle romp?

The audio is very well done as well, with good voice acting not only in the cutscenes, but with the members of the team having some “bants” as they go about their business, taking the mickey out of each other and so on. All in all, Jagged Alliance 3 is one of the better looking strategy games I’ve played, with the emphasis very much on the realistic end of the scale. 

As stated above, Jagged Alliance 3 is pretty much split into two halves, and obviously the first choice you have to make when you start a game is who you are going to take with you. Every mercenary you can choose from has their own personality, quirks and back story, as well as a certain set of skills. Given the constraints of money, you may not be able to select members of the A Team straight away, but as the game goes on and you become more wealthy (mainly by robbing the dead, let’s not beat around the bush) the choice of mercenaries you can afford, and the gear that you can give them opens up like a flower. Obviously, it’s no good having a crack team of lean, mean killing machines just lying around the place – you need to put them to work. It is here where Jagged Alliance 3 comes alive. 

Basically, as we explore the islands that are the setting for the game, we are presented with a series of stages; discrete arenas that stand on their own. We choose where we need to go, and there will be an indication of what we are going to face on the level in the shape of enemies. Now, the non-combat phase of things is then spent exploring the various nooks and crannies of the level, finding crates and resources to pick up, along with items that can be used, such as medical kits and so on. In my team I had a doctor, who made up for in medical knowledge what he lacked in killer instinct, and getting him to use the medical supplies seemed to boost their effectiveness. Once we have had a jolly stroll in the countryside, eventually we will come across some enemies and it is here that the second half of the game begins. 

Yes, as soon as you are either spotted (this is the usual way that I ended up in fights due to my tendency to mince about the place without a care in the world) or a shot is fired, combat begins. It’s here when the area is covered in squares. Now, we all know what this means, right? Yes, we have a certain number of squares that we can cover, performing an action and moving around. For instance, taking cover and then firing off a potshot at an enemy is a very good tactic, as is hiding and throwing a grenade. Hopefully you’ll have better luck with your mercenaries, as the ones I selected would have trouble hitting a barn door if they were sitting on the latch. Eventually you will win out and then it is time to collect the spoils, patch up the team and continue exploring. 

jagged alliance 3 review 3
Exploration is rewarding

Every stage seems to have an entry and an exit, and while exploring isn’t mandatory, it is a good way to not only find stuff, but also make your team better. While there is nothing startling or new in the way Jagged Alliance 3 plays, it is a very well crafted, solid entry into the genre with a surprising amount of depth – in the levelling of your mercs, the equipment they can use, and in the story as well. 

Are there any downsides? Well, as a single player experience, no, not really. But just imagine being able to liberate Grand Chien with a team, with a bunch of like-minded friends. How cool would that be? Well, I think it would be pretty cool, and so do the developers clearly, as there is a multiplayer mode built into the game. However, I haven’t been able to find anyone to play with, either by searching for a game or by hosting one, and so I have nothing to report in this area. Either Jagged Alliance 3 is more popular over on the PC, or Xbox gamers hate strategy games. Or maybe everyone is playing something else. 

As long as you stick to the single player, Jagged Alliance 3 is very good indeed. The controls are nicely optimised for console, the story is interesting and forging a team out of a bunch of seemingly disparate personalities is a lot of fun. With a deep levelling and crafting system to get to grips with, this is one of the better strategy games of the year.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Very deep in-game systems to learn
  • Very nice presentation
  • Good story keeps you playing
Cons:
  • Multiplayer seems to be a desolate wasteland
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, THQ Nordic
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, PC
  • Release date and price - 16 November 2023 | £49.99
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Very deep in-game systems to learn</li> <li>Very nice presentation</li> <li>Good story keeps you playing</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Multiplayer seems to be a desolate wasteland</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, THQ Nordic</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, PC <li>Release date and price - 16 November 2023 | £49.99</li> </ul>Jagged Alliance 3 Review
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