Jagged Alliance 3 Review

Menu screen

Hot Africa, the fictional state of Gran-Chien takes over the relay from another fictional state of Arulco and starts a regular Olympics of government coups. Unlike old-fashioned sports gatherings, these competitions are open to anyone who is morally ready to spend on a squad of fighters for the country’s independence from other participants of the games.

We have been entrusted with the honorable mission of assembling our own team and siding with the daughter of the conditionally-real leader of the country, seizing the sports initiative, running a marathon across the country, and hanging the current favorite on the finish line.


I thought I hardly remembered what it was like, this two-dimensional Jagged Alliance 2. It seemed that over the years, my brain had automatically formatted all the information. Except for the fact that it was an excellent tactical strategy, and the epic line of dubbing “I need to suck” performed by the smeared with gutalin mercenary Shadow.

However, during the course of the play, I regularly had sudden bouts of nostalgia.

Character stats screen

The first flashbacks, mixed with a burst of childlike excitement, begin already in the start menu with a set of commands for mercenaries, practically 1-to-1 transferred from the classic game to JA3. The browser with the open website of the A.I.M. company, web design from the 2000s, a visitor counter in the corner of the page… Now this picture strikes the hearts of both JA veterans and people who remember narod.ru.

Oh, and some mercenaries are here! That is, everything is as expected. The events of the third series begin somewhere a year after the mess in the country of Arulco. And it’s understandable: soldiers who survived the turmoil and didn’t retire are in formation and waiting for new contracts. However, some newcomers from the day before yesterday now want a lot of money in advance, so it’s unlikely that they will be able to immediately assemble a dream team from twenty years ago.

And I didn’t recognize some of them due to old age, hehe. I parachuted onto the starting island of Sdoba (such nicknames) and only after five hours of gameplay, when our sniper started to remember how she was lighting up around here a year ago, it dawned on me that I had seen this lady when she was still young and pixelated.

In general, it would be uber-cool if Jagged Alliance 3 was released not only in its 2001, but also in 2D isometric view. During the time that the series tried to return to its former glory, we experienced a renaissance of 2D. But still, yes, the genre works better in a three-dimensional space.

Caution screen with 3D bug

In our case, the camera for some reason feels not very confident. Firstly, it is suspended at an angle that personally seems too small to me intuitively. Every first session started with me reflexively trying to adjust the viewing angle to “normal”, then remembering that it wouldn’t be better, accepting it, and only after a couple of played skirmishes getting used to the local perspectives again.

Watching the battlefield is not uncomfortable. It’s normal. Living and managing mercenaries is possible. Engrossed in another big shootout, you only remember the camera when it once again confuses which floor of the building you need. But consistently, about every half an hour, I literally tried to “correct” the view on autopilot.

It’s good that the gameplay of Jagged Alliance is difficult to spoil… I would say if different developers hadn’t managed to do it at least twice already.

Because from the very beginning (and until the very end) of the local campaign, one incurable problem started to annoy me periodically. Maybe I’m just very stupid and very blind, but I never found the pause hotkey in the game before the start of the battle. God, how I miss it here. There is an option for “automatic pause”, but for some reason it didn’t change anything in the gameplay.

As usual, JA throws our dummies into locations of different sizes, in different corners of which enemies gather, trample tropical greenery on patrols, wait for their moment against infantry mines, and other hyenas wander in search of lunch. Where and who exactly is waiting for us is an eternal question. There is an option to scout the sector in advance by sending a pioneer through the global map, but the results of such maneuvers vary greatly, and we will never get exhaustive answers plus or minus.

Character named Larry

So here it is. You choose your entire squad, carefully leading them forward with a stealth crouch, and then a soldier comes into view, walking straight towards us. Pause! Pause, pause, “Spacebar”, why aren’t you working, you damn thing, what a mess! In one out of ten cases, I managed to simply retreat the squad. Twice as rarely, I was able to prepare and make the first shot. In all other cases, a hellish clown show began.

The most harmless scenario, where you don’t want to abruptly go to the save game menu, is a simple start of the battle. Our guys are confused, the enemy is confused, but they are in relatively convenient positions – that’s fine, let’s work.

The worst case scenario is when you manage to prepare a shot with one of the mercenaries, but since time doesn’t stop and the command “forward” was given before, the rest of the squad moves slightly forward. Because of this, one of your proteges ends up in the crosshairs at the last moment and gets a friendly shot in the back of the head in the very first action.

Playing JA3 in hardcore mode, I believe, is risky for mental health.

In all other aspects, the combat is an excellent example of a classic turn-based strategy. We are dropped into a location divided into squares, where we search for better firing positions, try to optimally use action points and special abilities of the characters, admire how effective grenades can be, and occasionally engage in pixel hunting.

Character named Mad Max

It’s great that the designers were able to really diversify the usual skirmishes. Different landmarks on the local global map differ significantly from each other in terms of landscape and sets of enemy dummies, so that the player has to use their head and adjust tactics during each individual piece.

The favorite quest in every brawl is, of course, to find and occupy a sniper’s nest without unnecessary bloodshed, in order to freely distribute headshots from there across half the map. But such places are not always easy to come by, and sometimes it’s just too inconvenient to make your way to them, so you have to adapt to the circumstances.

The enemy artificial intelligence, of course, tries to make things difficult for us, but don’t expect any particularly clever maneuvers from it. The strength of African militants lies in their numbers and gradually improving arsenal, not in cunning. So beware of grenade launchers, hehe.

It’s good that even encounters with routine patrols in random sectors of the map are different. Firstly, the game has a daily cycle and weather changes. A shootout in the sun during the day and in a dusty storm at night, let me tell you, are two big differences. Secondly, the designers of JA3 tried their best and instead of the standard two or three arenas for random shootouts, they made each first square of the global map a unique location. Of course, most cells are simple and not even close to serious urban locations, but there is enough small variety. Moreover, many nameless sectors hide a secret or two and/or are actually hotspots for secondary missions.

Our main goal, I remind you, is to free the local former president, but the path instead of the obvious direct capture of the map from left to right promises a multitude of non-obvious twists, forced stops, searching for means of sustenance, and noble looting.

My second epic flashback happened when JA3 suggested capturing a diamond mine. Exactly! Mines, militia!

Chicken character

I remembered about the first of the two whales on which the local economy stands – “good” marauding. In general, lucky soldiers feed on scraps and shoot trophy ammunition from trophy rifles, while also clearing residential buildings of poorly placed items.

But I completely forgot about the next whale. Mercenaries not only like to collect local medicinal herbs and foreign sniper rifles, but also regular salaries. Money, which also needs to be obtained from somewhere. Global financing of the civil war is closely linked to the capture of very, very inconveniently located deposits and the looting of diamond caravans.

In addition, local residents also regularly offer optional walks with shootouts. Help someone with a revolution, find a treasure for someone, give something else – what’s here from left to right on the map. In additional tasks, you can really get buried; several times during the campaign, after another big side adventure, I asked myself out loud: “So, what is my ultimate goal here?” There is so much to do that planning the next actions on the global map becomes another non-trivial (and, accordingly, interesting) challenge.

Sniper point scene

Along with the positive aspects, players encounter some technical inconveniences, such as camera problems and the absence of a pause hotkey, which can slightly diminish the overall enjoyment of the gameplay. However, for fans of tactical strategies and the series, Jagged Alliance 3 presents an interesting challenge and an opportunity to immerse oneself in an exciting adventure with a unique atmosphere.

In short, on one hand, there is a ton of content, on the other hand, the gameplay is interesting and diverse enough to get lost in JA3 for several dozen hours, conquer it, and immediately return to Africa at a new level of difficulty.

Jagged Alliance 3
Strategy, Turn-Based, Tactics
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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