Jagged Alliance Online – Review
Follow Genre: Turn Based Strategy Game
Developer: Cliffhanger Productions
Publisher: Cliffhanger Productions
Platform: PC, Mac

Jagged Alliance Online – Review

Site Score
8.3
Good: Great Variety in items and Fair to play
Bad: No real Single-player campaign without DLC
User Score
0
(0 votes)
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VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)

Jagged Alliance Online or JAO, is a Free-to-play online PvP turn-based strategy game based on the older Jagged Alliance games. I was eager to see how they made a PvP version of this old, but accomplished series, as I did not expect it to be made. However I did not like the original browser version that much, due to their “Pay to Win”- policy. This remake was promised to be “Fair to Play” instead, and so I dived into the world of mercenaries and contract killings to bring you this review.

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Story

While there is a story, in the basic free-to-play version of JAO it serves more as a tutorial than a real story. You start of as a mercenary hired to find and extract someone from the jungle. Your “target” is a captured mercenary that ends up helping you build your headquarters in the very base you rescued him from. While there are still some single-player missions (mostly to build/unlock certain things in your headquarters), most of the actual campaign is not included in the basic game. The real campaign is a DLC called JAO : Shadow Edition , this one includes over 80 missions and tons of extra weapons and armour.

The basic game’s story after the tutorial is simple and to the point: Get your Mercenary Camp known throughout the world by competing against other players.

Sound

The game uses military music, reminding me a little of war movies, giving a real soldier feel to your headquarters.

During your missions or PvP fights they swapped the music for sound effects common to the area you are in ( A waterfall, birds in the trees, and so on) and the quotes your mercenaries use when issued a command.

All in all the music and sound is very fitting and pleasant to hear. The sound effects might be a little loud as opposed to the music in your HQ for some people, but that is solved easily.

Graphics

The graphics are pretty good, I put mine on the “fantastic” option and the game looks awesome if you do. The environment and characters are very detailed, you can almost count the branches on the trees and water streams are animated quite well. Now you’d think putting the “Fantastic” option on would slow the game down, either while loading or in its reaction time to your commands. This is not the case, loading goes extremely fast (This probably has to do with the small size of most maps, around 5 Megabytes) and the reactions are just as fast as on the other options.

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Gameplay

While the game requires tactical insight and some thinking ( It is a turn based strategy after all), the controls are fairly simple. You can control everything with your mouse without having to key bind extra stuff. You can of course use the mouse to end your turn, but it can also be done via the space bar, which might be faster for most people. Even changing to a different merc can be done with a mouse click or just with the 1-2-3-… key binds.

Before the tutorial you get to name your mercenary company and create your own character, you can choose from a variety of avatars and 5 different classes. I chose the Soldier, this is the standard all-around kind of character and is easy to learn. The other 4 classes are: Scout, Sniper, Gunner and Commando; all of these have their own strengths and weaknesses, mainly in their weapon choice, for example: snipers start with a sniper rifle and Gunner prefer heavy weaponry.

You only have your own character as a permanent mercenary, all other –After being hired in the Merc Agency- are yours to command for 14 days. You can hire them with gear or without, without gear they cost severely less (if you hire them without gear, don’t forget to equip them before going to battle with them. Please don’t make the same stupid mistakes I did!). During the actual battle everything you do will cost Action points, from crouching to shooting. Every character has its own amount, so don’t worry about using them all on one merc. After all Action points from all your mercenaries are depleted, you should end your turn –this can also be done before they are depleted-

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All your mercenaries will get experience from every kill they make. After a while they will level up and you will get 4 points to spend, 2 in your weapon talents of choice and 2 in stats. Weapon talents increase your hit rate, with said weapon of choice. For stats you have Endurance (Health and endurance against effects), Strength (Health, Less recoil and always heavier armor to be worn), Reflexes (Increases Action points), Dexterity (Higher Crit chance, better stealth and you make less noise while lurking about) and Perception (Lets you see the enemy sooner).

The actual PvP fighting can be done in 3 different modes, the typical Deathmatch, Search and Destroy and Bounty Hunter. Deathmatch is the standard “Last man standing wins the game,” which is a staple for most pvp games. Search and Destroy gives you and your opponent targets to kill and protect. Winning this requires some skill as you have to eliminate your targets before the opponent can finish off your protégées. Bounty Hunter is a race to kill one computer controlled target between 2 players. This sounds easy, but it’s not like the target doesn’t fight back…

I was pleasantly surprised by the matchmaking so far, I did have to play against the occasional high level player with better gear, but most of the time it was fairly even. As I stated before the game is also designed to be Fair to play, instead of Pay to win. This is clear in how all items are obtainable without having to purchase any of them with real cash, of course some items are expensive but that is quite standard in games.

While most of your time will be spent on battlefields competing against other players, you do have a headquarters. There are several buildings here that you can upgrade or use for various effects:

  • The Hospital : to heal your mercenaries after battle (You always lose health from battles, wins and losses) and a passive bonus to your endurance. You can also research various things here to get boosts in your stats.
  • The Storage : The place to stock all your unequipped gear and weapons.
  • The Workshop : To repair the durability of your weapons and armour.
  • The Shop : Kind of self-explanatory
  • Merc Agency : Also quite obvious, here you can hire new mercenaries.

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Conclusion

All in all this is a fairly solid and well-rounded pvp game. While matchmaking isn’t always completely correct, it seems at least reasonable. I’ve had no crashes or bugs worthy of being spoken off and lag is nearly non-existent. It also has a high variety of mercenaries and equipment.

My only complaint is the lack of Single player missions in the basic game, seeing as the DLC with missions is quite expensive.

Grading the game was influenced a tad, because of having to pay a decent amount extra for single player missions. Whilst it may be as a ‘support’ for the game, it would have been better to either implement it or make it a seperate game in the Jagged Alliance series or simply present it to you at a cheaper price, for those who rather play a single player version.

Nonetheless, this game is worth checking out, and will not disappoint.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
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VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
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