23 years after the second part… the third is far from finished. But at least series fan Jörg Langer was able to take a closer look at the global strategy hope at Gamescom 2022.
Brad Logston, Senior Producer responsible for Jagged Alliance 3, comes into the dressing room a little late – but firstly, it was the last appointment of the day, secondly, four of his team members had already started the presentation, and thirdly, Brad always needs time to changing (Haemimont Games was also showing The Valiant, so he always had to take his Valiant shirt off first so he could preview Jagged Alliance 3 underneath when he switched booths). In addition to me, there are two other game journalists in this booth, one of whom clearly has no prior experience with Jagged Alliance. Well I’m getting old…
Fanmod 1.13 as a model?
But the mod 1.13 – which in my opinion has developed in a completely wrong direction and only complements the fun of the game with clever selection instead of destroying it – is expressly not the model for the developers, as one of them told me during the shop talk after the end of the actual one Demo half hour reveals: “We’re going more in the direction of Jagged Alliance 2 and its ‘tons of guns’ play option.”
Short explanation for non-fanboys: Jagged Alliance basically came from a small Canadian team called MadLab Spftware, behind it were Ian Currie and Shaun Lyng, later Linda Sirotech (later Currie) joined them. None of the developers had ever held a weapon in their hands. But then, at least in the USA, gun enthusiasts made a good part of their customers at Jagged Alliance, and this part wanted more and more weapons that were more closely based on the role models. That’s why Jagged Alliance 2 had the “tons of guns” option in the main menu, which unlocked several dozen more weapons – but they almost always only differed from the existing ones in minute details. The statement to me the day before yesterday at Gamescom means that Haemimont Games does not want to emulate the attempted ultra-realism and quantity fanaticism of JA2 fans, but like MadLab/SirTech wants to concentrate on the essentials – the fun of the game.
|Brad Logstone explains the vision behind Jagged Alliance 3 – after his t-shirt change.|
The three fun components of any true Jagged Alliance
The second important part of the game fun is the enormous playful freedom, especially in part 2, which MadLab has pressed into the action point-based round tactics corset. Climb, lie, run, chain reactions – Jagged Alliance 2 offered more than just shoot, hit, continue. But I also count the map exploration, which takes place in real time before enemy contact, and where there are conversations with NPCs like in an RPG.
The third and most important component was always the individual mercenaries, all professionally set to music, all with their initial setup, obvious and often hidden peculiarities. Some mercenaries hated each other, others found each other attractive, and so on. As a result, unlike Julian Gollop’s UFO: Enemy Unknown, which was a few months older, you didn’t have randomly generated cannon fodder under your command, but individuals – where permadeath (or their termination… or their dismissal for lack of money…) had a much stronger emotional impact on the player would have. To date, every JA2 player has their favorites like Ivan or Monica “Buns” Sonderguard.
|The most important are the mercenaries – even if there will only be six of them per squad.|
Only 40 instead of 63 mercenaries?!First moment of shock: instead of 63 warhorses of both sexes (composed of 40 AIM, 11 MERC and 12 recruitable NPCs in the game world), there are only 40 in Jagged Alliance. As explained in the Gamescom appointment, that is not the case lastly due to the greater effort – where the JA2 game graphics essentially only differentiated between male/female, hair and shirt color and the approximate type of weapon to differentiate the mercenaries from each other, now everyone has got a detailed 3D model.
The good news: The 40 killers form a good part of a “best of” the previous mercenaries, so Ivan, Buns, Fidel and several others are back. There are also newcomers like Livewire, a 26-year-old Indo-Pakistani who knows explosives very well. And: The mercenaries should again have many, many dialogue options – and probably what contributed to the actual madlab magic in the first two parts: comments for very special situations that many players will never experience. For example, when mercenary X is deployed in sector Y. Or A and B are on the same team, and C joins them. According to Brad, a lot of effort was put into the dubbing, especially with mercenaries who speak with accents. “In some cases, we recast a speaking role twice before we were satisfied.”
|Each sector is unique again, in this one there is an abandoned villa. There appear to be guards next to our mercenaries.|