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Jagged Alliance: Rage!

Posted by GG Goblin On December - 17 - 2018

Turn-based tactics in the jungle.

The long wait for Jagged Alliance 3 still continues, but every now and again we get a glimmer of hope. This time around it comes in the form of Jagged Alliance: Rage! from THQ Nordic and HandyGames. It may not be the game that everyone wants from the series, and even the developers suggest this is just a little sidestep, but can Jagged Alliance: Rage! at least fill a gap during the long wait for a next numbered sequel?

jar1 (Copy)

Well, fans of the Jagged Alliance games will certainly get a kick out of Rage!’s set up. Based some twenty years after the events of the first game, Jagged Alliance: Rage! features a cast of well known mercenaries that also seem to have suffered with the passing of time. Each of the six characters, all previous members of the Jagged Alliance team, come with their own specialities and skills, but also happen to come with their own weaknesses. They also bring their own personalities that, despite not being played out as much as possible, are interesting and fun in an 80s action movie kind of way. They are a cool bunch of mercs.

To begin with, the player must choose two of these mercenaries take on the adventure, and choosing two characters who complement each other is of the utmost importance. It is worth checking all of the mercenaries’ skills and finding two that will work together and tie in with the players play style.

Anyway, the two chosen characters are dumped on a jungle-covered island with a simple objective, but everything quickly goes wrong and the mercs are captured by some kind of evil scientist. After a lucky escape which didn’t involve any needles, the pair will find themselves trying to escape the island, while also maybe getting a little caught up in freeing the island inhabitants from this mad man’s evil reign.

Gameplay takes a familiar form, taking place over small battlefields covered with a grid to make movement easy. Each character has action points that can be spent on movement or various actions, such as shooting the enemies. The battle will have an objective to complete, and then the player will have to get both mercs to the exit area. It is all fairly straight forward, and anyone who has played a turn-based tactical game will slip into Rage! quite quickly.

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That being said, there is much more emphasis on stealth than in many turn-based tactical games. The problem comes in that there are generally many more enemies than the two mercs, and they are mostly better equipped, especially as the mercs escape custody with almost nothing. Plenty of cover is provided, from sandbags and walls, to long grass which can conceal a mercs unless they are being searched for, and players are able to at least try and take down enemies without alerting the rest. This means keeping it quiet, so no running, and also keeping any bodies hidden, thank you long grass. Things get more tricky thanks to a slightly inconsistent AI that at times seems to have devilish vision that can spot a body behind a wall, and at other times can move around in circles with absolutely no idea of what is going on. While it is great to take advantage of a faltering AI, it does slightly ruin any challenge. If it is acting super-heroic, then the player will have to double check every action before they make it, or be prepared to reload the last save. It can get frustrating at times, especially when getting into an all out gunfight is going to make life much more difficult for the player. As the game progresses, and the mercs become better equipped and generally more powerful, there is less need for the stealth.

There is some interesting stuff going on outside of the actual battles as well. There is an overview map of the island with little markers that are joined together, representing routes that the player can take as they move from one event to another. The player is able to set up camp along the way, which is necessary for healing and the like, but also have to take into account roaming patrols that may actually be hunting the mercs. As resources are very limited in the game, and  players have to worry about the likes of thirst and infection in their mercs, engaging one of these roaming patrols can leave the player in a less than stellar condition for their next battle. Even weapons degrade over time, and so players will want to preserve as much as they can. All of the equipment is taken from fallen foes, so new equipment is never far away. But as it doesn’t take much to go wrong for the player to fail, caution is always the best approach.

Visually, the game is a mixed bag. With turn-based tactical games, clear visuals are preferable so the player can have a full understanding of their surroundings before making decisions. While the visuals themselves are quite nice, the colouring for the jungle does make it occasionally difficult to see everything, making mistakes possible. There are other questionable decisions with the visual style and the UI, but nothing too distracting. More problems do arise from various bugs and glitches in the game, but again it seem more disappointing than game breaking.

jar3 (Copy)

There are plenty of players out there who will get very excited over a new Jagged Alliance game, but it would be worth tempering that excitement for Rage!. While the game does have some nice ideas, such as the meta game, ageing the characters and the stealth mechanic, there are also some places where the game feels rough around the edges. And, of course, it is not a full sequel. Still, for those that want the Jagged Alliance name and fancy some XCOM style gameplay in the jungle, Jagged Alliance: Rage! may well be worth looking at.




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