Jagged Alliance Online Pre-Beta Preview
The classic turn-based mercenary match-up returns, this time as a free-to-play browser-based game, and Ten Ton Hammer recently had the chance to check out an early build of the game with Gamigo’s Anthony Guzzardo.
Two parts squad shooter played from an isometric perspective, one part RPG with a nice jolt of oppressive banana republic-breaking story (and a hilarious personality questionnaire that served as a character creator for your core group of mercenaries), Jagged Alliance delivered hours upon hours of meticulously drawn-out tactical fun. Yet (with the exception of the reinvention-minded Civ series) TBS, like space combat sims (and sims at large), is a genre fallen on hard times.
Black Prophecy has acquired its first license and has not one, but two TBS titles in development. UFO Online and Jagged Alliance Online are new browser-based titles built on the Unity 3D engine (which is nothing if not perfectly suited for the stop-start action of a TBS), both are destined for the free-to-play model, and both have the iso-perspective look that defined the TBS and RPG genres in the nineties, but it’s there that the similarities end. While UFO Online is molded on an alien invasion story with heavy faction-based PvP leanings, Jagged Alliance Online plants us squarely back in Omerta for the same freedom-fighter-for-hire action that I remember and love.
I mentioned RPG flavor, and the original Jagged Alliance ranked with Command & Conquer as pioneers of character voiceovers to help add depth to the mercs. Every merc came with bios, specialties, and costs, and part of the game’s magical replayability was how each battle played differently with a different squad. Anthony explained that at launch, the game would have 60 possible mercs descending on over 100 playable scenarios and levels in PvE and Co-Op gameplay (with PvP to follow after launch).
Jagged Alliance is the constant tension between the decision to reposition or to shoot. Players have a number of action points which they can use to move, to take time lining up a shot, or to change to or from standing, crouching, or prone (with various visibility and accuracy penalties and bonuses for each), switch to burst fire, toss a grenade, use a bandage, and so on. JAO preserves that tension, though Anthony noted that one of those old-timey decisions – the choice between headshot (quick kill but low percentage), chestshot (better accuracy), and legshot (chance to cripple) – isn’t currently in the game.
JAO an online game. “Much is yet to be determined,” Anthony explained.
Jagged Alliance Online at GamesCom in August, and thanks to Gamigo’s Anthony Guzzaman and Dennis Hartmann for their time.