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.

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John "Bull" Peters, one
of the
original Jagged Alliance mercs (picture from JA2), is one of many old
school mercs to make it into Jagged Alliance Online.

Gamigo’s latest round of
titles hearkens back to a time when
online games were more pastime
than  eSport. Turn-based
strategy games cater to the type of gamer not out for a cheap adrenal
rush, but those who enjoy carefully, meticulously setting up a
strategy, seeing how it pans out, rinse, repeat. I was such a gamer.
Before EverQuest
I wiled away my baccalaureate free time playing games like style="font-style: italic;">Civilization,
, and style="font-style: italic;">Commandoes,
but no game carried away my study time quite like the style="font-style: italic;">Jagged Alliance

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
for your core group of mercenaries), style="font-style: italic;">Jagged Alliance
delivered hours upon hours of meticulously drawn-out tactical fun. Yet
(with the exception of the reinvention-minded style="font-style: italic;">Civ
series) TBS, like space combat sims (and sims at large), is a genre
fallen on hard times.

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That’s about to change, if Gamigo has anything to say about
it. The upstart German developer/publisher that brought you style="font-style: italic;">Black Prophecy
has acquired its first license and has not one, but two TBS titles in
development. style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">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.

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“We really tried to keep the heart of the game…
really give the old school gamers what they want, but while adding more
modern elements,” noted Gamigo’s Anthony Guzzardo,
as I watched him take on a small village chock full of toughs with a
3-man team. Those modern touches included some excellent graphics,
complete with dynamic shadows, muzzle flashes, gunsmoke, and model
detail right down to the wrinkles on bad guy flannel. Some of the
intangibles are already in place, too: the uptempo, fully orchestrated
music was a nice blend of modern adventure game and style="font-style: italic;">MacGyver

I mentioned RPG flavor, and the original style="font-style: italic;">Jagged Alliance
ranked with style="font-style: italic;">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).

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Another thing I loved about style="font-style: italic;">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.

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Anthony shifted to a nighttime map, and got too close to one of the few
intact cars on the map. The resulting car alarm drew plenty of enemy
attention - “just like in a zombie game” Anthony
quipped – and his team was soon swarmed with enemies. I took
the opportunity to unload a barrage of questions, but try as I might, I
couldn’t extract more details about what makes style="font-style: italic;">JAO
an online game. “Much is yet to be determined,”
Anthony explained.

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With no announced release timeline, Gamigo has plenty of time to make
those decisions. We look forward to learning more about style="font-style: italic;">Jagged Alliance Online
at GamesCom in August, and thanks to Gamigo’s Anthony
Guzzaman and Dennis Hartmann for their time.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Jagged Alliance Online Game Page.

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