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Jagged Alliance 3 – Review

Written by doubt

Jagged Alliance 3

Jagged Alliance 3, by Haemimont Games, is a turn-based tactical strategy game where the player manages mercenaries in seeking to topple a violent warlord, called the Major, who has disrupted and terrorized the African nation of Grand Chien. Working for the Adonis Corporation, the player has to balance the strategic needs of their team, paying their fees, repairing their gear, and keeping them trained and with new gear while engaging in periodic violent conflicts with various factions and groups in Grand Chien.

The strategic Layer is Tense and Interesting

The world of Jagged Alliance 3 feels dynamic and tense as you have to weigh a desire to expand, explore new areas, and complete objectives with a number of pressures that both push you around the map. 

Jagged Alliance 3 Sat View

The first of these pressures is enemy forts sending out raiding parties. Several tough fortress-based locations around the map will periodically spawn raiding parties that will try to retake strategic locations (fortress and diamond mines especially). While individual parties are unlikely to be particularly strong compared to the mercenaries, they are rarely a pushover, and losing both fortresses and diamond mines can have major impacts on the ability to continue to exist functionally.

Luckily the location and goal of raiding parties are displayed on the map, so it is possible to react to their locations and paths. Additionally, it is possible to spend money and time (which is also money) training militia to defend strategic locations, giving some possibilities for counterplay. Whether this is worth depends on overall goals and map state, leaving a lot of room for decision-making on the player’s part.

The second of these pressures is money. Very few of the employable mercenaries work for free, and generally, the ones with more powerful abilities and a higher starting level cost even more. The game starts with the player losing money, and there is a constant bit of pressure between the need to hire more and better mercs and the limitations of income. While this pressure is much less of an issue in lower difficulty levels, it is still there and real, at least up until the point where players have captured all of the mines and are approaching the very end of the game. 

When not responding to these pressures, there is a lot to find and discover. Unique locations offer special actions players can take, references to movies reminiscent of the sort of things that can find in older Fallout games, unique weapons and armor, and more. There are many reasons to poke around and explore distant parts of the world rather than directly focus on the game’s overall goals. 

Combat is Fun and Dynamic

A lot is going on with Jagged Alliance 3 combat. Players’ available actions vary depending on a mercenary’s gear, perks, and weapons, and each of these can provide various options and capabilities. On top of that, elevation, a character’s stance (prone, crouching, standing), and nearby terrain all create dynamics that are deeply impactful on the counters of decision-making without ever reaching the point where they are overwhelming or cumbersome. Everything is smooth and enjoyable, which a game centered around combat should have.

Jagged Alliance 3

These dynamics also encourage players to take advantage of the structure of a particular tactical map. Snipers want to be up on tall, defended buildings, machine gunners want to be in wide open fields where they can fill people with bullets, and melee and shotgunners want to be hidden near where the enemy is going to be so that they can leap out in hit and run ambushes to maximize their ability to lay down damage on opponents. So the question when entering any given map is how many of these wishes will be granted, and effectively will this plan survive contact with the unpredictability of the enemy? 

Balance and Mechanics are a Little Bit Off

Unfortunately, contact with the enemy is a bit cumbersome, and the game’s balance is ever so slightly off in ways that reduce its maximum potential. 

Much of this is centered around the relative engagement opportunities of guns (specifically rifles) and melee. Melee allows for near-silent stealth kills, and in the right situation (such as a foggy map), a number of kills will happen before the enemy ever knows what is happening. Unfortunately, the player is forced to jump through a bunch of hoops to pull this off, and it can be awkward to figure out. Many players have requested a pause system be included to allow for more precise control of mercenaries as they move across the map. Still, it remains to be seen whether this will happen or would actually be beneficial. Ranged attacks are much less complicated and are generally easier to handle stealth attacks with. They have a narrower range of acceptable weather, but that is pretty much their only limitation. 

Gun balance is probably the worst part of the overall game balance at this point. Rifles are an effective sniper’s tool with almost no limitations and outclass most other weapon classes with the simple exception of machine guns and melee, both of which have specific niches that rifles do not touch. This narrows the joy of finding weapons and building teams if a team is built with mostly sniper rifles and a machine gunner, and a melee fighter thrown in, most any encounter will be manageable and perhaps will be easier than if you include assault rifles, submachine guns, or pistols.  

The Theme is a Love Letter to Dated Action Movies

Jagged Alliance 3’s characters, setting, and trop is a love letter to 80’s and 90’s action movies, and it really feels like a game out of time. Unfortunately, some parts of this may rub people the wrong way. Some characters are actively misogynistic, xenophobic, and sexually suggestive, which can be a bit jarring for modern sensibilities, but is easily resolved by not using those characters if they rub the wrong way.


Characters have dialogue and quips that would be completely at home in a cheesy 90’s action movie and have webs of relationships, likes, and dislikes. There is a muscle-bound brute who’s voice is remarkably similar to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (and is disliked by most of the female mercenaries), a gung-ho American who doesn’t like being teamed up with Russians, an American starlet who has a ton of dialogue that is sexually suggestive (and also is disliked by many of the female cast), and a Chinese martial artist (and doctor) would not be out of place in any number of 80s or 90s Hong Kong action movies. 

The setting has a similar chance of running against modern sensibilities. Essentially players are playing vicious and sometimes psychotic opportunists who are taking advantage of a violent civil war in order to make massive amounts of money from conflict diamonds. Then again, what else could be expected in a near-modern game focused on running a mercenary team? Mercenaries are almost by their nature going to be engaged in less than savory activities, so their being active in a conflict diamond-driven civil war is very thematically appropriate.


It is, in fact, almost possible to pretend players are being righteous. Villagers comment about how nice it is to be actually paid and protected, making it so the mercs are at least a step up over the Major, the player can actually be helpful and solve people’s problems, and it seems like the president that the player was hired to save was actually a democratic reformer who was trying to do good things for the country. None of this changes the fact that the player would not be doing this without making a lot of money as people suffer, but at least it is possible to be a reasonably righteous person as this is being done. 


I really like Jagged Alliance 3. I am already at 120 hours in the game and have had a lot of fun figuring it out. Even with the aspects of Jagged Alliance 3 that I was less thrilled with, I still had a lot of time with it and expect to return to the game to try out future mod content and (hopefully!) whatever DLC that Haemimont Games releases. I definitely recommend this title if you like squad-based turn-based tactical games!


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doubt specialized in tactical turn based role playing games, with his particular interest starting with Final Fantasy Tactics and extending from there. He is very opinionated about the subject, and will talk to you endlessly about them on the turnbasedlover's discord.