Jagged Alliance 3D Hands-On Preview

by on 11th Jun 2006

Jagged Alliance 3D E3 gameplay impressions

MiST land - South is creating the newest chapter of the Jagged Alliance story.  In Jagged Alliance, the player is in charge of a team of mercenaries (mercs) whose goal is to free a small African country from the clutches of rebel forces.  Elena Melnikova, PR manager of MiST land - South, performed a demo of Jagged Alliance 3D at this year's E3 in Los Angeles.  The game is in pre-Beta condition and not all of the gameplay has been finalized. While I did not play the game for very long, I did learn the following regarding Jagged Alliance 3D's gameplay.

Communication with NPC's
Instead of the choice of communication styles or moods (Friendly, Direct, Threaten, etc.) available in Jagged Alliance 2, the player will now be given a choice of 3 or 4 actual responses. Your choices in questions will direct the conversation. The available conversation choices will depend upon how friendly you are with that NPC character and your previous responses. If you have done bad things in the game, most NPC's will not like you or want to help you. Sometimes fighting will start if you say the wrong thing to the wrong NPC (much like Conrad in JA2).  So getting into someone's headquarters may be easier than getting out!

Character line-of-sight
If a mercenary can't see an enemy or a NPC, neither can you. When a mercenary sees an enemy, it becomes visible to the player as well. If you turn your back on the enemy, expect him to remind you of his presence with a bullet or a knife. However, the demo I viewed did not have all of the AI installed.  There was a situation in which I had one merc shoot one of two enemies in the back from 1 yard (meter) away. During the same turn, another of my team members (Scope) walked into the hut and was 10 yards (meters) in front of the two enemies.  Both enemies opened up on Scope, even though the merc behind them was the greater threat (having put a bullet into one enemy's back). MiST land told me that the AI was not completed and that the enemies would be at least as self-aware as in JA2.

Camera angles
Unlike JA2, you can change the viewing angle. You can zoom in or out, rotate right or left and change the viewing angle to directly overhead or nearly horizontal. The default viewing angle is similar to JA2's.

Real-time and turn-based
Like in JA2, each mission will start in real-time mode and changes to turn-based when enemies are nearby. Strategy First originally intended for Jagged Alliance 3D to be solely real-time, but the fans were so upset that the combination real-time/turn-based gameplay was reinstated.

Mission types
There will be different types of missions which are more like quests than stand-up battles.  There will be recon missions where you need to get your team to a certain location.

Screenshots
As you can see from the global map screenshot (top shot), Jagged Alliance 3D looks just like an updated version of the Jagged Alliance 2 global map. I'm a little confused by all the different scenes in the upper portion of the screen, but the quality of the map itself is good.  It also shows the possible strategic options for one of the mercs from JA2. The option to assign the merc to a specific team has been removed, but the rest of the options from JA2 look to be the same.

The other two screenshots show the merc and the available inventory (middle shot), and the merc being equipped with same (bottom shot). Even in the 2-D portion of the game, it's clear from the weapons and body armor that the graphics are much improved over JA2 (which is to be expected). I hope the merc's portraits are also updated, otherwise they will seem out-of-date.

Music
MiST land was kind enough to send StrategyCore a sample of the game's music.  Download it and you'll hear for yourself that MiST land was correct when they said, in the first article, that they were proud of their audio abilities.  The music does a good job of setting the mood and is in keeping with the African locale.

Odds and Ends
You can target certain body areas (head, torso, arms, legs), but it costs more action points and you are less likely to hit them.

In the current version of JA 3D, you cannot loot an enemy unless he is dead (no more punch & grab tactics to improve your weapon mix, and no more healing dying enemies, looting the weapon he is holding, and then killing him, you Hippocratic Oath breaking heathens!)

Your mercenaries can run, walk, sidestep, crouch and crawl.

When mercs change out their helmets or body armor, their appearance changes to match. As you would expect, animations are much improved over JA2.

Conclusion
Jagged Alliance 3D is in no doubt a 3D game in the Jagged Alliance universe.  After speaking with the MiST land representatives, I got the very strong impression that they want to please (or pacify, depending on how you look at it) the fans of the Jagged Alliance 2 games.  The fan-directed change back to turn-based combat was a good move, but few fan requests have equal merit.  I get the feeling that MiST land has been constrained in adding new features to the game for fear of upsetting the most vocal of the fan-base.  I played the original Jagged Alliance game back in 1994.  I loved the game and so looked forward to Jagged Alliance 2 that, even though I don't know German, I bought the German version since it came out a couple months before the English one. I've played most of the English language fan-created mods, and some of the German and Russian ones as well. But if the fans of the original game were as insistent on keeping Jagged Alliance 2 the same as the original game, Jagged Alliance 2 would never have been the hit that it was.

 

Add Comment Comments

Slaughter\
17 Jun 2006 - 10:56am
Slaughter
Oh, very interesting! I'll hold my judgement until JA3D is released, but I agree with Decado that what MiST land has developed so far doesn't look too convincing. Thanks for the heads up baby arm!
Abernathy\
17 Jun 2006 - 1:48am
Abernathy
Yeah, that  was an eye-opener. Richard's been evasive and vague about this rumour for quite some time now, but he's never outright said it's not true.

I'll be monitoring .dat's forums closely to see how they respond, but I suspect the cat is more or less out of the bag already...
baby arm\
17 Jun 2006 - 1:33am
baby arm

Quote

I can't help but wish Mistland is taken off this project. Or at the very least JA3.

Decado, did you notice this thread?
Decado\
17 Jun 2006 - 1:08am
Decado
I can't help but wish Mistland is taken off this project. Or at the very least JA3. Their previous games are just sooooooooooo bad and their attitude just plain stinks.

And for the writer of that E3 article...do you *really* think it is a good idea for a developer that wanted to change the entire combat system (to a mindless clickfest, no less) reign to implement "new features" into a franchise like JA?
Abernathy\
10 Jun 2006 - 10:47pm
Abernathy

baby arm, on 11th June 2006, 4:46am, said:

Hello Abernathy! It's always good to see another Codexer out and about.

It looks like the relevant threads are gone at the Strategy First forums, but there are some at the Mist land forums (here, here, here, and here) that indicate that Mist land wanted RTwP.
Hey baby arm, nice to see you too :thinking:

And thanks for those links - there were a couple there that I hadn't read, and I thought I'd read the whole forum!

(BTW, I'm on Bearpit too - but under my old nick. I took exception to a certain (now banned) poster calling you 'baby boy' in a JA3D thread recently...)
KoMik\
10 Jun 2006 - 6:06pm
KoMik
Hopefully this (JA3D) and that (JA3) turns out to be a positive expression ...D'oh, I can't help myself wishing comforts for every mates of turn based tactics... *sorry* :thinking:

We sure need all available good/positive visions of the future what we can get for this great genre and maybe for all PC-games developing overall. Otherwise I'm bit worried (I do not have funds to set up a company). Btw... modding tools for JA3D doesn't sound very handy for 'everyman-modders'.

(...edited readable later)
baby arm\
10 Jun 2006 - 4:46pm
baby arm
Hello Abernathy! It's always good to see another Codexer out and about.

It looks like the relevant threads are gone at the Strategy First forums, but there are some at the Mist land forums (here, here, here, and here) that indicate that Mist land wanted RTwP.
Abernathy\
10 Jun 2006 - 12:01pm
Abernathy

Slaughter, on 10th June 2006, 10:42pm, said:

@Abernathy: Yeah, I think I read something like that some time ago too. I'll try and find the forum threads, and then change the article if it is in fact so. Thanks for the heads up, and welcome! :thinking:
Thanks for the welcome. As a bit of a caveat on what I posted before, I read somewhere that the situation was a bit more complex than how it appeared on the surface, but it was just one post somewhere I can't remember, so I'm personally sticking with what I've seen first-hand until and unless something with a bit more substance comes out of the closet.

Quote

Optional sci-fi mode? You mean aliens with frickin' laser beams?

Come Mr Bigglesworth, it's time for another 30 years' cryogenic sleep before we try and take over the world... again...
I never played the sci-fi mode in JA2 and I probably won't in JA3D or JA3 either. But some folks loved it.

And at least it's canon - I remember Ian Currie having a big rant somewhere ages ago about how he'd like JA3 to have more aliens and stuff; he wanted more than just humans as enemies. Scared me a bit at the time, I must admit. I'd also personally prefer development time and energy to go into the core game rather than aliens.

But hey, each to his own. For every sci-fi afficionado there's a gun lover wanting more realism in range and ammo types and a reality freak asking for supply lines and somewhere to pee.

If MistLand can pull off an even slightly convincing JA of any type, I'll be eternally grateful. From what I've been reading (and I've been following this saga for years), Richard really does care about the franchise and has veto power over the developers. If I'm right, I think we will indeed see something excellent coming out of this.

If I'm wrong, well, another wonderful series goes to Oblivion I guess...
Pete\
10 Jun 2006 - 11:20am
Pete
Optional sci-fi mode? You mean aliens with frickin' laser beams?

Come Mr Bigglesworth, it's time for another 30 years' cryogenic sleep before we try and take over the world... again...
Slaughter\
10 Jun 2006 - 10:42am
Slaughter
@Abernathy: Yeah, I think I read something like that some time ago too. I'll try and find the forum threads, and then change the article if it is in fact so. Thanks for the heads up, and welcome! :thinking:

@All: There's some more info on JA3D vs JA3 here (Richard, a little down):

Quote

Just to re-state a few things that have been said in the past, I think:

One, JA3D is a tactical only based JA game setup in a 3D environment. It does not have a real strategic overlay (although there is a world map with a choice of locations). The goal here was to reproduce JA2's tactical elements with a few additions, being that some are required already because of the nature of a 3D environment and that others seemed like worthwhile improvements to the interface.

Second, JA3 is a bigger than JA2 game, with a full Strategic layer, several factions with independant but intertwined agendas, an optional Sci-Fi mode, that is also setup in a 3D environment. This one will have more improvements/additions in all tactical, strategic and interface components.
Abernathy\
9 Jun 2006 - 11:16pm
Abernathy

Slaughter, on 9th June 2006, 8:42am, said:

Strategy First originally intended for Jagged Alliance 3D to be solely real-time, but the fans were so upset that the combination real-time/turn-based gameplay was reinstated.
I'll be the first to admit that my memory is far from infallible, but I'm pretty sure it was MistLand, not SFI, that went off the rails into real-time combat ideas, wasn't it?

I also seem to remember Richard Therrien (SFI) being quite surprised when the fans told him, and duly rapping MistLand's knuckles over the matter. There's a long thread on MistLand's forums covering the whole debacle.

(It's an interesting read, BTW, MistLand's attitude is a bit of an eye-opener!)

Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, of course, but as it stands that quoted statement incorrectly shows SFI in an undeserved bad light.

Oh, and Hi! :thinking:
Arghis\
9 Jun 2006 - 10:21pm
Arghis
If this new Jagged Alliance game is as good as the 2 before and keeps the typical flavor that the characters added, that's perfect for me and, i hope, for a good number of people.

Of course, if the devs could add this or that to the game without changing / breaking the core mechanic, why not. But how many times have we seen games that does not support new concept addition unless you consider them as a new games, or more precisely, other kind of games.

After all, people play chess since more than 1500 years, and still enjoy it :-) (ok, this is a bit exagerated ... lol)

That being said, Jagged Alliance, as it was the case for X-com 1 & 2 for instance, has  the advantage of offering a good mix between technical AND "artistic / scenaristic" realisation. This is what makes the magic and what most people want, i think, because this is that which let your imagination fly.
mike9o\
9 Jun 2006 - 7:22pm
mike9o

friede, on 9th June 2006, 4:35pm, said:

The three Screenshots aren't new or exklussive - Look at the date of this news...
http://www.taktikzon...icn_newsid=1025
... an check the linked page. :thinking:

Whoops!  Better change the screenshot claim, although the music file is exclusive.
friede\
9 Jun 2006 - 3:35pm
friede
The three Screenshots aren't new or exklussive - Look at the date of this news...
http://www.taktikzon...icn_newsid=1025
... an check the linked page. :thinking:
Thorondor\
9 Jun 2006 - 9:32am
Thorondor
I suppose I have to confess that, for starters, I was never terribly excited about this one - despite its pedigree.

I don't much see it taking off, either, as it's way too much of the same thing. Even if all goes well and no major bugs mar the landscape, I can't shake the feeling this game belongs in the nineties.

::

No pain, no gain, MiST Land...
Pete\
9 Jun 2006 - 6:50am
Pete
Might be a hit and it might not then, but either way sales figures should be high with all the JA fans out there.

 

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