Ryu’s Musings – Jagged alliance Online

Synopsis

Jagged Alliance Online brings the turn-based strategy classic back to life as a Free To Play Multiplayer Online game with an Optional Single Player Game available as additional DLC. This game is fair to play, allowing you to earn anything that can be acquired in the game by playing – so it is YOUR tactics that count!

Train your team and grab your gear from hundreds of weapons and armours to create the toughest frigging merc outfit in the world.

Compete in turn-based tactical PvP duels against other teams or transform the game into a FULL SINGLE PLAYER EXPERIENCE and take on challenging contracts around the globe with our optional CAMPAIGN PACK DLC. This allows you to play the game just like any other downloadable game – buy once and play forever without worrying about paying ever again.

Match your tactical skills against thousands of other players to win Warzones with your allies and lead you company to victory and great rewards. With great graphics, the well-known Jagged Alliance game mechanics and hundreds of new weapons and gear, this is turn-based strategy at its best!

I’ve not played any of the Jagged Alliance games, so for me i went into this as a blank slate. I think this has made me more open to the game. In fact the amount of vitriol on the steam hub for this game makes me wonder why the game dev.’s even bother with reading them, yet i have to admit the game dev.’s are very much into feed back.

As with all my game reviews i forwarded a copy to the Dev.’s before publication so they can read it and comment if they wish. Jan Wagner, one of the dev.’s

So, firstly a bit of history on the game. It was originally a browser based game put out by BitComposer, Cliffhanger and Gamigo. However it flopped big time, due to the fact that it was unbalanced between the free to play and cash shop. So much so the only way to really get anywhere was to buy items. Cliffhanger Productions however were simply workers for hire, who had no control over the various decisions made. Things like business model, progression, balancing, but also features such as game options and features. Gamigo in the end decided they would no longer support the game, and Cliffhanger stepped up and have turned the game into a full on game with client. they put the game up on steam and split into two parts, the first, a free to play PvP game, the second a pay to play single player campaign. The free PvP game included a few of the early single player game missions, both to teach you game mechanics, but also to set up your merc company. This split allows you to see whether you want to stay with the free to play PvP, or buy the campaign. However, as you’d expect, attempting to fix a completed game is not easy to repair so it’s going to take time.

This splitting of the game has caused a split in the Steam Hub, with one said claiming it’s not really F2P if you have to buy the campaign. and others claiming since the PvP side of things is free it is indeed F2P. I personally i agree with that, the PvP side of the game is given free, and supported with a cash shop. The items on the cash shop are all available from within the game from the outset, you just have grind it, much like any other free to play game.

The game itself is pretty fun, and for the majority of the review I’ll cover the single player side of things. Primarily because i was never able to actually get a proper PvP match due to bad match ups.

The game is essentially a game about running a mercenary company. You start from scratch, rescuing members until you have a base of operations, and then you hire merc’s to work with you. The base is where you start off with everything:

main cvamp1

Your base consists of several sections, a hospital, shop. recruitment, storage and workshop. The hospital gives you boosts based on it’s level, to your team stats. You need to sink both money and items into the upgrades.

The shop is where you buy your weapons, armour and ammo.

Recruitment van is where you can hire your mercenaries, just make sure you don’t go overboard and hire a full roster right from the start. The game is very frustrating in that it doesn’t tell you that your limited with how many mercs can take part in a mission. Early on your limited to 2 or 3 mercenaries. If you’ve bought the DLC (either of them) then you’ve got a full roster already so there’s no point in wasting money on recruiting a new member Also bear in mind that if you do recruit a new member they aren’t permanently hired, they’re on a 14 day contract. So if they’re just going to be sat around the base there’s no point in hiring them. there’s two options when recruiting someone, basic, which gets you them, and the upgrade price which gives you their gear as well. This option is the more expensive and the one you really want to take early on. Although it’s more expensive it’s less expensive than having to buy gear for you mercs.

The storage is used to increase how much of the various bits and bobs you can carry. The workshop is where you do all your crafting, such as weapons, armour and components. It doesn’t unlock right off, it unlocks at level 22.

In the top right of the above screen shot you’ll see my money count, that’s what the cash shop for this game is. You buy cash which you can then to buy stuff from the market. So the only advantage of buying cash is getting to buy stuff early. I personally bought one of the two single player DLC’s, there’s two, The Shadow and Ivan edition. both DLC give you the same unlocks, campaign, money and a character. Depending on the DLC you bought you either get Shadow or Ivan. these mercs are permanently contracted to you which is good. You also get 150k of in game currency to help you out, however i think it should be double that since the money doesn’t last 5 minutes, especially if you want to buy new gear for your mercs. In my case i bought Shadow, who gives you a commando; however the gear she came with was so bad it was replaced immediately with store bought sniper set costing me 17.5k right from the get go, followed by another 17.5k for my own toons gear, and then another 17.5k for my 3rd guys gear. So my 150k i was given was down 52.5k right from the outset.

Developer Comment: You have bought all “gold” gear, which is the best money can buy. This is your choice, but obviously always buying the most expensive stuff whenever it is available is going to be pretty expensive over time. Then again these weapons should last you for a much longer period until better ones come along. And it helps you win with achievements usually, adding up cash boni, which in turn make you earn cash faster

The gameplay for the most part has been fun, it’s heavy turn based with each merc getting a turn to move, fire or whatever; in this regard it feels like a more complex version of Omerta. The game does try to teach you what to do and how to do it, however the tool tip displays and tutorials always seem to pick the wrong moment to show up, and interrupt your turn. Usually it wants you to do something or show you something, but in the end it costs you AP so it gets frustrating. It would be better if the game told you these things before you begin your turn so it doesn’t cost you anything.

Developer Comment: Actually, we cannot- we do not know a lot before you do it. For example when we introduce new enemy types- you have 3 guys, each with 20 AP…there is a huge number of variations you can move. So we really only know you have encountered a specific enemy, when he is in your viewing range the first time Open-mouthed smile

The game itself however is not very user friendly, it’s missing several key elements that make the game frustrating at times. Part of this is due to the engine, the Unity Engine is good for web based games, but given this is supposed to be a full release it’s lacking in a lot of features people expect.

The game launches through a separate game launcher, but the only thing you can do is change screen resolution and full screen options. The graphics options, seem to have no effect on the game itself, for example there’s no graphical difference between the lowest and highest settings.

No keys can be remapped since in the screen for that there’s no keys, see the below images:

menu1

menu2

Unfortunately these lack of options carry over into the game. The options menu in there allows you to go either fullscreen or windowed, turn all the sound on or off, and once again change the useless graphic fidelity.

ingame menu

For a full game release these options are really lacking. While I’m not on the level of say TotalBiscuit who has significant demands from his options menu. I’m rather simple, i like to be able to change resolutions on the fly, and more importantly, turn off the game music. With games like this i usually have Netflix on as well, however due to the fact the sound of this game is all integrated, SFX, Voice, Music are all on a single on/off switch it’s very annoying.

Another odd missing feature is that there’s no option to restart. You can’t remake your character and start the campaign over from scratch. for me this is a very annoying feature since you almost always notice mistakes you’ve made and want to redo them, however in this game that’s not an option. They (Cliffhanger) really need to add a reset option, so you can restart from scratch including the 150k bonus.

The PvP side of things was a nightmare for me, for 3 days i couldn’t even get a match for some reason. When i finally got into one i was so miss matched it was ridicules, to me this says that the game either has really bad balancing, or just throws people together randomly. It needs a sort of tier system where you start off in say bronze and work your way up the levels. Giving people who aren’t good at these types of games a match against some on equal standing rather than throwing them against a pro, a match up neither side will like.

Developer comment: Actually we are working on making matching between different level players workable and added the chicken out option to mismatched pairs. The issue is mainly with critical mass and our system: if you have a small amount of users and a wide range of levels simple math makes it very hard to find a suitable match. We are looking to change that, but it will take while to find a suitable solution

I had hoped to show a bit of gameplay footage from a couple of missions to accompany this post. however for some reason fraps hates this game and wouldn’t work properly. So I’ve just put the launch trailer instead.

Conclusion

I rather enjoy the game, the single player is varied and there’s usually several missions options available so you can pick and choose, this is all based on your level though.

Is the campaign worth buying? Honestly, at the moment no. I feel the game is over priced at £25 and should be somewhere around the £10-15 mark. Given that the steam sales are due to start in the next month or so I’d say wait for those to see if the game gets a discount.

However i will say i like the game, and i like the fact the game dev.’s are now working hard on balancing the game and making it a fun game. they’ve got their work cut out for them, but i do have high hopes.

Some thoughts on how to improve the game:

  • Add a full campaign reset which would reset all your toons back to zero, but also give you your 150k back again.
  • improve the settings, so things like individual sound and keys can be changed
  • Allow people who purchase one DLC to buy the other for a discount, somewhere between 50-75% off would be good. this will allow them to get another permanent mercenary and cash boost.
  • Offer a free weekend so the PvP players can try the campaign in more depth
  • Offer permanent merc’s as a paid DLC, for £1-2 each
  • Balance the cost of upgrades with the mission rewards better. Getting a £500-1000 for a mission reward is pointless when you can easily spend 20k+ upgrading bits of your base, and 17.5k giving new recruits item load outs.

Developer Comment: If you earn 1k per mission and say 5 per contract (early on, this gets much more higher up) and have the best gear, allowing you to get a bonus of say 20%, you get about 8.6k per contract. It gets much higher later on (but so do the prices). The cash gain balancing does not assume you will always buy the best gear, that will see you end in dire straits unless you grind a lot. But if you buy average gear and upgrade hospital, you can just play on without needing to grind or have extra cash…and later on there are a number of very attractive item drops as well, of cause

Cliffhanger are currently working on the first two suggestions, which is awesome since I’ve apparently screwed myself over and would really like to reset everything and start over again lol. This is game is one of those that if you screw up early on it really hurts you later on Open-mouthed smile

They’re also working on adding permanent mercenaries as a paid DLC, which is great and i for one will be buying those!! After talking with Jan from the Cliffhanger i have to admit I’m even more excited about this game now, and I’m now really looking forward to how this game develops.

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