I’m a huge fan of turn-based games, and Jagged Alliance is one of my all-time favorites. I went through the game at least a dozen times and always enjoyed its flexibility and humor. With Jagged Alliance Online being released barely a week ago, I of course went in with high expectations to try it out. I was disappointed.
It’s sad to see yet another great game go down the drain; while it may have potential to be good, there’s far too many issues that I can’t overlook. Below I’ll go through some of the main issues I think the game suffers from. It’s going to be a fairly short review, as there’s not much I have to say about this game.
1. It’s online
Turning a single-player game into an online one with unnecessary multiplayer options didn’t work out well for Jagged Alliance Online. The game plays in your browser on Unity engine: while browser capabilities, especially regarding games have significantly improved over the years, that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for developing games. The game is sometimes unresponsive, I miss keyboard shortcuts, I constantly have to scroll the map with cursor keys.
Furthermore, the game sometimes simply doesn’t load — perhaps it’s just a launch issue, but it feels more like an engine problem. Worst thing, I can’t do anything else in my browser while JAO is loaded in background, as I constantly hear mouse hover and game sounds. Perhaps there’s a simple way to fix that, but frankly I don’t care, that’s just not how it should work.
2. No storyline
One of the key points in Jagged Alliance 2 was it’s story and great humor, as cheesy as it both was. In JAO the storyline is just dreadful, and there’s nothing funny about it. There’s nothing that would keep me engaged and want to play more.
Having mercenaries in JAO which also appeared in previous games is great, but that’s just not enough.
3. Free to play my ass
Obviously game developers need to make some kind of revenue, and obviously Jagged Alliance Online has a cash shop where you can purchase mercenaries and equipment. However their business model is fundamentally flawed for several reasons. You start the game with one mercenary, but every other has to be paid for: either hired for 24 hours for in-game cash earned by doing missions, or you can unlock them permanently via Gold Bars (premium currency). And gold bars are hella expensive: with about $100 worth of gold bars, you could buy a couple of low-level mercs, equip them with gear and… that’s about it. By the way, you’ll out-level the purchased gear after a couple of hours of playing.
I managed to get my mercs to level 22 at this point, and it seems in order to continue playing I either have to pay for premium equipment, or grind low-level missions for money. Repairing your equipment and healing mercenaries after nearly every quest suited for your level is a huge money drain. The problem is also the fact that you can’t play the game casually as I’d like to: playing for an hour a day makes no sense, as mercenaries are hired for 24 hours or real time, not in-game time. They quickly become yet another drain on your already stressed out balance. Buying a level 22 merc permanently would cost about $60, what the hell? Normally you’d purchase the entire game for that amount.
4. Fuel sucks
Fuel is a resource required to start missions, repair items, heal your mercenaries and craft items. Between certain missions I often spent all my fuel just to heal mercenaries, as you can fail at healing them which quickly consumes all your fuel. Healing and repairing also costs in-game money.
Fuel regenerates by 1 point every 5 minutes, so if you happen to spend it all you need to wait in order to continue playing, or of course you can purchase it for real cash. I just don’t see the logic in limiting players this way.
5. Missing game options
Thanks to some random guys in chat I know that F9 key changes toggles graphics settings. And that’s about it. There’s no “Options” button, no way to find out if I can reduce sound volume, no nothing. Even if there is a way, it should be easy to find without having to Google for it.
The game certainly gives you plenty of options to spend your hard-earned IRL money, but there’s simply no reason to do it, especially considering how bad Jagged Alliance Online actually is. I’m pretty sure I’d have to spend over $1,000 to be able to play this game as it was meant to, and that’s just not acceptable for me.
There’s no co-op gameplay, so bringing your friends to the party really makes this game no different. Unless you visit the forums first, you won’t learn that Sniper class is a must-have, and will instead build some shitty main character that serves no purpose like I did. If you want to change any weapon skills, you’ll have to pay real bucks, but you can’t change the class. Even if you do visit the forums or the official site, you’ll find a huge lack of helpful information, so good luck finding out anything that way; the only thing you will learn is that JAO is severely lacking in content.
Missions after level 20 often have high-armored opponents, and armor piercing ammunition costs real money. Don’t expect to do well in PvP if you don’t intend to spend money on equipment. Actually, if you don’t plan to pay for anything then it’s best that you skip JAO entirely. The game becomes just a tedious grind very quickly.
Frankly, if you feel nostalgic and want to give JAO a shot, don’t. Just buy Jagged Alliance 2.