Initial reactions from a long-time Jagged Alliance fan

#1 Edited by Fearbeard (826 posts) -

I've been a big fan of the series since the original Jagged Alliance, and JA2 was one of my favorite game experiences. I've played about 3 hours of JA:BIA so far so I'll give my reactions for those interested.

I found the demo way too advanced for my tastes so I didn't spend much time with it, hoping the game would ease me into the experience better which it does. So on to the game itself:

First I'll address the change to real-time plan and go system. While I've always been a big fan of turn based games, it's a gameplay style that just does not work very well anymore. The new system works well and keeps the game flowing at a faster speed. There still remains plenty of room for you to use strategy, and you can pause the game at any time and queue up actions. It has a bit of a learning curve and the mercs can sometimes seem a bit sluggish (the agility stat actually increases mercenary reactions) but the more I use the system the more I like it. While there will undoubtedly be many fans of the original who simply refuse to accept the real time system, turn-based systems are much more limiting and I think this new system is needed for this type of game to evolve and survive.

The fog of war removal seemed like a really bad idea originally but it hasn't bothered me as much as I thought it would. It's nice not having to explore every inch of the map to find the enemies. The biggest issue I have with it is that a lot of the tension of storming a building is gone. While you can't see inside a building unless a merc has a view of it, you'll always know how many mercs are in there and you don't have to see in every room to know the exact spot of the enemies, just one person at a window will give you a full view of all enemy positions. It's easy to overlook the no fog of war outside (maybe you have some sort of aerial reconnaissance) but the no fog of war in buildings is definitely a bit of a letdown.

The game starts out much easier then the demo, and has a tutorial which helps with the basics. Like the other games you can only afford a few of the cheaper mercs at the start so you'll start out pretty weak, but your opponents will be as well. Your mercs gain xp through almost all their actions (doing damage, killing, healing, repairing, disarming explosives, etc) but it seems to take a lot of xp to level up so it's hard to tell exactly how effective that system will be at upgrading your team. It took me 4 combat zones to get my guys up a level, which gives you 7 points to distribute among your stats and skills but with 10 stats/skills total you'll definitely be specializing your team rather then making jack of all trades.

The biggest problem I have with the game so far is that a lot of the personality seems to be lacking from the mercenaries. It might just be that the members of my squad don't have much opinion of each other, but so far there has been no interaction between my squad in the field. The only time I've seen an inter-merc connection was when I recruited my latest Merc and he mentioned that since he had heard good things about me from his friend (another member of my squad) that he would accept my recruitment request. I'm still very early in the game though so we'll see how things evolve. There is a morale meter, and each merc has traits that can change that so I might try to get some of my mercs morale low to see if the personality comes through more. Also the character portraits are pretty bland. They are 3d pictures of the characters faces and change based on equipment, but honestly I'd much prefer a good 2d drawing that showcases the mercs personality better.

Back to some general game observations:

There seem to be a decent weapon selection, but a lot seem to have similar or uneven stats (for example my shotguns and pistols don't have that much of a range difference from my rifles so far. Also I'm sure it must be a bug, but all my equipment pictures are really low resolution and blurry.

The camouflage system seems interesting. There are 4 types of camouflage (urban/jungle/etc) and different clothing and weapons will have upgrade your camouflage in different areas. There is also a visibility bar and noise bar right on your character portraits so you will always know how effective your stealth is. None of my characters are particularly strong at it yet though so I haven't really been able to explore the system fully yet, but it seems interesting.

I'm far from making a final judgement on the game, but it has some promise so far. It's not going to please everybody, and if you are a fantatic who doesn't want any change then don't even bother. If you want to see how this type of game might evolve then check it out. It has some interesting systems, but the merc personality plays a big part in why I like the series and I really need to see more of that before I can recommend the game to JA fans or not.

EDIT: A few things I forgot to mention in my first post.

As pointed out by Dredlockz there are numerous autopause options in the menu which makes the real-time elements much more controllable.

Also, inventory management is a pretty big pain. There really needs to be an easy way to manage inventory on the main map screen. I think you should be able to trade between mercs, arm militia, and sell items from the world map but so far I have not seen a way to do any of that.

#2 Edited by Funkydupe (3311 posts) -

Thanks a bunch, Fearbeard.

I agree. I liked the way the old games gave the various mercs specific personalities that often mirrored their skills in the field. I also enjoyed the comedy of the companies you could hire the mercs from.

#3 Edited by Dredlockz (344 posts) -

Great post, I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said.

I guess you already know this, but if you're a micromanagement junkie like I am, you can go to advanced options at the main menu, and turn all the auto-pause flags on (when being spotted, when running out of ammo, when being shot, when losing sight of an NPC, etc). And at that point it pretty much becomes a turn-based game, but without the extra overhead of "ugh, now I need to spend three turns to move my dudes over here when there's no action going on".

The problem I've had so far is that the game is super easy. I guess it's because the first NPCs don't have good enough agility, but I can ambush guys that are wielding guns with my merc that uses a knife, super easy. Like just have him run towards them from a corner (not even behind them) and they will get a face full of stab before they can shoot.

Their poor reflexes can be exploited easily by, for example, having one merc peek out from cover and hide again, and while the NPC notices and tries to aim, you get another merc to kill him, not even from a flank.

But anyway, I loved the plan&go mechanic, I think it's definitely the future of these types of games. We'll see what Firaxis does with X-COM: Enemy Unknown, I think they're going the turn-based route, so it will be interesting to compare.

#4 Posted by Fearbeard (826 posts) -

@Dredlockz: Yeah, I actually meant to go back and edit my post to mention the autopause options. I haven't used any myself, but the selection looks pretty deep.

#5 Edited by Kojak (12 posts) -

the language in the game description makes it sound like just an HD version of a previous game. I've played JA 2, is this a new story? new mercs?

edit: ha, should have read the game page. disregard

#6 Posted by Anund (880 posts) -

I am liking the game but there really is no challenge at this stage of the game. I hope it picks up later. I actually rather enjoyed the demo, though a whole game with that difficulty would be silly.

#7 Posted by Fearbeard (826 posts) -

@Anund: If you click on one of the attack zones it will show you how many enemies and of what level they are. From my experience the Jagged Alliance series start fairly easy, but get more difficult as you face better equipped and leveled enemies. I'm not near far enough to gauge how the difficulty scales but if you want to test it out then move to one of the zones with tougher enemies and see how your squad fares (I'm not sure if you can make it to the capital but you can get pretty close to it without fighting)

#8 Posted by Anund (880 posts) -

@Fearbeard: Yeah, I am sure I could challenge myself if I went and tried to, but what I mean is, the game starts out a lot easier than the original. I've captured 3 areas now, the airport, Drassen and the water pumping station. I've taken damage twice, and it's damage I don't have to heal up after the fight, I just slap a bandaid on the axe wound in my face and keep on trucking.

I'm liking the game, for sure, but there is less of a sense of accomplishment compared to the old game. (I played Jagged Alliance 2 this weekend, hehe). Still, I am enjoying myself and judging by the demo, the game will ramp up :)

#9 Edited by Fearbeard (826 posts) -

@Anund: Yeah, the bandage system does make things a bit easier. I remember in the original Jagged Alliance's having to sit mercs out missions so they could rest a couple days and heal up their wounds. I definitely don't expect the game to be as difficult as the originals could be at times. I don't really expect it to be as good as JA2 either. I do like seeing the new gameplay systems though and think that with a few tweaks we could get a really good Jagged Alliance 3. I'm always hopeful :-)

#10 Posted by Syntax12345 (22 posts) -

For as unpolished and janky as this game is now, I think that with time it could be pretty awesome. I think the big mistake a lot of people are making is comparing it to 1.13 JA2, which has had years and years for polishing.

It's more fun than I expected, though, which is a plus.

#11 Posted by GuyIncognito (445 posts) -

@Fearbeard: I haven't tried the demo yet...but just the fact that it's not turn based has turned me off. I'm really disappointed. :(

#12 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6135 posts) -

@GuyIncognito: You can elect to have the game pause automatically when a variety of different events occur, rendering it turn-based, for all intents and purposes. It's a clunky solution, to be sure, but it IS a solution.

As for me, the most annoying part is not having my mercenaries automatically return fire if they're not under other orders. Other than that, I'm really enjoying the game when I'm not getting crushed by the enemies.

Moderator
#13 Posted by Dredlockz (344 posts) -

@Sparky_Buzzsaw said:

As for me, the most annoying part is not having my mercenaries automatically return fire if they're not under other orders.

I hear you,

I used to get really frustrated about this, but then you get used to how the mechanics work and to setting them on guard mode when you want them to shoot back.

There have been many times when I DON'T want my mercs to shoot when shot at, like when im stabbing the guy that's shooting at them from a flank, there have been times when they shoot their shotgun and hit another one of my mercs as collateral just because I forgot to take them off guard stance. So I think it's working as intended, it's just a matter of getting used to the way the mechanics work.

#14 Edited by Fearbeard (826 posts) -

@GuyIncognito: Well this type of gameplay is basically an evolution of turn-based, and honestly it works pretty well... You still have tons of strategic control, and can pause and issue orders as often as you want so the game can flow at a pace you feel comfortable with. The system isn't prefect yet and there are a number of things that could be improved with it, but this type of system could be used to make some fantastic games.

Oh and a side note, if this game was turn based there would be no reason for it to exist, since it's basically just remaking Jagged Alliance 2 in a new engine.

#15 Posted by Vigil80 (434 posts) -

Mostly, I'm just thrilled to have a new Jagged Alliance. Like I've posted in other places, I'm confident the devs and/or modders will get a hold of this and address some of the concerns. Imagine what the 1.13 crew might be able to do with it.

#16 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6135 posts) -

@Dredlockz: Oh crap! I didn't even realize what guard mode did. Thanks. You just helped me out immensely.

Moderator
#17 Posted by Dredlockz (344 posts) -

Another thing I realized just now, is that the JA2 snap-shot and aimed shot have all been "linked" to the stance of the mercs. So if you're on the running stance, you'll do snap shots from the hip; you shoot faster, but less accuracy.

If you are on that standing aimed stance, you'll take a bit longer to shoot, but more accurately.

#18 Posted by Jimbo (9796 posts) -

The stances aren't very intuitive. The game becomes much easier once you realise that shooting from the hip is much quicker than firing from any of the other stances. For instance, if you are in a room covering a doorway (or a close corner or whatever) and you're in any of the aiming stances (crouched, prone or stood), you're pretty much fucked if an enemy comes through the doorway, just because of how long it takes to get a shot off from those positions (which makes no sense at all but whatevs). If you're in 'fire from the hip' stance, you'll open fire almost immediately.

This works both ways of course. Usually enemies defending a room will be taking a knee or stood aiming, which means you can usually just run into the room straight into their line of fire, right up close to them, then still gun them down before they can get a shot off.

By far the worst thing about this game so far for me is how the militia / base defences are handled. Instead of it just being a 'send x militia units here, fund them with $y' from the main map, you have to actually go there and arm each guard individually, which takes fucking forever and is made even worse by how completely useless they still are anyway. It's a massive chore having to manually retake or defend the same base over and over again.

#19 Posted by Anund (880 posts) -

@Jimbo: I agree about the militia. I'll add that inventory management and looting was handled much better in JA2 as well. Being able to loot any spotted loot from the map view and give it to any merc was a blessing. There is too much running around doing mundane stuff. Also, now instead of setting a merc on repair duty you have to have each merc equip their damaged weapons in the combat screen, have the repair merc choose his kit and then right click on each merc in turn... I don't see that as an improvement, exactly, hehe.

That said, loving the game and the combat system. It's getting quite a bit more challenging too.

#20 Posted by KirePDX (69 posts) -

@Jimbo: Argh, I was hoping that someone found a better system for arming the militia. I only realized you could even give them weapons when I had to unload some crap from Ira because she became my messenger for getting stuff shipped to the airport. Is there even a way to get potential militia to show up at places like the roadblock? Nobody green is showing up there at all.

@Jimbo: Fully agree on the tricks with the stances and timing for close range battle. I hated it at first, but once you figure out what it means, it can be kind of fun. It provides some value to the idea of 'stacking' guys at doors and then rushing a room to overwhelm targets. Also, reinforces why shotguns, submachine guns and pistols are still valuable for CQB when you have higher-caliber long rifles. I never fully appreciated the differences in JA 1/2.

#21 Edited by Dredlockz (344 posts) -

@KirePDX: I think the amount of militia in a zone increases over time. I've noticed I sometimes need to arm some more dudes afTer a while, even if they were not attacked.

The stances are great. My demolition merc has an awesome shotgun and he can storm through corridors like a boss even with shit marksmanship just shooting from the waist. Cus my lynx and his epic sniper rifle are crap in close quarters

#22 Posted by Fearbeard (826 posts) -

Yeah militia will increase as loyalty in a zone increases. Taking over things like the Cambria Hospital and Universtity seem to increase loyalty, and I think the longer you hold a zone the higher loyalty will go up as well.

The way they handle equipping miltia's in the game is horrendous though. I would much rather just pump money into a zone to increase the miltiia's armaments rather then manually have to go to each one and hand them a gun. I'm still having fun with the game, but there are a lot of things that need to be addressed.

#23 Posted by Dredlockz (344 posts) -

I was in Cambria when an enemy squad attacked and noticed that you can equip the militia mid-battle. I thought that was pretty cool since you can tailor them to your needs. We ambushed the bad guys in a bottleneck from the nearby windows in buildings, it was pretty awesome.

But I agree, 90% of the time its a hassle and it sucks.

#24 Posted by Anund (880 posts) -

@Dredlockz said:

I was in Cambria when an enemy squad attacked and noticed that you can equip the militia mid-battle. I thought that was pretty cool since you can tailor them to your needs. We ambushed the bad guys in a bottleneck from the nearby windows in buildings, it was pretty awesome.

But I agree, 90% of the time its a hassle and it sucks.

That sounds cool. There is no reason to remove the equipping of militia, but I would loooove the option to just fund them and have them buy their own gear.

#25 Posted by KirePDX (69 posts) -

@Anund: It'd be even better if Militia just grabbed whatever weapons are on the ground in the map. It may be annoying to add the risk of a random militia guy stealing a gun you wanted to pickup, but I'd probably be willing to deal with that instead.

@Dredlockz: Ha, I like the idea of a dude just rampaging down a hall way with an autoshotty. Though, of course, after praising the stances and weapon speed, I got my team slaughtered multiple times because I was enamored with the assault rifle stockpile at the cannibal's farm. Loaded everyone up on semi-auto shotties and long guns, dropping all of my pistols for room...and now every dude with a machete can chase them down on open ground to close the gap.

Apparently my team is incapable of shooting at guys running at an angle to them because even with overlapping fields of fire, only mercing directly facing the machete guys straight on would take a shot. Annoying.

Lastly, does anyone know how to repair equipment, like kevlar vests? I can see how to repair weapons, but not equipment.

#26 Posted by Dredlockz (344 posts) -

@KirePDX said:

does anyone know how to repair equipment, like kevlar vests? I can see how to repair weapons, but not equipment.

I've been wondering the same thing, I have a bunch of equipment without durability, it's so annoying.

Also, I noticed that after the latest patch for the game, there is a bug when you try to heal or repair another merc's stuff, like the dude will run up to the merc in question but then do nothing, I need to click a bunch of times from different angles and eventually he will start the action. hope they fix it soon.

#27 Posted by Tennmuerti (8055 posts) -

@Dredlockz said:

@KirePDX said:

does anyone know how to repair equipment, like kevlar vests? I can see how to repair weapons, but not equipment.

I've been wondering the same thing, I have a bunch of equipment without durability, it's so annoying.

You can only repair weapons, not equipment. It's a deliberate moneysink.

#28 Posted by Vodun (2370 posts) -

@Fearbeard: I wholeheartedly agree with pretty much everything you've written. I have to say the fact that you can see everyone on the map is a big plus for me, as it's the slight edge which allows me to win. If I'd have to find out where everyone is I would fail even harder than I already do.

Strangely enough my main gripe so far is one of atmosphere, apart from the lack of personality in your mercs (which I think is weird because they are presented in the same way as JA2) they also lost personality in AIM and the online weapons store. They look like "game interface" now, where as they used to look like crappy 90's web pages. Just added a bit of charm.

#29 Posted by KirePDX (69 posts) -

@Tennmuerti That's annoying about the repair, but I guess I can live with it. In JA2, I used to have one guy just dedicated to repair and always had to shuttle him or someone else to transfer equipment. Also, so far, it seems like there are a lot more people available to sell arms and armor in the different locations, so it should be manageable.

That said, I hate to ditch some of the gear I started out with, but it is what it is.

@Dredlockz: I've had the same bug, as well; I guess i'm glad I'm not the only one? Hopefully it is fixed soon.

#30 Edited by Dredlockz (344 posts) -

@KirePDX said:

@Dredlockz: I've had the same bug, as well; I guess i'm glad I'm not the only one? Hopefully it is fixed soon.

Woke up to this bit of news:

V 1.06

- Fixed target for repair / heal not being accessible for mechanic / healer

yay! I'm glad to see them releasing an update almost every day.

#31 Posted by KirePDX (69 posts) -

@Dredlockz: Nice. I'm not going to be able to play for a couple days, so it might just be a new game by the time I get back.

I did leave it off facing my first real challenge, though. I'm trying to take the SAM site near Cambria with 3 mercs against about 10 enemies, who are pretty well armed for the first time with long arms and in defensible spots. So far, everytime I start shooting, I just get rushed by everybody and don't have any way to stay on top of it. It's the first time I've faced something I don't think I can manage easily and might have to back out. It's making things interesting.

#32 Posted by myslead (929 posts) -

@KirePDX said:

@Dredlockz: Nice. I'm not going to be able to play for a couple days, so it might just be a new game by the time I get back.

I did leave it off facing my first real challenge, though. I'm trying to take the SAM site near Cambria with 3 mercs against about 10 enemies, who are pretty well armed for the first time with long arms and in defensible spots. So far, everytime I start shooting, I just get rushed by everybody and don't have any way to stay on top of it. It's the first time I've faced something I don't think I can manage easily and might have to back out. It's making things interesting.

use all of your tools at your disposal

Flashbangs and Grenades are way op.

#33 Posted by Dredlockz (344 posts) -

@KirePDX said:

@Dredlockz: Nice. I'm not going to be able to play for a couple days, so it might just be a new game by the time I get back.

I did leave it off facing my first real challenge, though. I'm trying to take the SAM site near Cambria with 3 mercs against about 10 enemies, who are pretty well armed for the first time with long arms and in defensible spots. So far, everytime I start shooting, I just get rushed by everybody and don't have any way to stay on top of it. It's the first time I've faced something I don't think I can manage easily and might have to back out. It's making things interesting.

I remember that one. I had to save for my Lynx merc for it. The open up spaces are a breeze with a sniper

#34 Posted by KirePDX (69 posts) -

@Dredlockz: Good call on Lynx, but I think I blew my money on armor and a few cheaper mercs. Mostly, though, I had a hard time getting line-of-sight on guys who were behind sandbags. It seemed like nothing was working until I literally rushed them and hipfired over the walls. I think I'll take @myslead recommendation and load up on grenades and flash bangs, then just go nuts with 'em.

it doesn't have to be pretty if it works.

#35 Posted by myslead (929 posts) -

@KirePDX said:

@Dredlockz: Good call on Lynx, but I think I blew my money on armor and a few cheaper mercs. Mostly, though, I had a hard time getting line-of-sight on guys who were behind sandbags. It seemed like nothing was working until I literally rushed them and hipfired over the walls. I think I'll take @myslead recommendation and load up on grenades and flash bangs, then just go nuts with 'em.

it doesn't have to be pretty if it works.

people behind cover are usually only targetable via their heads.

also everytime I see an enemy squad rushing one of my location all I do is ambush them on their way over there, go prone activate burst fire and throw one grenade... they usually all die in 2 seconds.

#36 Posted by Rowr (5518 posts) -

I'm really enjoying it - I can understand how some jankiness and weird UI makes the pampered gamers of today crazy, but I can accept it for what it is.

I'm enjoying the real time. I can pause it any time I please and queue orders so it basically becomes turned based when I want it to. Which is a lot when i'm in combat, but saves all the drama's of hitting the turn button and spending 5 hours moving everyone about, it feels a bit more natural to me.

The lack of the fog of war doesn't bother me so much either. The stealth is a little bit all over the place to judge, I wouldn't mind some sort of Indicators more helpful than the noise meter which tells me nothing.

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