Review: Jagged Alliance 3 gets a solid console port 

jagged alliance 3

Years ago, the thought of getting complex PC games to work on consoles was beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, but that’s indeed the case for a whole lot of them, whose developers took care in making them work regardless of the receiving system’s limitations. They proved that these games can in fact exist outside of PCs. 

The latest of these is the current console port of the excellent Jagged Alliance 3, which was originally reviewed by our very own strategy expert, Andy Johnson. Back when it was first released on PC, the game already had controller support, but now it’s finally making its way to proper consoles, including the PlayStation 5, which is where I got to play it.

Now, Jagged Alliance 3 isn’t ashamed about its complexity in any way, and it certainly does not pull any punches when playing it off a TV, and in my case, lazing about on the couch. Admittedly, there are some rough edges as expected, like the lack of a proper tutorial when starting out that would’ve gone a long way with a game with so many layers like this one.

Usually, the main worry with getting a strategy-focused game like Jagged Alliance 3 on console is mapping all of the keyboard and mouse commands to a controller, obviously without as many buttons as those inputs. Surprisingly, thanks to context-sensitive prompts, the game works as well as it can be expected.

jagged alliance 3
Careful unit placement and movement from turn to turn is paramount to bringing back home your mercs in one piece.

Then again, there are some gripes when it comes to precision while selecting commands, especially during combat. The camera is stiff and less than responsive, and usually selecting a target can be fiddly. Otherwise, if you take the time to get settled in and get over Jagged Alliance 3’s above average learning curve, there’s plenty of fun to be had with it.

Granted, I would place the game on a higher plateau in terms of complexity even when comparing it to other games of its ilk, or somewhere near it, that have gotten console ports, like Company of Heroes 3 or even any of the more modern XCOMs. If you’re thinking about jumping into this, it’s best to take it in stride as it’s likely to kick you hard with its sheer amount of options.

Once you get a team together for the first time, and in that Jagged Alliance 3 does a decent job pushing you towards a good starter group, you are dropped into a warring state whose peace-focused president has been kidnapped by local militia. Hired by the man’s daughter, you have to trust your wits and somehow take the country back and rescue the guy unscathed. 

That’s the overall objective, though, since there’s a big map full of installations, mines, docks, and other locations to take over or simply destroy, and the way you go about it is entirely up to you. Time moves at a brisk pace, and the more of it you spend with whatever approach you decide to take, the more money is spent keeping your mercenaries’ contracts up as they’re paid by the day and aren’t cheap.

jagged alliance 3
Jagged Alliance 3 provides an extra layer of complexity by having you micromanage a large map full of dangers to surmount and riches to the conquered.

As of this writing, I have made it out of the game’s initial area and have started my advance towards the mainland after gaining control of an island which acts as the group’s base of operations. However, I am deep in the red and desperately in search of income, getting in more and more debt as time passes, as I figure out how to take over a diamond mine and start getting cash daily. Mixed with clever stealth sections that recall games like Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, and we’ve got ourselves a form of unpredictability that make every playthrough feel unique.

Those are the sorts of situations you’ll find yourself in while playing, and they’re by far Jagged Alliance 3’s greatest strength: pushing you to make tough decisions and live with them, for better or for worse. These not the only case, either. There’s also how you approach deadly situations through conversation trees that take into account your characters’ stats, and they can be turned around if you manage to strike at the right angle.

I’m excited to think what’s ahead of me in my clumsy adventure through this, in a way that is increasingly rare these days, where reviewing games usually has me moving from one to the other and forgetting about past reviews in favor of whatever’s next. I will very likely be coming back to Jagged Alliance 3 in the coming weeks into the holidays. 

Other than the qualms Andy already addressed in his review, like the incredibly high level of difficulty right from the get-go and other annoyances that are shared in this port, along with some slight technical foibles, Jagged Alliance 3 is an otherwise amazing return of the venerable franchise. It’s without comparison to whatever else other developers outside of Haemimont Games have attempted to do to revive the franchise in the past. It isn’t shy about dropping you in the deep end and letting you either sink or swim, and it’s to be commended for it, thanks to how good it can be if you survive it!

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