This title was reviewed on Xbox One, but is also available on PS4 and PC.
Jagged Alliance is a series that has been going on since 1995, and while it hasn’t had the best run in recent years, it has its following, and with good reason. The series manages to blend Turn-Based Strategy and RPG elements, with a sprinkling of humorous character dialogue to make an experience that is truly unique. After the pretty poorly received Jagged Alliance: Flashback, the series needed to get back into fans’ good graces. It seems that prayers have been answered in the form of the newly released Jagged Alliance: Rage!. Is this a solid return to form for the franchise? Let’s find out.
The graphics here are largely solid and presentable. While there are some cracks that can be seen if you zoom in, overall there is some solid graphical design here. Character designs are stylised, levels are chock full of details like foliage, and the lighting in some of the areas is very well done, such as the creepy red lighting you get in one of the early levels. The graphics definitely aren’t mind-blowing, but they work and look good in many areas.
The story here is very simple. Your group of mercenaries get sent on a rescue mission to an occupied island. The mission goes wrong and you’re captured and about to be experimented on to become mindless slaves, a fate that has already fell upon series mainstay Malice. You manage to escape and now your goal is to escape the island. It’s a very simple and plain story, but the classic Jagged Alliance dialogue carries it to enjoyable territory. The dialogue between your characters and other island inhabitants manage to be both funny and horrific, with moments such as having to tell a child his sister has been killed showing the horrors of the conflict you’re in. it’s a balance the series is known for and that this game does very well.
Jagged Alliance: Rage! is a turn-based strategy game. For the most part, you must navigate stages, completing objectives and taking out hostiles, and you and the hostiles alternate between turns. What you can do during a turn is dictated by your Action Points, which each member of your team has a limited number of each turn. These are used up with almost everything you do, whether it be moving spaces, attacking or interacting. After you run out of AP, the enemy then moves, attacks or interacts before your turn begins again. In fitting with the name of the game, there’s also the new RAGE mechanic. Taking damage builds your merc’s adrenaline, which grants points to use in RAGE abilities. These abilities vary per character, such as having Ivan taunt enemies to get their attention, or Dr Q using his chi to heal his teammates. The turn-based combat is familiar but very well done, and combat has a very rare intensity to it, especially if you’re trying to stealth through areas. The turn-based gameplay can ruin the pace if you’re simply trying to move from point A to B though, and some combat can get frustrating and take numerous attempts for some players.
What makes Jagged Alliance: Rage! standout however is its emphasis on inventory management and survivability. In most levels, you’re deathly outnumbered and outgunned. This means that looting and managing your ammo, armour, weapons and healing items is critical to your victory. Weapons can degrade over time and must be repaired or else they’ll jam, and you need to keep plenty of healing items on you at all times. Being hit can cause bleeding, sometimes bullets may break apart and cause shrapnel damage, or maybe the wound will become septic. All of this emphasises managing your inventory so you have healing items to help you. With the game being set on an island, you’ll also get thirsty, meaning you need water. Some water may be dirty though, and can cause infection. All of this survivability even extends to outside of levels, as the game has a rest mechanic. In between stages, you can take a rest, allowing you to heal health, manage your inventory, or if you have Dr Q, use his medic bag to heal infections and the like. There’s a risk to this too though, as resting can allow enemy soldier patrols to catch up with you, forcing you into combat, adding another layer to the strategy.
The sound is a mixed bag here. The music is overall solid, fitting in well with the action going on on-screen, and even has a slight 80s action film vibe to it. Sound effects are also solid too, with gunshots and explosions sounding spot on. However, the game’s voice acting is rather poor in many aspects, which overall detracts from the great dialogue I mentioned earlier.
Jagged Alliance: Rage! is a solid strategy romp. With some well-done and intense turn-based gameplay and some really deep survival gameplay, there’s plenty to like here. While it may not be Jagged Alliance 3, it’s not trying to be, and is instead taking what made the rest of the series great, and gave it some new life. While some frustration can be met for some players and the turn-based aspects can break the pacing of basic movement, this is an enjoyable romp despite the weak story and the game’s humour and dialogue is solid despite some poor voice acting.