I still had some issues with Jagged Alliance Online, but it's hard to say whether these will be corrected during one of the following betas. So while it is my duty to report to you these issues, I want you to bear in mind the state of the current game. Fortunately the title seems far enough along that I got a real feel for what is coming.
War is coming.
Click past the cut and I'll give you the details.
Graphically, the game does a lot. It's using the Unity engine, so it features all sorts of fancy effects. The lighting is nice but sometimes can be a bit harsh or dark, and the muzzle flashes and blood spatter are a cool touch. One of the neatest things to see is the physics involved with dead bodies. The developers really went out on a (severed) limb and made bodies fall and flail around so that every kill comes out differently. It has no benefit to the strategy of the game at all, but that's why I love it.
Strategy is not limited to how you move on the battlefield. Squads are made up of hand-picked mercenaries, and each one of them is customized further as you add add different clothing, armor, weapons and items. Many of the items are found in the cash shop, so cries of "buying power" might come from the audience. Still, the number of items is impressive, and I can honestly say that I had just as much fun making up my armies as I did while playing them on the battlefield. There are scores of mercenaries to choose from. My opinion might be skewed a bit, though, since the cash-shop cash flowed like water during testing. I have no idea how hard it would be to make a good, or near perfect, army without the use of free virtual money.
Once you hit the battlefield, combat is only a matter of moving your cursor around the map and clicking. Each mercenary has a certain number of points to use for actions, and as you move your cursor, a number will tick down so that you can see how many points that particular movement or action will take. Making your mercenary crouch is simply a matter of double-clicking her; reloading your weapon is done with one click. All of these actions take away from your point total. Hovering your cursor over an enemy will even show you your chance of hitting. Call me crazy, but it seemed a bit like the dice rolls were a bit off, especially when I would miss so many times while having a hit chance in the high 50s or 60s.
"The first and most important benefit of browser gaming is convenience, so forcing players to have a slightly beefier machine is a little silly."
Voice-overs are corny, for sure, and some are downright dumb, but that might be in the style of the original game (the one I never played). The odd voices don't really match the "serious" look of the game, but again I might have heard temporary placeholder voice-overs. I certainly hope so. One of the characters sounded so silly that I literally cringed every time I heard her. Gunshots and other wartime sounds are sparse but done well.
After my short time with Jagged Alliance Online, I am more excited than ever to play it at release. Granted, I am a bit worried about how "MMO" this MMO is, but it will still remain on my favorites list. UFO Online looks to be the more massively scaled game of the two, but both provide simple, direct and easy fun. Gunning down baddies is always a blast, but it's especially fun when you can tweak almost every aspect of each individual warrior. Count me in!
- Fantastic graphics, thanks to the Unity engine
- Turns are not limited by time, at least in the single-player mode
- Each mercenary is customizable, and there are plenty to choose from
- The play map is large and provides a lot of scenarios
- Battle sounds are well-done, if a little sparse
- Interface and gameplay are simple to learn, hard to master
- Unity might be a bit much for basic laptops
- No graphics options, at least not now
- Voice-overs are horrible in many places
- Cash shop might not be for everyone
- Locations do get a bit stale and repetitive
- Camera is locked in isometric view
- Hit chances seem a bit off
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