Jagged Alliance: Online – “Why are we here?”

Jagged Alliance: Online is a browser based Video Game that recently showed up on Steam. That is the main reason how I learned of it and I was anxious to try it out, after my lengthy escapades with Company of Heroes 2. I only played Jagged Alliance: Wildfire before, and I must say that I loved that game. You were the head of a small Mercenary Company, tasked with taking back a small country from the clutches of a corrupt and ruthless dictator. You operated through a laptop and a small starting sum of money. You needed to contact A.I.M. to recruit Mercenaries to your company. If you wanted more gear or supplies you had to order it online and get it shipped to the country (bribing the local “care taker” to give you your goods). All was not beautiful and in order to make money you would have to do all manner of tasks. Sometimes you would have to box, other times hunt for known criminals. Your “main” source of money were the towns you would liberate, and the mines that were attached to them. The higher your achievements during the game the more money the mines would produce, but you would also have to protect the liberated cities, by training Militias… It all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? And I did not even start talking about the complex turn-based or real-time combat, where each Merc had his own abilities and specialties, and you could perform any attack in a multitude of ways… So where does Jagged Alliance: Online stand in all of this?

Jagged Alliance: Online – What is it about?

In Jagged Alliance: Online you are the leader of your own Mercenary Company. This time, however, there is no story, as far as I can tell. You gather Mercs, equipment, do missions and fight other Merc companies. That pretty much sums up the entire game. There are five types of Mercs, Sniper, Commando, Soldier, Gunner and Scout. Each one has a different starting skill-set, and preferred weapons. Later on you can level them in any way you like, investing in those skills you find to be the most interesting, but it will take a long time before you reach a level you desire.

There are two parts of this game. The Single player missions, and the PvP. During Single player you fight against the AI, and the AI can sometimes surprise with its creativity. That said, the AI is not god-like, they play along the same rules as other players would. So, you can ambush them, hide away from their sight, they will react to loud noise near them, and react accordingly to distractions. The AI will also think tactically, to an extent. The higher the “level” of the quest the tougher things will get. You will also get steadily introduced to all manner of tougher opponents, and I can honestly say that playing the Single player levels is a good introduction to PvP.

While completing Single player games there will be three “Achievement” objectives. These may be associated with how many shots you can fire, how long is the mission to take or how many Mercs you can take with you. You do not have to complete the Achievement Objectives, but if you succeed you will be granted higher mission rewards as well as Prestige Points.

Jagged Alliance: Online

On the World Map you can see some of your missions and Prestige Missions. Each “Missions” will have a few sub-missions, where you can see how much prestige you got for each of them. The Prestige Missions (with a symbol of a cup) can be seen in Europe. In the top bar you can see the different statistics for your company. While this was not my company (mine has a higher level) you get the chance to see what your own “Map” might look like.

Right, let’s talk about your “Levels”. Your Mercenary Company has three “levels” of its own. Prestige is gained through completing Singple player missions with achievement objectives (up to three points for each mission). Prestige allows you to take part in special “Prestige Missions”, that are more challenging but also offer better rewards. Reputation is gained through PvP and PvE. Reputation may be summed up as the “General” level of your Company. Through Reputation you unlock upgrades to your structures, new Mercs and I believe new equipment (although I cannot be certain whether it’s Company Levels or Merc levels that influence that). Reputation also allows you to take part in new missions. Then you have Honor, and Honor is gained through PvP games. Honor, as far as I can tell for now, is used to unlock “Honor” equipment. As you gain Reputation/Merc Levels new items will appear that will call for a certain level of Honor. These are in general very good items, and it may well be worth your time getting them.

Your Mercenaries also gain levels, and you can upgrade them in any way you like. It is best, at first, to focus on a Merc’s specific weapon and skills, to maximize them in a specific “Skill set”. Later on you can make him or her more versatile, since a Generalist, early in the game, might not be the best idea.

Now, let’s get down to brass knuckles. Money. Money drives everything in this game, or almost. You hire Mercs, buy equipment, upgrade and construct buildings with money. Money is earned on missions (both PvE and PvP). Without money you cannot hire Mercs, or extend their contract. Without money you cannot buy better equipment. In other words, you will always need money. The surprising part about Jagged Alliance: Online is the lack of Premium currency. YES, there is no Premium Currency. You can buy anything you want, as long as you have the cash and high enough Honor/Rep/Merc Level.

So what do you spend the money on? Here is where naming this game a Free-To-Play might be a tiny bit tarnished. You see, you can buy a “Campaign Pack”. This Campaign unlocks all the single player and Prestige missions. It also increases your maximum Reputation level-cap (and I imagine for Honor too) . In other words, what you have in the Free-To-Play version of the game are most of the core features. You get to play some of the single player games. You can engage in the PvP, you can buy all the equipment that you unlock. I am slowly reaching level 25, at the time of writing this (cap is set at 50) and according to Steam that took me 14 hours. You cannot complain that the game is “too fast”, but neither is it too slow. You always have a chance to do something, and sometimes you will use the opportunity before your Level in order to fully upgrade your Mercs.

The only sad part about the Free-To-Play version of the game is that crafting is almost non-existent. You unlock the feature, and you can see what you can craft, but in order to craft anything (as far as I can tell) you need to play through the single player missions. During these there are random loot drops, used for crafting and building upgrades. In short, you need the Campaign Pack in order to fully enjoy the game. I saw it sold on Steam for 21 Euros, which is a reasonable price I imagine, considering how much one can spend on other Free To Play games.

Jagged Alliance: Online

An example of PvP. When targeting enemies you can view where they have weak spots (the darker red the better for you). You may also choose to aim at either their body or head. There is always a Critical chance, to deliver more damage, and each hit could result in a “Wound” of some type. During PvP you have to be careful with how your use the Action Points of each character, since you could, by mistake, end up in front of an enemy, with no APs left to move out of the way or hide.

The “Free To Play” PvP

I have to say something about the PvP though. While each Single Player mission appears to take part on a separate level each time, during PvP I played on the same map each time. What changes is that sometimes the map will happen in a jungle, city or desert, but that’s it. The cover will always be in the same place, and as such you can memorize a perfect strategy with your chosen Mercs, flawlessly.

Another part of the game that slightly annoys me is the “equipment” aspect. You MUST always upgrade your equipment to the best there is. When I first started PvP I was smashed into the ground continuously. Even single enemies, whom I would flank or target weak spots, would deflect my attack as if they were nothing. In essence, if you lack the top-notch equipment available you will be in deep boo boo.

Equipment equals out the playing field, and after that it’s up to your tactics and knowledge of the game to prevail. I met with all manner of players, be it corner campers or “Sniper” builds, but there was always a way to beat them. The tactics within the game are limited though. One of my biggest issues was the lack of a “Prone” stance for Mercs, and no explosives. I cannot think of a better way to vacate a corner than to chuck a few grenades in that direction. There is also no melee, so if you have a Sniper trying to protect himself from a Commando all he can do is try and move back enough hit points to fire a single or two shots, or flee.

In that sense Jagged Alliance: Wildfire offered a lot more complexity to combat. Jagged Alliance: Online is far more simplistic. The maps are much smaller, and if you played more Turn-Based Tactical games you might begin to see how simple Jagged Alliance: Online is.

Yay or Nay?

If you have a Steam account you can simply download the client and begin playing. You cannot reset your character choice though, so make SURE the character you make is the one you will stick to (I made a Commando, pretty decent choice I think).  Overall I’d say it’s a good game, worth a try if you do not want to spend the 21 Euros on the Campaign Pack just yet. It will still provide you with a lot of entertainment and if you get hooked on it then you will know whether you want to proceed with the purchase or not.

Try to complete all the “Basic” Single Player Missions first, that way you will learn all the ropes for the PvP. Do not get disheartened if some of the Missions are too tough. Try repeating one of the previous ones to gain more Experience/Money to improve your Mercs. I almost left the game entirely due to my Single Player shortcomings, but after a while it all worked out perfectly.

Check out the Jagged Alliance: Online Main Site for more details.

Alex “WriterX” Bielski

About The Author

Aleksander "WriterX" Bielski
Other posts by

Student of Psychology, he was identified as a Nut-Job even before he started the course. Having done some small work as a Modder for a number of titles, and worked as a Game Designer part-time, Alex now writes in third person. As Co-Owner and Editor of AlterGamer.com he aims high, while being armed only with a sling. In the future, he hopes to become a fully qualified Newspaper Editor, and purchase Google.

Leave a Reply