Jagged Alliance: Rage! Review

Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:TBA
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay

On the visual side of things, JAR goes for a stylized comic book look, but ultimately fails to conceal its blocky design and antiquated character models. The soundtrack, on the other hand, I thought was pretty decent. The music fits the setting, sets the right tone, and has a nice bite to it.

The game's campaign that will probably take you somewhere between 15 and 20 hours to complete is separated into three acts, during which you will be exploring a hostile tropical island, scrounging for supplies, maintaining your equipment, and generally trying to stay alive.

The survival elements are actually quite neat and can be considered one of the game's strong suits. Your mercs don't automatically heal between missions, and leaving them with untreated injuries can lead to various complications. In order to actually heal your mercs, you will need to camp and focus on healing instead of fixing or improving your equipment. Healing also uses up valuable resources like water and medical kits, and those aren't exactly easy to come by.

On the other hand, the strategy elements are so basic that the whole strategic layer could have easily been replaced with a level select screen. There's no economy, you don't train any militia, there are no strategic points to capture and hold, no territory back and forth. You just move from one mission to the next while occasionally giving some basic orders to your rebel allies, and that's that.

Overall, the game's campaign is a very mixed bag with some neat ideas marred by poor execution. It's like some strange wonky roller coaster of ups and downs - you get a cast of unique mercs, but only a few of them; the game sets up neat narrative hooks, but then doesn't do anything with them; the strategic layer is extremely basic, but the survival elements are quite alright.

And with that out of the way, let's move on to the actual meat of the game - its tactical turn-based battles.

Sneaking, Shooting and Looting

Despite its limited squad size, the tactical options you get in JAR are actually pretty impressive when compared to other contemporary games in the genre. Sure, the ubiquitous these days abstract cover shields are still present, but at the very least, instead of the stifling two action system, you get proper variable action points modified by a plethora of factors, such as your mercs' adrenaline or hydration stats.

The game's weapon variety is also quite decent, further improved by the fact that each gun has its own AP costs, attack modes, and a set of stats that include durability, stability, effective range, and armor penetration. Weapons can also be modified through a series of attachments that you can either find in the field or craft yourself. However, it's important to note that the game's crafting system is not exactly deep and boils down to exchanging weapon parts for random attachments while camping.

On top of that, while setting up a shot, you can target different body parts and even spend additional AP to boost your accuracy, number of shots fired, or the effective cone of your overwatch maneuver, which is honestly quite refreshing to see. And aside from weapons, your mercs can also equip body armor, headgear, leg armor, and inventory-expanding bags.

Stealth also plays a fairly prominent part in JAR. With enough patience and the right set of tools, you can finish most of the game's missions without engaging your enemies directly. Or you can go in guns blazing and just shoot anything that moves. JAR supports both these playstyles, and in my experience the optimal way to approach things is somewhere in-between. You go in, get in position, quietly pick off enemy commanders, and then deal with the remaining rabble.

Speaking of commanders, they don't just get fancy hats and better equipment, they also coordinate their troops by giving them additional combat actions and letting them know where your mercs are hiding.

The game's enemy variety, while not too impressive, isn't bad either. You have your basic grunts, your snipers, and your officers, but also the tough elite mercs, doped out of their minds zombies, and even mutated super soldiers.

And on the animation side of things, even though there is no option to speed up or skip enemy animations, the default ones are fairly brisk already.