There's so much from the 90s era that PC gamers hold sacred—from the rich pixel art to the old-school difficulty that chewed up those who didn't read the tome-like instruction manuals—that it can be a minefield for developers to get right. But fans of long-dormant turn-based tactics series Jagged Alliance can breathe easy now, because Jagged Alliance 3 is pretty great, bringing those Cold War black ops antics into 2023 while retaining the game's distinct identity.
A big part of that identity is the difficulty, and true to its roots Jagged Alliance 3 is not an easy game. We've already talked about its challenging campaign, which can easily corner reckless players into a no-win situation, but this time we're setting our sights on the combat. After all, the best planning will be for nothing if you don't deliver the goods in battle.
So here's a bunch of combat pointers we put together for new players taking to the turn-based battlefield.
Gather your intel
There's a fair bit of groundwork you can do before launching an assault on a sector, and that includes gathering intel. Whatever sector you're on, you can launch an operation to scout sectors in a two-sector radius around the one you're currently in.
There's no guarantee that the mercenary you use will scout the tile you're looking to attack, but with a little luck they will, which means that when you enter battle, you can use the overview ('O' key) to get a lay of the land, revealing vantage points, flanking positions, stashes, and general enemy positions.
Another means of gathering intel is by running around friendly towns and looking for objects you can examine.
Prep your meds
On your first run, there's a good chance you're going to come up against a supply shortage of meds. Be as sparing with your meds as possible. Only heal mercenaries between fights if they have two or more wounds, and let lighter healing happen naturally when resting, or by using the 'R&R' Operation in towns.
Meds also aren't too hard to find if you know where to look. Enter the tactical view in empty sectors to harvest meds from plants (which you can then use to refill medkits on the mercenaries that carry them). If you fight against medics, try not to blow them to bits, because their intact bodies tend to yield quite a lot of meds too.
Line 'em up
True to previous games in the series, Jagged Alliance 3 uses a hidden RNG system, which means your chances to deal and receive damage are a percentage based on factors like skill, distance, and firing mode.
In addition, bullets are physical projectiles in Jagged Alliance 3. This means that if you get into positions where you line enemies up one behind the other (or a little offset), shots that miss the first enemy when you're, say, firing a shotgun or a machine gun, can still hit the enemy behind them.
So line those enemies up to make each bullet count (oh, and do make sure your allies aren't in the line of fire).
Aim pure and true
With no visible RNG in Jagged Alliance 3, there are other ways of gauging your hit chances. When you aim, a bar will appear under your target with a yellow line in the middle. That line is your 'optimal range,' and the further the crosshair icon is to the right of that, the less likely you are to land your shot.
If you're a little bit beyond the optimal range, you can compensate for that by right-clicking and tightening your aim (at the cost of more AP). A general rule is that when you hover over a body part to aim for, make sure the info box that pops up has more 'plus' than 'minus' variables in the Accuracy section.
Remember that if you've tightened your aim, then the 'Aiming' variable gets a multiplier (x2, x3, and so on), so take that into account when tallying up your plusses and minuses.
Trusty old overwatch
This will go without saying for fans of turn-based tactics games, who've been doing this for decades since the early days of XCOM and Jagged Alliance, but Overwatch is as crucial an ability as ever in Jagged Alliance 3.
Using overwatch ends your turn, setting your mercenary up to fire on the enemy on their turn if they pass through the vision cone you set up. This not only deals damage, but interrupts enemies, potentially stopping them from having their full turn. Firing in overwatch uses less action points than regular shots, but the more AP you've used before setting up Overwatch, the fewer shots your mercenary can fire while in overwatch.
You can even set overwatch up with multiple mercenaries before triggering combat, letting you ambush the enemy with a devastating fusillade.
That should get you battle-ready. Fight hard, aim carefully, and please don't throw grenades using mercenaries with low skill in explosives. A lesson as applicable to life as it is to Jagged Alliance 3.