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  • DevDiary 4 - Character Progression

    Character Progression

    Hello everyone, I am Boian Spasov and I am happy to welcome you to our fourth DevDiary! In it we will take a look at the way we model the mercs mechanically and how they become more powerful, unique and personalized as the campaign progresses.

    From the very start of the design process for Jagged Alliance 3 we knew that we wanted a classless system for the mercs. Even though some characters might reasonably be considered “field medics” or “explosive experts” based on their starting skillset and indeed the Association of International Mercenaries (A.I.M.) might even advertise them as such on their webpage, we didn’t want to constraint them in such narrow archetypes, nor force the player to use or develop them in a particular way. Advancing your so-called medic to become a top-tier sniper or mechanic should take serious effort, but is ultimately possible and no artificial class definitions will prevent you from doing so.

    Merc Stats



    Like in the classic JA games, we represent the basic physical attributes and important skills of each character with a number between 0 and 100. Here is a list of the basic stats that each merc has and their direct effects – some of these may sound a bit cryptic:

    • Health - Represents both the physical well-being of a merc and the amount of damage they can take before becoming downed.
    • Agility - Measures how well a merc reacts physically to a new situation. Affects the total amount of action points, free movement at the start of a turn, and how stealthy the merc is.
    • Dexterity - Measures a merc's ability to perform delicate or precise movements correctly. Affects bonus from aiming and Stealth Kill chance.
    • Strength - Represents muscle and brawn. It's particularly important in Melee combat, affects throwing range and the size of the personal inventory of the character.
    • Wisdom - Affects a merc's ability to learn from experience and training. Affects the chance to notice hidden items and enemies.
    • Leadership - Measures charm, respect and presence. Important for training militia and other mercs. Affects the chance for getting positive and negative Morale events.
    • Marksmanship - Reflects a merc's ability to shoot accurately at a given target with a firearm.
    • Mechanical - Rates a merc's ability to repair damaged, worn-out or broken items and equipment. Important for lockpicking, machine handling and hacking electronic devices. Used for detecting and disarming non-explosive traps.
    • Explosives - Determines a merc's ability to use grenades and other explosives and affects damage and mishap chance when using thrown items. Used for detecting and disarming explosive traps.
    • Medical - Represents a merc's medical knowledge and ability to heal the wounded.

    Some of you will recognize the names of these stats from Jagged Alliance 1 and 2 but note that some of the particular effects are working slightly differently now. Returning mercs have similar stats to their counterparts in the old games, but these have been adjusted just a bit to account for the time passed and some balancing with the new system.

    Stats are not static throughout a merc’s lifetime. These can be improved in several ways, including getting trained by more proficient mercs on the team and using these stats efficiently in the field. Gains from field experience are limited and also loosely tied to the regular progression for levelling up – don’t expect your merc to become an expert marksman by repeatedly shooting at bottles in a safe situation!

    We briefly considered lowering stats due to serious wounds and other negative factors, but ultimately decided against this – having your favorite merc permanently crippled is not very fun. Temporary impairments on the other hand, may create a better gameplay experience.

    Level and Progression

    While individual stats show how good a merc is with a particular physical or trained skill, the overall experience is measured by their level. Rookies start at level 1 but you can hire more experienced mercs even in the starting team. All mercs can progress up to level 10, raising their salary and evolving their stats along the way.

    While the merc level offers some direct mechanical benefits such as better Crit rate and improved Chance to Hit for attacks made against lower-level targets, each level up also grants the opportunity to specialize the merc further with a perk of your choice. Each perk is associated with a particular Stat and requires a certain proficiency with this Stat (currently the minimum requirement is 70 points). Perks with silver and golden icons have stronger effects and more demanding prerequisites - respectively 80 and 90 points in the particular Stat as well as at some other perks associated with the Stat taken at previous level-ups.



    Perks associated with a particular Stat are designed to synergize well with each other and are often most helpful when you focus on a playstyle that makes good use of this stat. For example some Agility perks synergize on creating a very mobile character that doesn’t have to spend too many AP for movement:

    • Hit and Run (requires 70 Agility) – Gain Free Move after Executing a Melee attack.
    • Frogleaping (requires 80 Agility and 1 other Agility perk) – increased Free Move range when starting your turn in Cover.

    Traits and Talents

    Not all perks are granted by level progression. Mercs are different and their starting perks differ as well. Each merc comes with some predefined Traits as well as a unique Talent.



    Traits are usually minor effects that represent a basic personality quirk or inclination of the merc. They don’t grant huge mechanical benefits and we usually use them as a tool to make the mercs more distinctive. For example, some mercs like Dr.Q. come with the Martial Arts trait but it is entirely possible to make an awesome and very effective melee fighter without this trait, focusing on improving melee stats and picking related level-up Perks.

    Some traits, like Psycho or Negotiator, unlock unique conversation options in addition to their mechanical effects.

    • Zoophobic – loses Morale when attacked by an animal
    • Psycho – sometimes decides to use more vicious attacks than the one selected. Unlocks additional conversation options.
    • Stealthy – harder to spot by enemies while sneaking. Slightly increased chance to kill an enemy outright when attacking from stealth.

    A Merc’s Talent is a unique Perk, exclusive for this merc. It might be an active ability like a signature attack or something more subtle, but the important thing is that no other merc in the game has this ability.



    Our design goal was to keep the Talents grounded in reality so don’t expect any overly fantastic or unrealistic effects here. A Talent is not meant to be a fantastic effect but rather a mechanical representation of the one special thing that the particular merc truly excels at.

    • Double Toss (Fidel) – (active skill) attacks with two grenades at the same time.
    • Boutique Explosives (Barry) – produces Shaped Charges periodically. Shaped charges are special explosives with a directional blast.
    • Find my Feet (MD) – spontaneously becomes Inspired, gaining additional Action points and increasing team Morale during combat.



    That’s all for this DevDiary, I hope you enjoyed the preview of some of the mechanical ways to make a unique character in Jagged Alliance 3. Please don’t hesitate to comment and ask questions in the thread below!


    Boian Spasov

    Lead Designer and Co-creative Director of Jagged Alliance 3

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    41 minutes ago, elenhil said:

    Personally, *my* concern is whether the core gameplay is up to JA2's standard. No amount of XCOM2-like customization and progression goodies can replace a solid tactical (and strategic) layer.

    I get your point, Elenhil. When I touched the matter of customization I was primarily referring to the possibilities of constructing our I.M.P. merc, as well the big number of character profiles that could be implemented by the devs, considering the core attributes, perks, traits and unique talents and how those elements interact with each other to produce a memorable and enticing gameplay. That is what really matters to me the most.

    Of course the looks of the mercenaries must be taken seriously and handled with care, but for me it is a secondary priority.

    Edited by Rui Carrer
    putting more information on my reply
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    On 4/2/2023 at 7:26 PM, DougS2K said:

    No Canadian accent for us Canadians eh? What's that all aboot? Sorry for interrupting, Ill go back to my igloo. 😛

    Please be a Canadian merc in JA3. That humor fits nicely.

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    On 4/1/2023 at 4:53 PM, Solaris_Wave said:
    • American accent
    • British accent
    • French accent
    • Spanish accent
    • German accent
    • Russian accent
    • Japanese accent
    • Indian accent
    • Chinese accent

    I DEMAND a Scandinavian accent just like the Swedish Chef from The Muppets show!

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    6 hours ago, WILDFIRE said:

    Please be a Canadian merc in JA3. That humor fits nicely.

    Well MD is Canadian in the old games so I'm assuming he'll be Canadian in this one if they kept with the lore.

    Taken from http://arulco.blogspot.com/p/mercprofilesxml.html


    Dr. Michael "MD" Dawson . . .is listed as an Optimist, a Snob and cares that somewhat, is Canadian, and is a Good Guy. He is a recent graduate of med school, and he states his displeasure with "macho freaks" in-game, so we can deduce that his snobbishness is in regards to education and 'civilized behaviour'. As he has appeared in 2 of the Jagged Alliance games we will suppose he has already been on assignment, or at least has met everyone at functions, meetings and such, and upgrade the part in his bio which states he "eagerly awaits his first assignment" to be "he eagerly awaits another assignment". He has been given Helmut "Grunty" Grunther, Luc "Lucky" Fabre, Barry Unger, Alan "Spam" Webster, and Tim "Gumpy" Hillman as mutual Buddies. Grunty & Lucky may seem odd choices. Let us say MD would realize he needs a bodyguard, and Grunty would realize it is always good to have a competent medic around, their working together is not out of the ordinary. As for Lucky, we'll say he has a soft spot for nice guys, especially medics -- being that he got in trouble with the law for killing a bad guy. Barry and Gumpy are also recent graduates, so their friendship is natural for a number of reasons. As for MD's Hated list, the usual suspects, the two guys who can't hide their insanity, Unusually Ruthless Reuben and Bruce "Skitz" Bonner, the guy with the bad haircut, nose-ring and neck tattoos, Tim "Numb" Sutton, and the guy with the abrasive attitude and inclination to use the word "boy" when referring to him, Major Spike Scallion. None of these Hates are mutual as Reuben and Skitz just don't care, and Numb and Spike know better (i.e. a medic is always handy even if you don't like him).


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    On 4/2/2023 at 8:26 PM, WILDFIRE said:

    The simplified, generic and limited gameplay, characters and maps of the new XCOM Games absolutely bore me.

    Are you sure you played the same XCOM everyone else did?
    Do you even remember JA2 gameplay at all?

    JA1 and 2 were never about the depth of gameplay, you could sneak about at night, but as far as advanced strategy or tactics there really wasn't all that much to it, for the most part you shot your guns while crouched next to cover.

    XCOM remakes automate the boring parts of moving places and changing stances, it removes the math of counting your AP's, but in terms of variety of what you can actually do with your two actions per turn (which later become so much more thanks to action-economy perks) it is miles ahead of what JA2 offers (especially once you get to the point where the winning move is to dump all AP into a single sniper shot or using the mortar).

    "Complexity" is not valuable for its own sake.
    Even the "generic" no name characters of XCOM can have plenty of personality if you give them one using your own imagination or make you care for them if they've been with you for a long enough time (or you name them after a friend, favorite hero, etc.).

    Edited by Jaywalker
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    2 hours ago, Jaywalker said:

    “Complexity" is not valuable for its own sake.

    The xcom devs made the design decisions they did because the game was designed for consoles, not because they were better. 

    small maps, lack of granular control over APs, a vestigial inventory and more all militate against strategy and depth. Plus its fun to closely coordinate the actions of the team within a turn

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    @JaywalkerGeneric no name characters is not what I want and I don't want to fill that void with my imagination. The reason why I love JA is, because the characters have a soul and heart. XCOM has smaller maps that do not feel like parts of a real open world rather than small grid levels where you play chess.


    Also the bullet trajectory looks awful, because bullets fly like a straight line through enemies and don't have an impact on the environment. All this stuff feels generic, limited and unrealistic.

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    9 hours ago, WILDFIRE said:

    @JaywalkerGeneric no name characters is not what I want and I don't want to fill that void with my imagination. The reason why I love JA is, because the characters have a soul and heart. XCOM has smaller maps that do not feel like parts of a real open world rather than small grid levels where you play chess.


    Also the bullet trajectory looks awful, because bullets fly like a straight line through enemies and don't have an impact on the environment. All this stuff feels generic, limited and unrealistic.

    I dont believe bullet trajectories are that important.

    Now can the way bullets move be changed to look better? Perhaps.

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    @ArulcoFan: A realistic and authentic bullet trajectory was a key element of Jagged Alliance 2. When you fired a weapon everything could happen with the enemies or the environment. So it seams like a small feature for some people but for the combat it is really important to create intense and chaotic battles.

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    Regarding bullet trajectory and environment - in this video, the enemy misses the merc and the bullets hit the ground, setting off a land mine (at 1h53m):



    Edited by D13
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