Happy Monday internet! May there be many more before our ultimate demise. You know, one of the phrases I hear myself repeating with increasing frequency is ‘life is strange’. Weather in success, failure or simply by confusing one of the aspects of existence that always puts a smile on my face or a sigh in the air. Why do I bring this up now? Well, it’s not something that can be explained in a single post so I will be exploring and expanding upon it in my next few entries for this lovely site.
Now where was I? Oh yes, my Jagged Alliance back in action review, starting with a story:
Once upon a time there was a geek. He was sad and lonely and filled his time with videogames, drink, fast food and when he could, his friends. One day this geek was sad because he was bored, his friends were away and he had too little money for drinks and fast food so decided to look in the bargain bin of one of his favourite hang outs, the local video games store. In it he found a game called Jagged alliance with what looked like an 80′s action hero on the side curious, he purchased for a reasonable sum this game and took it home. He was happy to find it was an old squad based shooter with amusing characters and, despite its age and decrepitude still had enough quality to endear itself to him. Then 3 months later he forgot about it and moved on to more important things…mainly new videogames. Then about six months ago he saw that there was a remake of this old game that he enjoyed and decided to buy it and see if it was as much fun as the last time he was in need of a new game. The answer was…kind of?
Ok I was a bit let down by JA back in action. Well, frustrated more than anything else. The formula for it seemed so simple: remake the game with better graphics and environments, improve the squad tactics with expanding on the story and characters. For those not in the know I did a review of Jagged Alliance 2 a while back on this site. The plot is essentially the same for both games with a few tweaks here and there. A quick re-cap: a mad disctatoress has taken over the small island of Arulco and you’ve been paid by its former leader to liberate it and take that bitch down. To do so you’ll need to hire squads of mercenaries to fight and take ground and local militia to hold it. Key targets for your invasion will be the main towns and diamond mines which will provide you with additional income with which to buy supplies and extra mercs.
While the game certainly looks better and generally plays smoother with generally competent if spotty A.I, the main issue I had was with the story and characters personalities. In the original you would see the queen as the self important bitch that she was and she became a joy to hate and screw with as you played the game. In Back in action you don’t see her until the final level. What’s worse is that you don’t get many examples of her cruelty, you’re told she’s done all these nasty things but just because you arrive at a town occupied by hostile soldier doesn’t really give a feel of oppression or of you being a valiant crusader.
What’s worse is that the mercenaries and how they interact with each other and those around them. You don’t even get to design a merc this time which was one of my favourite things about the original. Only occasionally and usually only during recruitment do you get to see their personalities. They’re just so subdued compared to their original counterparts. What’s strange is this game feels like it was designed by fans of JA for fans. There’s a lot of in jokes that an outsider wouldn’t find funny or amusing. The original game came out over a decade ago, the writing and characters for it sometimes feel as though they were from that time.
One of the oddities is how you treat your militia, you don’t train them, you just trust a weapon at a willing local and tell them to hold back Deidrannas military machine. While they do train themselves over time, if you’re on the map when they are and an enemy force turns up, nine times out of ten they will get steam rolled by the aggressive AI. This means you have to buy more expensive arms and armour not just for your squad but the militia. Oh yes and your flak jackets will get turned into swiss cheese very quickly making them your main expenditure next to weapons and mercs. Its irritating more than anything else, even on a stealthy night raid you’re not guaranteed to get out without using a few med kits and you’re valuable grenades. Ambushes and raiding settlements and checkpoints are usually your best option throughout the game utilising hit and run tactics to whittle down your opponents until you can overwhelm them.
The game is also fairly buggy even with liberal patching will leave you frustrated if you’re not a big quick saver. The whole game to me just felt strangely…German. Solid combat and mapping but with just less humanity than I’d expected. This is a game aimed at Jagged Alliance fans and few others. While solid in most areas is lacks the spit and polish behind the scenes to make it memorable or heavily repayable.
+Well designed locations
+planning ambushes is rewarding
-Poor storyline, characters and character development
-Side quests lack urgency and proper reward
-Non merc characters are usually not worth your time to get.
-That Bloke In The Beanie
Jagged Alliance back in action is avaliable now from Steam