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Monday, June 25, 2012

Jagged Alliance: Back in Action Review

Well, when I was out on my birthday weekend I stumbled upon this little gem! Wow! I loved Jagged Alliance 2 and Unfinished Business when they came out over 10 years ago! I still play the hell out of the games and there has been several fan mods done for JA2 that has been simply amazing including rolling mercs in from Unfinished Business and adding new ones toss in some weapons and better distribution of gear loads and you had a kick ass game to replay again and again.....

While this is not a new story, it is the same old story as before where you have to go to Alrucio to kill a dictator that killed her father-in-law and blamed her husband (and heir) for the murder. He manages to escape to hire a group of mercs to go back into the county and help the rebels free the country of the tyranny and shoot the bitch that betrayed him.

What is nice is how they did some "soft" changes to the story keeping it familiar yet, fresh in playing it. NPCs have changed slightly, but again familiar. The mercenary interaction with the comments and one liners they make are a scream (and they do use profanity) as well as several mercs will refuse to work for you without another merc working already to give you credibility or flat out refuse because they hate someone else already on your team. I always loved that dynamics of personality in a game...

The single most unique thing about the game was JA2 was the mix of "real time" and "turn based combat" that really made the game great. Move around, do what you need to do and when trouble starts then the combat goes to turn based. The new format with Back in Action is a bit more real time but also has the option to pause and give the squad orders that once you go back to real time they will execute them thus keeping a nice tactical flow to the game. This balances out the quest and the combat action all in one nice little package.

I have noticed that tactics are key to this game as before, except this time the AI is smarter and keeps getting tougher as you progress into the island. You will get swarmed, they will use cover and  heal if possible unlike the old JA2 where they was a bit more "dumb" in how they made decisions. Cover, directions of approach and alleys of fire are very key to this game. If you are not careful you may find a heavy machine gun unloading on you or a sniper cracking off shots as several guys run towards you with SMGs, pistols and fire axes ready to tear you apart.

Management was made simple with the same format as Unfinished Business where you just simply pay the single fee to the merc and you have them for the entire game. In the past you had to manage your books which to me was a fun but also frustrating element to the game because you had to renew contracts, pay insurance fees and such as well as worry about your income sources. That is also another nice change, not only will a mine get you cash but several other sites will help generate some cash once you capture them.

If I had to complain there would be two comments I could make:
1) There is no MERC in the game, they was a second rate outfit you could hire dirt cheap mercs from. They offered a great deal of comedy to the game.
2) You can no longer generate your own squad leader to the game. In JA2 you could make your own merc, now it is strictly hire from the list.

Overall, I am pleased with this game and have been in need of something excellent to distract me from life in general and was a nice 40th birthday gift to find. I recommend if you like military based strategy games with the mix of RP/Quest style in a great story this is well worth an investment.

What is cool is this is tied into STEAM so for a few bucks more you can add some extra gear or modules for mini games to enjoy. They say the stories expand the background on the mercs as you play the game and I am looking forward to trying them out. I also just found out there a book series written on this that I may have to find now.

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