Thursday, August 23, 2012

Jagged Alliance Back In Action....You Almost Had Me At Jagged.

My first working title for this post was:

Jagged Alliance, Back in Action. Not As Bad As You've Heard.

But then I played the game some more and had to change it. There are a ton of reviews out there talking about why the new Jagged Alliance isn't very good. Many of them focus on how good Jagged Alliance 2 was, or the fact that the new offering wasn't turn based. I started out not liking this game based on those factors, and admit that I was biased by several of the reviews I read. I've sunk over 20 hours into the game, now, so here's my two cents added to the jar.

I loved Jagged Alliance 2. It is one of the very few games I have ever completed. Jagged Alliance 2 was not perfect. It was hard. Damn hard. It was also buggy and frustrating, but it was fun because turn-based was the in-thing at the time, and this game offered something new and challenging. The new Jagged Alliance is also hard. Damn hard. It is also buggy and frustrating. I seriously wonder if all these Jagged Alliance fans who are wishing it was more like JA2 remember that game because they are very similar indeed.

Jagged Alliance Back in action has several things working for it:

  1. It is a legendary title in that those who played it will be interested in trying it, and those who've only heard about how good the earlier one was will also be keen.
  2. It is the only game in town, literally, that allows you to play a squad-based tactical game in a modern setting. If I'm wrong, please let me know.
  3. It is hard which means you will have to think about your strategy.
  4. It looks good.
The game, however,  has been rightly criticized for several failings:

  1. It tries to walk the line between turn based and real time and doesn't succeed.
  2. It is hard and while this is usually a good thing most of the time you are losing due to game mechanics and not any failing on your part. 
  3. There is some really, really stupid game-play. Example: how can two enemies with axes rush five of my mercenaries with automatic weapons and kill three of them before dying? I call bullshit.
  4. The game has no heart. I do not feel connected to the mercs and there is no 'me' character. I could care less about them as individuals and if they die I'll hire someone else without a problem.
  5. No economic system. I can buy the merc then I seem to own him with no wages at all. That's a slave, not a mercenary.
  6. Non destructible environment. This is unforgivable in a modern, AAA release. This is actually a game-breaker for me. I have grenades. I have C4. I can't blow that wall? Get bent.

Squad based, tactical strategy games are few and far between which is why I gave this game a fair chance. After 20+ hours I don't think I'll be going back and I have no interest in the upcoming expansion. I'll wait for X-COM Enemy Unknown and hope for the best.


  1. Not quite modern day, but I just found out that Silent Storm (and its sequel, Sentinels) are on Good Old Games for $10. World War II tactical squad shooter that goes a bit alt-history, well worth a look.

  2. lol...great minds think alike.

    About the time I was getting tired of Jagged Alliance I turned to the internet and started searching for good tactical squad based games and found Silent Storm.

    I love this game. It is really worthy of its own post. It has all the elements I like- squad based tactics, destructible environment, RPG elements, skill trees, humor. It's also pretty hard in that your soldiers will die- which I like.

    The problem is the time between turns is unacceptably long. When you hit 'next turn' the AI takes sooooo long. You spend at least half your time waiting to play, and the other half playing. I actually began to get bored waiting :(

    If somebody optimized this for dual-cores I'd be all over this one again.

  3. Yeah, enemy turns can take an age, especially when there's a lot of 'em. Actually it's not even the enemy that bother me so much, it's when a bunch of bloody civilians then take another age to turn slightly to the left, pause, turn slightly to the right, pause, turn slightly to the left...

    Still, I haven't found it too bad. With a smartphone you can always have a quick browse of twitter or something, glancing back at the screen if you hear a shot or anything.

  4. Now you that the XCOM: EU is released, you can wait a comeback of turn-based Jagged Alliance entry. It's coming if funded.