Jagged Alliance: Back in Action Review (PC)

Posted by Jim Cook, Feb 20, 2012 21:50

When I heard there were plans to remake Jagged Alliance 2 to modern standards, I was delighted; it was a great game for its time and still holds up well today. Jagged Alliance: Back in Action is an attempt to remake it to modern standards, introducing some excellent new features while keeping at least the basics of its predecessor intact. Where things start to go wrong is a lack of attention to the finer detailed that made JA2 great, and various technical problems that the developers are clearly working on fixing.

Jagged Alliance: Back in Action (PC)Things start promisingly, setting the story of how a tyrant named Deidranna has taken control of the fictional third-world nation named Arulco. Previously a prosperous and peaceful land, Arulco is now ruled with an iron fist as its citizens toil in poverty while the new queen spends her treasury on vanity items and increasingly larger armies. The player takes the role of a mercenary commander hired to liberate Arulco, and in turn you hire various mercenary soldiers to fight under your lead.

Even though all of that is in line with the original game, Back in Action quickly moves into new territory. Hiring mercenaries is a bit different (it’s now a one-time fee for the duration of the campaign), and your initial team starts at the airport rather than a village. Once they’re on-site, you run into the next major change: the action point/time unit system has been replaced by a ’pause, plan, execute’ one where both your mercs and the enemy are taking turns simultaneously. This is real-time strategy on a squad based level, though you’re fully encouraged to pause the game so orders can be given.

Moving to a real-time system is a huge change, but it has some merit. No longer do you have a character run up to their destination, then discover you’re one action point/time unit short to finish the task at hand. Instead, your mercs simply spend X amount of seconds carrying out the action as soon as they’re close enough to do it. Combined with the ability to give synchronized orders (such as "fire only once everyone is in position, then simultaneously shoot the same enemy"), you are honestly able to do things here that just weren’t possible before. These are genuinely good ideas once you’re able to get over the ’culture shock’ of going from AP/TU mechanics to real-time combat.

Once an area is clear of enemies, you move on to the ’logistics’ of the campaign. Wounds may need to be treated by your squad’s medic, militia need to be recruited (this amounts to handing some spare guns to interested Arulco citizens), supplies restocked, and allow some time for resting. You can move on to the next area as soon as you wish, and even have your choice of which routes to take. The plot does nudge you in certain directions and side-quests will also offer an incentive to go to specific locations, but you’re rarely forced into things.

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Our Rating for Jagged Alliance: Back in Action Review (PC)
6.5 Replay
Numerous side quests and hidden items exist, which can bring you back if you find the main campaign to be a little too simple on its own.
6.0 Graphics
Character designs are rather plain, the camera requires a lot of manual tuning to do what you need, and the laptop interface just looks dull. On the other hand, the locations you fight in are varied and detailed (especially if you zoom in to appreciate some finer points). It mostly averages out.
7.0 Sound
Each merc has their own personality, expressed through some pretty amusing voice work. Weapon effects and music are okay, albeit not great.
7.0 Gameplay
Using a real-time system with pauses to give orders removes the ’not enough AP/time units’ problem of previous games, and most of the other elements of a decent squad combat experience are present. However, numerous quirks, AI flaws, and strange design choices will frustrate you until you’re used to them.
0.0 Multiplayer/Online Content
N/A; this is a single-player game.
7.0 Overall
An acceptable squad combat game that nonetheless has several problems. If you go in willing to live with them and understand this isn’t a perfect remake of Jagged Alliance 2, Back in Action can be worth checking out. Note that they are regularly patching this, and once they finish it could rise from ’acceptable’ to ’genuinely good.’

Rating: 4.0, votes: 4

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