Jagged Alliance: Back in Action Hands-on Preview

Release Date: October 18th, 2011

I had never heard Jagged Alliance until I sat down to try Jagged Alliance: Back in Action, a new HD reskin of the series’ classic gameplay. The first title was released for MS-DOS in 1994, and a sequel came out in 1999, but things have been quiet since then, and fans most likely assumed that that the series was moribund.

BitComposer games thought otherwise. The German developers have taken it upon themselves to resurrect Jagged Alliance’s detailed, tactical gameplay, and the results look impressive. The setup hasn’t changed — players will take charge of a private military corporation with a contract to dominate a small Caribbean island, recruiting and deploying squads of mercenaries in an effort to control various bits of territory. What has changed is the graphics, which are remade in an attractive, sharp new guise that acts as a sort of 3D “skin” on the Jagged Alliance 2 engine.

The gameplay itself has also been updated. The first two titles in the series relied on a combination of RTS and turn-based mechanics; movement happened in real time, but combat was turned-based — similar to Fallout, to draw a comparison to a better-known game. In Back in Action, this line is blurred, thanks to an ingenious new “Plan & Go” system that enables players to coordinate the actions of their squad — both moving and fighting — with extreme precision. Plan & Go works sort of like a musical score — each mercenary is represented as a horizontal bar, and you can fill up the bar with various actions: move to this waypoint, shoot here, reload, change weapon, etc. Here’s the kicker, though: say you want one mercenary to move up, then provide surpressing fire, and another mercenary to throw a grenade as soon as his teammate is in position. Simply drag and drop the “grenade” action so it’s vertically aligned with the “covering fire” action in the teammates timeline. Just like two musical notes, they’ll sound at the same time, except instead of music, you’ll get an explosion.

Players are afforded a similar level of control over squad composition and equipment. The former even retains the series’ distinctive spin: certain mercenaries don’t work well together, so you’ll be debuffed if you try to put them in the same squad. Picking the right gear can also mean the difference between success and failure. All in all, Jagged Alliance: Back in Action should provide a deep, satisfying experience for strategy fans who like to get close to the combat, rewarding smarts and careful planning rather than twitch reflexes. Now that the XCOM franchise is being re-imagined in first-person, its arrival could not be more welcome. Check out the trailer!

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5 Comments on Jagged Alliance: Back in Action Hands-on Preview

Magic

On August 15, 2011 at 10:34 am

Heya, overall nice overview, but seriously you´ve never played JA?
You really, really should experience it! To me it sounded almost like you´ve never played Civ. ;) No offence!

What I´d like to know is: Were they able to provide the Voices of the old characters? Have they implemented new characters? What kind of weapons will be usable in the game? Is there are possibility to earn money? Are there sidequests? From how many Merc-providers is the user able to hire Mercs?
Are there characters you can hire in the country, like in JA2? Most important of them all: Will I be able to build my own Merc and will I be able to import my old save.game to experience JA:BiA with my beloved selfcreated Char?

Tally Ho!

Ben Richardson

On August 15, 2011 at 12:23 pm

What can I say, Magic. You can’t play ‘em all.

I’ll try to answer your questions, but since I’m not familiar with the old games, that might be tough. The thing to remember is that Back in Action is mostly just a VISUAL remake of Jagged Alliance 2. The engine underneath, I was lead to believe, is mostly the same.

The mercs definitely still have voices, and I would expect that they’ve brought some familiar voices back. I remember some Russian accents, a German guy, and pretty gruff sounding African-American dude.

In terms of weapons, I didn’t investigate the specifications. I mostly relied on two characters with sniper rifles and one with a combat shotgun to clean up the mess. I’m sure they’ll be adding plenty of new hardware to play around with.

For the rest of your questions, I would guess that the new game hews pretty closely to JA2. The build I played was in its pretty early stages, so I mostly just stuck to playing through one of the missions. It seems likely that merc customization is back, but given the amount of time elapsed between Jagged Alliance 2 and Back in Action, I wouldn’t hold out much hope for your old save.

I’ll try to get in touch with the guys at BitComposer and Kalypso and see if I can get some better answers to your questions. Thanks for reading!

Dom

On August 16, 2011 at 3:27 am

You posted October 18th 2011 as a release date when I’ve seen on a couple of sights apologies for a delay of release to Q1 2012. Who’s correct? (hope you are)

Warwick

On August 18, 2011 at 3:45 am

“Now that the XCOM franchise is being re-imagined in first-person, its arrival could not be more welcome”
This seems correct, in the sense that the XCOM franchise, clearly spent anyway, is now obviously being laid completely to rest. They should have let it lie.

JA2 = really good game anyway, better for its time than any XCOM except maybe Apocalypse.

Let’s hope Buns is still in it.

BUT

JA2 is similar to XCOM 2: Terror from the Deep in that you have to individually instruct people as soon as there is combat, and they don’t act simultaneously. XCOM Apoc onwards, people acted simultaneously including during combat. From what you’re saying, JA3 is same as JA2??

Pariah

On September 12, 2011 at 4:07 pm

I am a little disappointed that the turn-based system was scrapped, but am anxious to see how this “Plan & Go” system works out. It would be great if saved replays of these battles could be made. It would be nice to be able to critique myself – something I took advantage of in some of the Total War games.
As for the characters, as long as Buzz, Scope, and Shadow are in, I’m pretty happy. I’m just looking forward to the mods that will come out after the source code is released.