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!