"A Tough Mission"
Jagged Alliance: Back in Action is the latest title in the long running RTS series by bitComposer Games. It is an updated remake of the second title in the series, along with the various expansions that were released in the 1990s. While the game's content is essentially the same, the gameplay has changed drastically from the original version of the game, due to combat being switched to real time, as opposed to the turn based combat of the original.
Tasked with liberating the fictional country of Arulco from a ruthless dictator as a favor to the monarch it was taken from, Jagged Alliance's story ties directly into its gameplay. Players oversee the efforts of a private mercenary company, helping hire new recruits, issuing orders and ordering supplies for mercenaries already in the force from afar. Gameplay menus are presented as windows in a laptop, so doing things such as hiring mercenaries are presented as video calls, and ordering supplies is done through an online store, along with shipping charges!
What sets Jagged Alliance: Back in Action apart from other RTS titles is the attachment to the mercenaries in the game that the player has to hire. Players are given a list of 40 that they can hire at any time, but each merc costs money, and even if there is enough money to hire one, they may reject your offer, so the player will need to complete more missions successfully in order to hire them. Mercs are able to level up as they continue battling, and they can gain points to level up various skills, but each one seems to have a specified role, such as medic, marksman, mechanical, or explosives. Also coming into play is troop morale, and some mercs even have preferred partners and may leave your company if you force them to work with someone they don't like.
Where Jagged Alliance: Back in Action falls apart is its difficulty and controls. The game is entirely in real time, and there is a bit too much to micromanage; the game does not seem to give players any break by streamlining actions. To attack enemies, players must select troops and then click on an enemy to attack. Whenever I lost, it was due to having my mercs near each other and the interface preventing me from quickly having my troops fire on the same enemy that was slashing his comrade; afterwards, the machete-wielding enemy would systematically kill all of my troops one by one. There definitely should have been an option to make mercs do actions without babysitting them. The game gives an option to pause the action and issue commands, but it doesn't help at all by the time you need it, because when you let action resume the mission is probably lost by then.
As a relative newcomer to RTS titles, I found the controls in Jagged Alliance: Back in Action to be unintuitive. The game has a training mode that covers the basic controls, and it goes over the basic gameplay. However, after finishing, there were still functions that weren't covered, such as the option to halt all of my soldiers actions or have them patrol an area. The map controls are also weird, having the player constantly use the keyboard and mouse in tandem instead of having the option to place all camera controls on the mouse; even though the tutorial says this is possible, it never worked. The system of trading items between mercs is really time-consuming, requiring players to unequip items before having mercs meet on the map to swap. Just to switch body armor between mercs required moving between at least 5 screen changes.
There are moments when the game comes together and everything clicks, but the player really has to work hard to achieve them. Through careful planning and a steady hand on the Quick Save button, players will prevail. However, when playing Jagged Alliance: Back in Action, it feels like many things are ganging up on the player to make them lose, such as merc path finding, the pace of action, and many functions being unexplained or not made properly clear even when looking in the manual. It’s evident that some things from its critically acclaimed predecessor should have remained untouched .
GameDynamo's Score for Jagged Alliance: Back in Action (PC)
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