Evil, just plain evil
Last week, Kalypso donned the famous jolly red costume and in a game of ‘twisted Santa’, sent out preview codes of Jagged Alliance: Back in Action to their press contacts. There had been hints of this potential for demonic behavior early in 2011 when they released their devilish strategy title, Dungeons. But sending us this time-devouring game – now – is nothing short of a declaration of war on ‘family time’ at Christmas. When I think of the pain and suffering that my friends and family are being subjected to this Christmas...what am I saying? The truth is, I’m too busy playing to care what they think.
Welcome to the jungle
Jagged Alliance: Back in Action is a remake of Jagged Alliance 2. Rather than making a sequel, it would seem that Kalypso and bitComposer are testing the waters, determining the viability of a full sequel. The series still has a very vocal and dedicated following, but how big? No one really knows but they sure have been modding the crap out of Jagged Alliance 2 for over a decade.
The remake also paves the way for a number of changes and improvements, not in the least in the graphics department. Despite those changes, Back in Action will feel very familiar to anyone who has played the original 1999 game. The player is contacted by Enrico Chivaldori, former ruler of a small tropical island called Arulco. Enrico tasks you to remove his oppressive ex wife from the throne she stole right out from under him through deceit. Queen Deidranna, of course, isn’t going to respond well to you pounding on her door telling her to scram. You will have to fight for each and every inch of Arulco’s jungle, swamp and desert areas. As you get closer to her seat of power, the enemies will get tougher and ever more determined. You have your work cut out for you.
Change and controversy
There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the decision to move away from Jagged Alliance’s traditional turn-based gameplay in favor of a more real-time game flow. The idea behind the new ‘Plan and Go’ system is to keep the action going, allowing the player to pause and plan actions whenever warranted. Like many fans, I was skeptical about losing turns but found the Plan and Go system not entirely without merit and spent quite some time planning out my team’s actions. Especially the ability to link separate actions by individual mercs turned out to be a great perk. One obvious application is having multiple mercenaries sneak up behind an enemy soldier and open fire completely in sync, giving the target no chance whatsoever to respond. Additionally, Plan and Go mode adds something of a ‘heat detection’ overlay that enables you to see even hidden enemy soldiers. Plan and Go mode is triggered by a quick slap to the space bar but the game settings menu also shows options to trigger on events, such as spotting an enemy or the death of a team member.