by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
For Jagged fans, this feeling will likely last throughout the game. Flashback makes little effort to nudge your mindset into a different direction and consistently serves up disappointments. Merchants ply their trade through text dialogue with hopeful buttons called "storefront" that lead you to... more text. You can only buy items, not sell, and it's perfectly possible to end up with a rifle that the merchant does not actually sell ammo for – but at least it comes with a loaded cartridge. All the while your mercenaries will ignore one another as if they're not even there. The funny banter and personality clashes that made Jagged Alliance 2 such a tasty serve is completely absent.
And then there are the technical issues. Frequent "eternal loading" issues plague the game to the point that I've started doing all my saves twice – it has worked for me so far. Clicking on part of the interface is sometimes seen as a move order and unit pathfinding can be horrendous. Mercenaries will merrily run off around a building after you send a group of them to go inside of it, with every danger of exposing them to enemy units in the vicinity. Some things are so bad, they're funny. The one that keeps making me laugh is ordering a merc to open a chest or wall cabinet and seeing it walking to the outside of the building and reach through a concrete wall to complete the action.
Strangely enough, the veggies are there. Yep, you read that right. The one positive about Jagged Alliance lies in its combat, its core component. It's far from perfect but it works and it's fun. Sneaking around a new sector, hunting down enemy soldiers and taking them out one by one is fun no matter what game you play. The AI isn't brilliant, but it is that very same weakness that on occasion will throw you for a loop when four or five soldiers pop up in the same turn, threatening to overrun the lone mercenary you stupidly left behind to pick off stragglers.
Guns and armour can be read fairly accurately from the soldier's appearances as thickly-padded men run to the aid of a comrade you are about to pick off. Headshots for those then. The gleam on their rifles reveals them to be carrying assault rifles rather than the bolt actions of their peers. Dangerous too, let's get them first.
Seeking cover in an adjacent sector in the hopes of doing repairs and healing for a short time, an enemy patrol on route to the city you've just liberated comes and disturbs the peace. They outnumber you three to one but come pouring over the only bridge in the sector. You're on the other side, so if you can pick them off before they can cross and spread, their numbers mean nothing.
Putting it in perspective
Setting out to remake Jagged Alliance 2 is a tall order, and one that comes with high expectations from its fanbase. I feel it is important to put some things into perspective – there was no way that Full Control could ever have reached those expectations.
Measured against Jagged Alliance 2 – a game with a budget many times that of Flashback – Jagged Alliance: Flashback does a solid face plant. It lacks the depth and personality that made its older sibling the cult hit still played by thousands of gamers to this day. Speaking to Thomas Lund last August, he showed a deep understanding of what Jagged Alliance is all about, but it is obvious that his small studio was out of its depth and – more importantly – lacked the funding to create a worthy successor.
I am thankful that they tried, and perhaps future patches can infuse some of what is missing. As it stands today, Jagged Alliance: Flashback is a decent turn-based tactical game that lacks the soul that would have made it a great game. Disappointing for long-time fans, but perhaps of interest to those who come to the table without all the baggage a fan would bring.
UPDATE: the loading issues mentioned previously have been solved with the latest patch.
Entertaining combat saves the day.
Not stable, lacks depth and personality.