Beautiful, pointless nostalgia.
Be careful watch you wish for… these wise words have echoed throughout the lexicon of fables, sonnets, TV shows and terrible review intros for decade, and thanks to the latest Jagged Alliance we can cart out the beautifully tragic saying once again.
For years gamers from around the world have cried out for a new entry in this long-running turn-based strategy franchise, and rather than give them something entirely new, Coreplay has arguably given us something better by upgrading and updating the beloved classic, Jagged Alliance 2.
The story of liberating the ironically named third-world nation of Omerta from a female tyrant has remained the same, squad customisation and selection has stayed the same, and aside from a few new additions like auto-melee and the Plan & Go order system, the gameplay feels essentially the same.
So the question needs to be asked: why on earth would you pay full price for what is effectively a gaming relic re-purposed with a new graphics engine? Well, the answer is that even though JA2 is over a decade old at this point, there’s still aspects of the game
that feel revelatory even today, such as the mind-numbing amount of customisation options per soldier, ranging from clothes to weapons, permanent death for any squad-mates which fall under fire, and that great feeling of conquering a particularly dastardly map without losing a soldier. At times Back in Action is very rewarding, but those moments are lessened by dull AI that can get pulled every which way very easily and flat stereotypical characters which don’t engage you in either the story or the action on screen – so I lost ‘Fred German’? Oh well, I’ll just pull another caricature from the merc database.
Back in Action was always going to be a tricky sell. Die-hard fans simply want a graphical improvement, whereas newbies require easing into what is a very technical series. The tutorial does a nice job of showcasing what Jagged Alliance is about but the ad-hoc nature of the campaign and the fiddly progression mechanic means most gamers will give up after just sampling a few missions. That said, there is some worth in Back in Action as there’s still the freedom to tackle missions and scenarios any way you wish – we just wish there was more gameplay to get stuck into. A game for fans only.
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