Jagged Alliance 2. Sir-Tech (1999) PC

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Jagged_Alliance_2_Coverart

Jagged Alliance 2 was the first game I bought on Good Old Games. This isn’t an interesting fact, but it is true.

Story

Taking place in the fictional Arulco you are tasked with eliminating the cruel dictator Deidranna Reitman by her presumed dead husband, Enrico Chivaldori. With the help of a myriad of recruitable mercenaries you go on your way stomping across the country liberating the population one square at a time.

If you choose to play in “Sci-fi” mode alien bug creatures (Crepitus) will attack you periodically from the mines, otherwise, there are no twists.

Gameplay

Jagged Alliance 2 does a lot of things well, it improves on a fair few of the pet hates I had in the X-COM games, such as poor pathfinding, and a dodgy difficulty curve.

Map Screen, Jagged Alliance

The Map Screen section of the games allows you to play in semi-real time like the world map in X-COM. Here you tell your troops to move to different sectors, practice your skills, heal up, or train militia. While not the “main” part of the game, you’ll spend a lot of time waiting here for things such as equipment deliveries.

The bulk of the game will take place in turn based Tactical Mode, here you assign actions to your troops based on the amount of time units they have left. Rather than an “aim” or “snap” shot, you can choose how much time is spend aiming, allowing for a nice trade off of quick fire, or slow methodical aiming.

Your soldiers will also lose Time Units (TUs) if they are damaged, or become fatigued meaning things will change and get more bogged down in a longer fight.

Tactical Mode can feel very unfair on later levels, as every enemy will have a higher interrupt stat than you, so I spent a lot more time saving and reloading than I did in the X-COMs. You can lose a lot of lives in JA2, and a lot of them will feel unfair. Since there is a finite pool of mercenaries to choose from, you can gameover yourself very early in the game, and not find out until 20-30 hours later.Tactical Mode, Jagged Alliance

If you perform badly Mercs will refuse to work with you and some mercs won’t work with other mercs. It offers a nice dynamic, but if you make too many early mistakes you’ll be unable to put together a team. As a result, saving is a must. It feels a bit cheatlike to keep saving and reloading, but there really isn’t an alternative. In X-COM you got as many soldiers as you could afford. Money was your limit. In JA2, there are around 30 mercs, plus some random encounters. So roughly, you get around 60 soldiers to choose from. But once they’re dead, they’re dead. No coming back.

Another major boost on X-COM, is that if there is no enemy spotted for two turns, the game will switch to real time mode on the tactical map. This is a blessing as you no longer have to spend an age bug hunting the last man who is hiding in a cupboard. You can quickly traverse the map, investigate every room, and it only switches back to turn based when you find the last dude.

Character Creation

I love the character creation, the quiz doesn’t really have as much impact as the S.P.E.C.I.A.L testing in the Fallout series , but I love the quiz. Especially this question. D, always D.

Though Matt (other writer) suggested A, then D. The sick little poppet.

Barney

A certain, annoying, pathetic, furry, purple dinosaur should be:

You can only create one custom merc, and if he dies that is it for him. On my first few playthroughs he would normally die on the first mission…

The amount of character choices are VERY limited, you get the choice of 3 images, and a choice of 5 voices, but it is nice to whack yourself in the game.

Me at the start vs me at the end

Me at the start vs me at the end

You don’t level up quickly either, my aiming only went up 7, despite almost universally using snipers, you do level quicker at lower levels but not significantly. The way the leveling works, is that it is easier to bin off lesser mercs, and replace them with higher tier ones once money allows for it.

Difficulty

The game starts off hard. You have shit guns, shit stats, and no money and until you take your first mine, you are relying on salvaged guns that either break or get jammed. You will have either; 2 or 3 good mercs, or 5-6 pretty poor ones. But since JA2 is a game of hidden percentages, it is better to have 5-6 terrible people constantly firing than to have 2-3 methodical aimers for the early portion of the game.

The Helicopter pilot, appears in 1 of 4 random locations, so on this playthrough I didn’t find him until I was on the doorstep of Meduna. Other playthroughs I got him after 4-5 missions. It means your troops can and will enter battles in poor condition, or attract ambushes due to the long travelling times.

Without the transport, everything takes forever. Moving 4-5 squares on the map with a lump like Bull will result in him passing out. If you get attacked with him fatigued he will be able to move less than 10 TUs per turn, meaning he is effectively useless unless he is rested.

Once you control 3-4 towns and you have money coming in, and you start to snowball. The enemies can no longer take back towns, and battles become short(er) and sweet(ish). Once you start be able to buy Dragunov Sniper rifles, (or find them) you are unbeatable. I was able to beat the all the  SAM Sites in 4 turns as my snipers rolled across the map headshotting anything that breathed.

That is until you approach Meduna.

Maduna is stupidly hard, all the soldiers are elite with high interrupt (and vision), most have explosives, and more than a fair amount have rocket launchers/mortars. It is horrible. One well placed rocket can wipe out your team if you’re not expecting it, so again. Get used to saving.

Whats worse though, is that they have tanks. The tanks don’t move, but they will wipe out your whole team if they see you. The only way to deal with this is to stockpile mortar shells, and just spam tanks from distance. Don’t try to be tactical. Just cheat.

Canadian, EH. (Just for Craig, even though he doesn't bother reading his own site anymore)

Canadian, EH. (Just for Craig, even though he doesn’t bother reading his own site anymore)

Item Management

Christ this is a chore, while it is a positive there are so many weapons and ammo combinations, it does mean a lot isn’t compatible with a lot. 7.62 ammo has two forms (and 6 types), it means that you will often be carrying the wrong ammo for your gun when you’re quickly picking stuff up on the battlefield.

I found the only way I could keep track was to drop everything into sorted piles, and then load out from there.

Glowing piles of guns, bullets and crap. Mostly crap.

Glowing piles of guns, bullets and crap. Mostly crap.

Overall

While JA2 does a lot of things better than X-COM, ultimately, it isn’t a better game than X-COM. It can feel very unfair at times, especially the unknown gameover states early on.

Battles, take too long. A battle in X-COM was 10-50 minutes, occasionally longer. The majority of battles were taking me 1-3 hours, and I had roughly 40 of them. Meaning I clocked in 100+ hours on this playthrough.

There is replayability because different mercs will be available to you at different times, random encounter mercs and side quests mean there is a lot of differences between playthroughs. Every time I play JA2 I discover something new (Ira marrying a Hick?) so there is a lot going on, but the issue is it simply takes too long to beat.

There are two endings to JA2, but this is solely down to whether Miguel is alive, if you want to see the different ending, kill Miguel at the end and cheat the rest of the time whenhe dies.

Despite some flaws though, JA2 is still a decent enough game. Just not as good as the first two X-COMs.

Pros: Humour hits the right notes, Ivan, Fidel and Ice. Punching Elliot to death. Killing Pablo for stealing shipments

Cons: Maddog, Bull and Gasket. Battles take too long. Pablo stealing your shipments, Salvatore replacing Pablo and being worse… your sniper with 99 marksmanship missing 10 shots in a row.

80%

DIE-drianna

DIE-dranna

Still a better email client than Outlook.

Still a better email client than Outlook.

Vaas Montenegro MUCH?

Vaas Montenegro MUCH?

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