It’s been a long time coming, but finally there is a sequel to Jagged Alliance 2. And I say sequel, when really I mean re-imagining. Jagged Alliance – Back in Action takes you back to the island of Arulco where the evil Queen Deidranna has imposed her tyrannical dictatorship on the local populace and it’s your job to take it… back. It’s an open-ended, tactical RPG in the spirit of its predecessor. Kill the Queen in her fortress is the end goal, but accomplish this however you like. On the way, capture towns and mines for income, hire new mercenaries, buy more guns and equipment and shoot lots of people in the face.
JA-BIA has one key difference over its predecessors though, no turn-based action. ‘What?!’ you splutter with incredulity. ‘But that’s what Jagged Alliance is all about, right!?’ Cue angry forum posts. Well this time around the turn-based combat has been replaced with the ‘Plan and Go’ system that allows you to pause the game, cue up actions and then watch it all play out, just like indie hit Frozen Synapse. Where it differs from Frozen Synapse however is that playing out the action is often like watching a field trip for OAPs. Mercs will bump in to each other, spin around and desperately try to find the right path, which is frustrating to say the least. Enemy AI is rather lacklustre too, there is no reason to hide dead bodies for example.
Despite its shortcomings, the ‘Plan and Go’ system is a good fit for JA-BIA and when mercs aren’t falling over each other and the enemies have at least some semblance of what’s going on it can be great fun. JA-BIA’s open-ended playground of Arulco and the changeable nature of control in each sector makes for some nice emergent gameplay. Redistributing forces to potential hotspots, planning your next attack, picking the right mercs for the job and kitting them out in preparation can be very satisfying.