|Mon, May 23rd, 2005
Jagged Alliance 2
The small, third-world country of Arulco is being terrorized by a ruthless dictator named Diedranna. The former leader of Arulco, Enrico Chivaldori, thwarted an assassination attempt and escaped the country when Diedranna, his wife, framed him for his fathers murder. Ten years have passed, and Diedranna's rule has turned the country into a desolate, poverty-stricken nation. She takes money away from all public services and spends it on lavish possessions for herself and leves the populace destitute. Her army is substantial, crimes are determined at the whim of Diedranna, and the punishment is almost always death. Now, Enrico has enlisted you to hire and lead a squad of mercenaries through Arulco to dethrone Diedranna once and for all and bring peace and prosperity back to Arulco.
JA2 mixes so many genres together that it defies description. In a way, it's part RPG, as each of your mercenaries have skills (such as marksmanship, medical, explosive, strength, experience, and wisdom) that can be improved upon and made more useful to the team. It's also real-time AND turn-based strategy, as you lead your mercenary team into battle against Diedranna's forces. When no enemies are in view, or in the sector at all, the game moves in real time, though when battling the enemy, the game shifts to turn-based. Then, the individual mercenaries skill points give them an number of "action points" to spend during their turn. A certain number to move, to shoot, to heal, to reload, how you spend each turn must be managed carefully to ensure all your men and women get out alive.
Hiring your mercenaries can go many different ways. You're given the opportunity to create your own custom mercenary, with their own skills and personality. Beyond that, you can visit the recruitment sites of The Association of International Mercenaries (A.I.M.) or the More Economical Recruitment Center (M.E.R.C.). While A.I.M. offers the best talent in the business, they're pricey. On the other hand, M.E.R.C. offers cheaply priced but low skilled mercenaries. Furthermore, you'll find plenty of people in Arulco willing to join your cause, some for a daily price, some for free. All methods used together to create a balanced team is a recipe for victory.
The game has an excellent curve. As you start, you have a small team, so you face smaller groups of enemies in towns like Drassen and Chitzena, but as you move into larger towns like Balime and Grumm, the difficulty gets higher to accomodate your probably larger and more skilled team By the time you're busting down the Queens door in Meduna, your team is probably very strong and can even take down the feared Elite Forces.
JA2 does not skimp on the voice acting. Every mercenary and major character has a voice and several lines of dialogue, some of which can be very entertaining. While some voices obviously come from the same person, everyone you meet has their own distinct voice and personality, which makes it easy to relate to your mercenaries and try to see them through.
The sounds of war are here and they sound great. Guns fire off with differing sounds depending on the firearm, soldiers yell in pain when shot, bullets ricochet off of walls, explosions rock your speakers, and footsteps nearby can alert you to nearby enemies.
Graphicallt the game does not disappoint, but it does not greatly impress either. All characters share the same general body types with swapped color shirts and pants, and aside from hair and skin color, all enemies look identical. Environments are detailed, but not stunning. All in all, average.
Immense. It's impossible to get the full scope of the game on one play through. So many mercenaries you have yet to hire, lots of side quests, and lots of Arulco to explore. Plenty to keep you busy in Arulco, even after the game is over.
As PC games go, Jagged Alliance is probably the most critically acclaimed sleeper hit series ever. It's gotten numerous awards and lots of praise, but almost nobody I know has even heard of it, it's such a shame, because it's such a great game to experience. I rate Jagged Alliance 2 a 9.5, and highly, highly recommend you try to hunt down a copy. It's a relatively old game, so you should be able to find it on the cheap used or in a bargain bin.
Now 20% More Annoying!!
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