Jagged Alliance 2 was released in 1999. During these 13 years countless sleeping hours were lost by a legion of faithfull fanatics of tactical turn based modern day small units mercenary combat. People like me were just hypnotized by the sleek combination of detail, tactics, financial acumen required to conduct a successful campaign of liberation of a small country from a ruthless queen. So, just like me, many (not so young) fanatics of this glorious classic were counting the days till the release of this remake of the game. Was it worth the wait ? Well, yes, and no, I am afraid. First of all, the purists should be aware that the turn based combat has been ditched in favor of a continous real time, pausable, game turn. You basically move in real time, but are able to pause the game in order to "plan" in detail combat movements. This system works well enough within its own logic, but I much prefear the detail and accuracy of the original turn structure. Other than that, the story is, nominally, the same: same country, same cities (fewer locations though), same mercenaries.
Let me list some ways I feel JA:BIA compares to JA2:
- The new game looks beautiful, the detail in the jungles and houses are superior in many ways to the original. This graphic beauty also comes without staggering hardware requirements: my 8 years old rig (ATI 4850) handles the game pretty well.
- There is an increased role for melee weapons and stealth attacks. Very good, since knives (except perhaps throwing knives) had very limited uses in JA2.
- Throwing granades is handled in a more convincing way, easier to use as well
- The game is very stable and I have experienced no troubles or bugs so far
- There is an engaging musical score, more or less on par with JA2
- Voice acting and the mercenary and NPC portraits are way below the personality and detail you'd come to expect after playing JA2.
- Everything is simpler, and I mean EVERYTHING: the storyline, the character developement through experience points; interaction with civilians, quests, tactics.. you name it. In the original you had to carefully balance your expenses and could hardly afford the best equipment without constantly risking bankruptcy (which meant basically losing your "workforce" that is quite sensitive to being left wageless...) Also the enemy AI seems dumbed down: enemy sentries do not seem to react to the sight of their killed companions on the ground...
This extensive "simplification" is what made me feel that, overall, i will still be playing the original JA2 in the future, especially the 1.13 version.
It is a pity, since it is quite obvious that the designers share my love of the original game, and theirs is quite a commendable effort. I suppose that the
logic behind the simplification of the game was justified by commercial reasons, to make JA:BIA more palatable to younger gamers more used to RPGs and RTS.
Maybe these younger gamers could add a star to my overall rating. I hope to have provided old grognards with some insight into what this new game will feel like for them: good, but not good enough.