Jagged Alliance is a mix of turn-based combat mixed with role-playing and mercenary management, sharing more then a few similarities with the X-Com series. The story is set in a fictional South American isle of Metavira, where a miracle plant is discovered that subsequently attracts the worst of humankind imaginable. Your job is to hire and lead a gang of mercenaries into the thick of it, fighting it out with rival mercs and harvesting the island’s precious new resource.
You attack “sectors” in Metavira, and with the island being divided into a total of 60 sectors, you’ll find that it’s a sizable moping up operation. At the start of the game, you control but one sector in the lower right corner of the map. The other sectors are controlled by Santino, your nemesis, and his men. Once you move your men into a sector and manage to clear it of all enemy troops, that sector falls under your control, allowing you to assign “tappers” to harvest the wonder drug.
The best part of the game is the tactical combat portion in which your men fight against Santino’s forces. You can select each of your mercenaries and assign them actions, be it walking to X, picking up item Y or shooting thug Z in the face. Everyone has a limited number of action points, after which you end your turn and the enemy starts his moves. Although limited to handguns and grenades at the start, you’ll eventually be able to equip your mercs with heavier rifles, shotguns and explosives.
I’ve mentioned that the best part of the game is the combat, but to get the most out of it you have to hire the right people. It’s here that Jagged Alliance also shines, since you get a huge pool of 60 mercs to work with, each with their own quirks and personalities. Some of the them are ruthless, others are calculated, and have different specialties. They chat during missions as well, calling out enemies, exclaiming when they find items or expressing relief when an area is cleared. Some mercs may or may not get along with others. And when personalities clash, you may find people quitting or asking for more money to continue working for you. It’s all very complex and intricate.
Medlab has obviously spent a lot of time thinking through the gameplay elements in Jagged Alliance, and the thoughtful combat mixed with mercs that are surprisingly human-like makes for some good fun in the long run. Those who have played or are familiar with X-Com are bound to enjoy Jagged Alliance. It’s polished, has detailed tactical combat and an unusually novel role-playing aspect that adds to the characters.
System Requirements: 486/33 Mhz, 4 MB RAM, 15 MB HDD, DOS
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