With the third game in the Jagged Alliance series virtually ’round the corner and anticipation levels reaching new heights every day, the only option I have to satisfy my hunger for quality mercenary tactical RPG games is to travel back in time and enjoy that golden age of gaming which was the mid nineties. So please take a seat in the time machine and come with me to see why the original Jagged Alliance deserves its place in every gamer’s heart.
Released 14 years ago, the first Jagged Alliance game can best be described as an improved X-Com game with mercenaries and no spaceships. Of course, solely describing a game as an opposite to another title is a big mistake – Jagged Alliance is is a title that requires dedication, patience and a lot of will. Because, like most of the tactical RPGs of its time, it seems to have a personal conscience.
I still remember the funny yet frustrating moments when a mercenary of mine, placed right behind an enemy shots with the sawed-off shotgun and completely misses. A trained mercenary! Or when, all of a sudden, the best man in my team, while running through the battlefield sees an enemy and refuses to go behind a tree and take cover until he finishes his job.
However, back then these things seemed natural and nobody was complaining (too much). It’s a similar thing to the level design in the first two DOOM games, when monsters were patiently waiting for your arrival locked in a huge room, up on some columns. It had absolutely no sense in real life, but in the game it seemed natural. The same happened with Jagged Edge.
Actually, I doubt the developers ever wanted to simulate real life – with a fake island to be saved (Metavira) and mercenaries created following all the cliches in action movies, Jagged Alliance was about offering players tons of fun a solid dose of humor rather than lifelike physics, visuals or… anything you can think of and is connected to the notion of “real life”. And I doubt this is the right time for me to start explaining (or, better said – debating) why it is good, up to a level, for video games to make one thing clear: they’re not at all real. Because, unfortunately, some people seem to forget this very important thing. But with games like JA I truly doubt we’d have news connectiong all sorts of violent acts to gaming – it would be like blaming the movie Kung Fu Panda for a violent act!
Today a brilliant game like Jagged Alliance would probably be ignored and blamed for its simplicity, but anybody who played it when it was released probably still recall having the time of their life with Ivan and the company. With Fidel, the terrorist, Bud the whiner and Lynx the eagle-eyed shooter and so many more. Strange, I still remember most of their names and faces but yet I have trouble remembering (or memorizing) the names of today’s game characters. Why? Because it’s a different era now. Because standing behind an opponent, shooting and missing would be considered unacceptable instead of “funny-let’s-try-again”.