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It had to happen. First the "new man", now the "new mercenary". Don't be deceived by all the tough talk or those battle scars on improbable parts of their anatomy - mercenaries love trees and children. There's nothing they like better than helping out poor defenceless infants. In barracks the world over they still talk of the terrible time when Jack "The Biscuit" Colquhoun and his entire nhitnnn were wined out on a assault when the spotlight lit up their Comic Relief red noses. Such setbacks have not dampened their enthusiasm for the kiddywiddies. This is why you find yourself on the island of Metavira. talking to Jack Richards (old, wrinkly scientist) and his daughter Brenda (young and completely wrinkle-free scientist). They have been working with the Fallow tree (don't stop now, it gets worse), which has a sap of amazing medical qualities (all the sicky wicky kiddy widdies get better wetter). However, there's a problem with these trees. Firstly, they don't reproduce (which begs the question how they appeared in the first place), although Brenda is attempting to deal with this. "She's working on a method of reproduction," her father announces in that knowing, man-to-man kind of way of his. Secondly, the inevitable evil assistant has inevitably seized most of the trees and all of the island. And inevitably you're the one who has to sort it out.
How times have changed for the hard-working mercenary. Once your job was to install evil dictators in small African republics and ensure that their opponents had to draw up the invite list to their funeral rather earlier than they'd have wished. Now you're just the sap who collects the sap. Ah well, this one's for the children.
I was all set to say that, ignoring all the packaging, this game is Risk meets Canon Fodder. Then the editor says Syndicate. And he's right (as editors always are), and so I'll say it's a case of Risk meets Syndicate. Or Midwinter. Or quite a lot of games really.
The overall aim of the game is to regain control of the island and restart the sap extraction process. Not the sort of job you'd boast about at the "Well-Hard Club Dinner Dance", but a man's got to live. The island is divided up into sectors; all but one of which is in the hands of the evil (and almost certainly mad) Lucas Santino. Within each sector is a certain number of trees in various states of health, and locals who can be recruited as tappers (who extract the sap and should, of course, be called sappers), and guards who hold the sector once you've seized it.
This is the strategic element of the game. As you gain control of more sectors, you have to recruit or transfer guards to B protect them (Santino is playing the same game as you) and encourage greater production. The money earned from sap production can be spent on new mercenaries, but you must also pay your staff sufficiently to encourage more recruits and so greater production. But you don't want to know about this. You want to know about the shooting bits.
Each sector is a little battle in its own right. As you enter occupied territory, you move into game time, with each character in your team able to make a certain number of moves per turn (walk, shoot, search, curl up into a little ball and sob etc.,). The key here is that you can't see any enemy guards until they're in one of your mere's line of sight, so an idyllic pasture can suddenly become a shooting range. This does wonders for the game's tension quota, believe you me. Even on the lower settings the enemy guards work with a reasonable amount of intelligence - they don't just sit there waiting for you to outflank them. This leads to games of cat and mouse until you have eventually wiped them out, gathered together all the goodies that lay scattered around in true rpg style (particularly the ammo. I've never played a game in which I've run out of ammo so often) and moved on to another sector.
At the end of each day you return back to the base to report to the good doctor, deal with all those tricky personnel problems (i.e. "I'm off. You're a maniac and I'm never working for you again!"
"So you'd not be wanting this $2000 I'm trying to get rid of?" "Ah, on seco nd thoughts perhaps I'll stick around for a bit longer.") This is also the time to recruit replacements or reinforcements and to get a good night's kip - dreaming of all the good you've done for the sick children (especially the orphans who'll now have a few new friends).
You're the one for me fatty
Something about the packaging of this game led me to expect a pile of old jobbies inside. (Perhaps it was the big label saying "A pile ofjobbies inside".) Having read the scenario (well someone has to) I was ready for a real duffer of a game. But wait. In a unique change to my reviewing style I decided to play it before slagging it off (Incredible. Ed.). And in a funny kind of way, its not bad. Okay, there's nothing brilliant about it. The graphics and sound are hardly trend setting. There's nothing in the gameplay that hasn't been done before and better. But its one o'clock in the morning, two of my patrol are dead, another is pinned down by a couple of guards and I'm not going home until I've sorted it out. Although not as fast moving as it might be, it is fairly involving. The speech pack is as irritating as these things usually are - chiefly being an excuse for the sort of lame humour that makes Michael Barrymore seem alternative. At times, though, it does give some character to your team. Some react to dangers, such as running out of ammo, with laconic amusement, while others wet themselves.
On the down side, thpugh, the mouse control system can be a pain. The first few skirmishes came to an unhappy end as I gunned down my own troops. Any serious strategy buff will find that side of things a bit thin, while the skirmishes, though fun, are very small scale and come with some fairly tedious bits in between.
Despite all this, Jagged Alliance is quite fun in a seen-it-all-before kind of way. If you ignore the scenario, cast a contemptuous sneer at the intro sequence and tell the speech pack that you're just going to get a drink and will be back later, then this is a game you could spend a couple of fun evenings with.
Download Jagged Alliance
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP