jagged alliance




There are always triggers that make you pick up an old game that requires sandpaper to remove layer upon layer of dust from them. Sometimes, and this is best-case: the game was just that damn good you want to play it again. Or you never finished it. Or it took years to finally get it to work properly - what, with all of those stupid codes to enter. Jagged Alliance entered my hands, this being the third or fourth time mostly due to Mark, and the fact that it is a classic. One of the best of it's time.

Entering my old room: now a kind of overglorified storage closet, I nab a large pile of CDs and begin to search through. After the third one, I find JA, and almost drop the pile in anticipation. After a quick installation, and a bucketload of nostalgia, I grudgingly leave a Windows environment, and plunge headfirst into DOS.

This is where the adventure begins... yeah... adventure of the Vintage PC Game Review! *reverberate* I mean a game where you control a crack team of mercenaries into enemy territory, AND it's turn based? Heaven!


Wow! I know I'm hooked


The cinematics are... breathtaking?     

Sanity comes optional
with your
new recruits

It could take months to
take this
island back-

-so here's one I    
prepared earlier    

Some actual gameplay! 
Numbers cause injury! 

In 1952, Metavera Island was a testing ground for nuclear weapons. I mean, everywhere was back then: Metavera... South Australia... My backyard... you get the picture. Now, modern day Metavera, which I can only assume was Circa 1994, is the staging ground for what was described as 'our own little hell.' Four months ago, a research facility into the medical application and reproduction of sap from the Fallow Tree: a native to the island with special medicinal purposes. When the installation was rebuilt, a researcher named Lucas Santino asked the financier, and father to one Sandra Richards, if a sister research facility could be built on the opposite side of the island. He convinced him that this would lead to breeding the apparently sterile trees. After Santino gets the lab: he brings in mercenaries and captures most of the island. You are brought in by Mr. Richards, as a representative of A.I.M, a mercenary provider, to help recapture and process the sap of the island, and bring down the twisted Santino by any means necessary. During game progression, other factors are added to the plot, such as fluctuating price for the sap, overly hot days, and loss of production due to disease or lack of facilities. It's very well done, and is much the case with older games, a much more compelling plot to carry a well-made game. A little kitsch, but nobody's perfect.

Now as the screens may suggest, Jagged Alliance is nothing to cream your pants about. But you must also keep in mind that it was made mid 90's, and was DOS based. The sprites aren't very emotive, but it is a larf to watch them twitch after they get hit by a stun grenade, or how quickly they dissolve into a skeleton, then into nothing when they die. The portraits are pretty clear, and a rifle looks like a rifle, no matter how you render it. Then again, turn based games have never been noted for their stellar graphics, no matter how good they are *coughMOO2cough* In the end the graphics are probably above average for when it was made. At least the stills are.

Now normally the pure unbridled evil of oldschool DOS games drives me to pierce my eardrums with the nearest BLUNT object. But Jagged Alliance seems to be a painless alternative in this respect. In fact I rather enjoyed the sound. Sure, the music was just one big loop: but it was just the right atmosphere. And the sound effects! The sound bytes that accompanied each character were expressive and emotive and just plain great. The guns sounded a little unrealistic (I think). I'm not exactly an expert in that field. I was completely undisappointed with it audio-wise. Almost actually loved it. Odd...

Now this is where most vintage games come into their own. It's almost as if the designers actually CARED if people were going to play their game more than once. *sighs* Those were the days... First and foremost, the difficulty settings were more than just minor as far as the plot went. Twists and turns at the start of each day were triggered more and more depending on the setting. I seem to think (and remember) that they are randomly occurring. I could have sworn the last time I played the game Sandra was kidnapped: leaving a trail of clothing in each sector for you to follow *groan* This was only part of what made the game a great experience. The point-based system each of the characters in constructed on leaves a dynamic, and often malleable or restrictive mode of play per turn. Accuracy, medic-wise, machinery know-how and explosives handling were all necessary for your team to progress through the game. Injuries received during combat would debilitate, and even after patching it up, proper medical attention was required back at base. Characters could drown, be knifed to death, even quit the team if they felt you were doing a bad job managing their movements. Enemies could retake defeated provinces, and so on and so forth. Everything was just constructed just right. I could say many, MANY more things, but I believe I've said just enough for you to want to go out, find a second hand game store, and nab a copy of this game as quickly as possible. Pure genius.

As with most of the older DOS games, multiplayer was not a viable option: in either a cost or a point sense of the word. It may only be a small failing: as the sequels both support multiplayer.

I had to give it a small bonus just because. It's a fantastic game, and was created in a period of time where quality was paramount, and Jagged Alliance certainly delivers.

In closing, I'd like to thank... um... SIR-TECH for their wonderful game, and maybe offer my unborn children if they make a Jagged Alliance 4, if they even still exist anymore. Whatever. Just be sure to dig this classic out if you have it, and if not, kill for it. You know you can. Some would have you think it's what games are MADE for. Idiots.

 jagged alliance
a classic; pure and simple

blancmange Copyright '02-'03 Chris Schlatter and Mark Stoffels. All Rights Reserved.