|BAR FIGHT (guns sold separately)|
So another one of the games that I backed on Kickstarter has finally been released; Jagged Alliance Flashback, by Danish developer Full Control, is meant to be a prequel of sorts to the venerable turn-based tactics franchise, Jagged Alliance. The game is set in the 1980s on the Caribbean island chain of San Hermanos. As usual, a harsh and brutal dictator has taken over the nation which means the place is ripe for a revolution. Cue your squad of mercenaries that have come in to aid this revolution and bring an end to "The Prince" of San Hermanos.
So far, so good, if you're a Jagged Alliance fan. It sounds like the typical plot and setting and the game has more or less stuck to the franchise's turn-based tactics roots. So why the mixed Steam reviews?
|Mixed reviews for Jagged Alliance Flashback a couple of days after release|
Here's some food for thought after playing the game for 5 hours.
What I like
- Music: They've definitely got the 80s action movie feel to the soundtrack which means it's perfect for this game.
- I.M.P. Test is back: Yep, that humourous aptitude test that you had to complete in order to create your custom merc in Jagged Alliance 2? It's back.
- It's turn-based tactics: Ultimately, this game is still a turn-based tactics game and boy do I love this genre. The game can be fun at times, like the many times I'm holed up in Spice's bar fending off a horde of the Prince's troops from the windows.
What I dislike
- Frame rate drops: As you can see by the graphics, this game doesn't look like the most graphic-intensive of games, however occasionally I get some pretty bad frame rate drops while playing and I can't pinpoint the reason why.
- Difficulty curve: The game seems quite difficult at the start - even moreso than Jagged Alliance 2. It doesn't help that there's no place to buy guns and equipment either like you could in Jagged Alliance 2. Eventually you get access to a guy in town that can sell you some weapons, armour and ammo but some of it is really basic stuff and he doesn't offer other things like bandages, medkits or repair tools - meaning the only way to acquire these is hiring a merc that has them. I miss Bobby Ray's.
- Missing hotkeys: It's good to see the return of hotkeys like PGUP and PGDN corresponding to changing the stance of your mercs, however it's strange how they managed to bring that back but not others, such as "L" for turning your merc around: this is now done with the mouse.
- Voice acting: This is one of my biggest peeves but it's probably a minor one by the standards of most fans. I know it would've been a big ask to get all the original voice actors to reprise their roles and I know Full Control probably lacked the budget to do so, but as a result some of the mercs you've come to love in the previous Jagged Alliance games, such as Ivan, sound totally different. There also seems to be a lot less dialogue as well. In Jagged Alliance 2, mercs would often comment on situations or even developments with the story's plot. They even compliment or whinge about other mercs in your squad. So far I haven't seen any of this in Jagged Alliance Flashback and I'm not sure if I ever will.
- Lack of cutscenes: Cutscenes don't maketh the game but it's a glaring omission when compared to the previous Sir-Tech Jagged Alliance games which both had cutscenes. Really bad cutscenes by today's standards, but cutscenes nonetheless.
- Ugly UI: Whenever presented with long names or lots of conversation text, the game seems quite content in lowering the font size in order to fit them in a preset box size. This means it's very hard to read the text sometimes which seems kind of lazy. Also the UI isn't the nicest - something similar to Jagged Alliance 2 would've been fine.
- No authentic gun names: It's obvious what an N1 Dagrand rifle is or an Uci sub-machine gun but it would've been nice if they used the real names like they did in Jagged Alliance 2
- No climbing on rooftops: On the plus side, this means enemies can't do it either.
- No sneaking: I think stealth is meant to play a part in this but there's no actual ability to change the walking pace between walking, running and sneaking, at least I haven't seen the option yet.
- No voice pack choice for custom merc: In Jagged Alliance 2 when you created your custom merc you were able to pick from three voice packs. This time you don't get a choice.
- Female names for male NPCs: Unless the islands of San Hermanos are inhabited by a large demographic of cross-dressers, I think there may have been a mistake or lack of caring when it came to assigning the names from the NPC pool to the NPCs as there are a lot of male NPCs with female names.
VerdictIs this the Jagged Alliance sequel/prequel fans have been waiting for? So far, it doesn't seem so. While you'll see some familiar faces and some familiar gameplay elements (i.e. turn-based tactics, controlling towns in order to generate income, training militia to defend those towns, etc.) the game isn't the same due to a lack of personality with the mercs. I've mentioned a lot of negatives in this post but keep in mind many of them are quite minor and some may even be fixed by Full Control in future updates (they're already promising to fix the shop UI for example). At its core, the game is still a competent turn-based tactics game in the vein of recent titles such as XCOM: Enemy Unknown and that's a good thing. Just don't have very high expectations if you're a Jagged Alliance fan looking for a modern replacement. At least not yet.
[ LINK: Official Jagged Alliance Flashback website ]