Free Demo of Jagged Alliance 2

by Darius Kazemi on October 4, 2005

in Jagged Alliance 2

Okay, apparently the strategy game publisher Strategy First is offering free 3-hour demos of most of its games. When checking out the website, I discovered that one of those games is Jagged Alliance 2, which is possibly my favorite game of all time.

JA2 is a true classic. It’s squad-based tactical combat in the mode of X-Com, except I like it even better. It takes place in a modern setting, and you control a team of mercenaries charged with liberating a small country from their ruthless dictator, one Queen Diedranna. The combat system itself is great, but the real gameplay feature that shines is the overhead map. Basically, you are dropped off in a sector of the country and told: neutralize the queen. Any way you want. Have fun.

You can take the suggestions of the townspeople and do the sane thing by taking over the easier cities and sectors first, gradually working your way up to the country’s capital. You can, on second play, totally tweak things and try to send one badass merc into a tough sector early on to hopefully win and collect all the awesome weapons, giving you an early game advantage. Hell, if you think you’re tough enough, you can blaze a trail all the way to the queen (good luck with that).

And yet the open-ended gameplay isn’t what makes this (possibly) my favorite game of all time. The best part about JA2 is the game’s personality. And man, does this game have personality in spades. You can control up to 18 mercenaries in 3 teams of 6, if I remember correctly. You get to hire mercs from mercenary employment agencies, via the brilliant mechanic of your in-game laptop. You have about 50 mercs to choose from, and each one has a very distinct and memorable personality.

For example, all of a merc’s stats are out of a possible 100. More experienced mercs generally have better stats, but they also cost a lot more money. As a new player, you might be surprised to see a very cheap merc with not much experience and an explosives score in the high 90s. If you hire him, like I did, you’ll see his profile wasn’t lying when it said that he learned all his skills in the classroom. The moment he sees his first dead body, he’s horrified, his morale drops significantly, and he becomes morose and almost useless. I was floored the first time I saw this level of character depth, and the game maintains this depth consistently across almost all its characters. Some mercs work better with each other: they will shout compliments when their friends do well, and they’ll get depressed when a friend dies. Other mercs hate each other (notably Buzz and Lynx, ex-lovers) and will sometimes refuse to work together on the same squad.

Anyway, while the game has great combat, long-term strategy, and story, it’s the characters that make this a game that you should try out. So go on. Download the demo.

{ 1 comment }

Craig Perko October 4, 2005 at 5:29 pm

This was a really fun game, although I must admit I have a preference for controlling 1-3 man teams instead of 6 man teams.

Top notch game.

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