Platform: PC

Genre: Strategy

Publisher: Interplay

Developer: SirTech

ESRB: T (Teen)

Released: Q1 2001

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Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business

Score: 8.2 / 10

 

Pros

- Good interface

- Voice acting brings your mercenaries to life

- Continues the JA series

- Donít need JA2 to play

- Varied environments

- Mission builder is good feature

- Adjustable difficulty level

- Excellent manual

 

 

Cons:

- Just adequate graphics

- Sometimes the number of details to track are overwhelming

- Some battles can be very, very long

- Steep learning curve for new players

 

 

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"Serious players will like the chance to sink their teeth into a good turn-based game."

 

In my own defense, Iíve never been a big fan or serious turn-based tactical games. The odd drunken game of Risk with friends is as close as I usually get, so when Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business (UB) was dropped on my desk I approached it with a dose of, "Iím not going to like this." I surprised myself by actually enjoying the game.

        

I took an hour to read through the manual as thoroughly as possible. This proved invaluable since Iím not accustomed to a game with so many variables and commands. Although UB is an expansion pack for Jagged Alliance 2, you donít need it to play UB. There are less missions than JA2 but all of them are as difficult Ė or more so Ė than the original. (This according to JA fanatic Baldie that I consulted when writing this review.) I found the missions incredibly tough Ė no matter the difficulty setting Ė requiring special care and attention to mercenary placement and knowing when to retreat. But if the right kind of people are selected the task is slightly easier.

Once youíre accustomed to UBís interface, which is exactly like JA2, you should have no problems keeping track of multiple mercenary groups, creating your own mercenaries, hiring / firing mercenaries and generally act like the William Dafoe character in the movie Clear and Present Danger. Veterans of the series will be able to jump right in.

The overall mission is to revisit Arculo and help out the local despot, which necessitates engaging the opposition in a variety of field conditions as well as indoor areas. The outdoor encounters are full of trees and rocks Ė plenty of places you (and the enemy) can take cover. Part of the intrigue here is that you can only see targets your mercenaries see, so you canít plan much in advance. When not locked in combat, your mercenaries walk around in real time. Control is similar to RTS (you command them to walk around, pick-up items, open doors, talk to people, etc.) until you enter combat.

Make sure youíve got youíre thinking cap on when you enter combat. There are many, many variables to keep track of: your mercenaries positions (crouching, standing, kneeling), what gun they have equipped, how much ammo they have left, what their next move should be, your mercenaries relative attributes (medical, stamina, speed, marksmanship), terrain elevation, how many enemies are currently engaged, the number of action points . . . the list is long. Occasionally, all of these variables serve to overwhelm new players in the beginning. The interface does a good job of allowing you to access information with a minimum of fuss but learning to work efficiently takes longer. Since itís turn-based combat you can take your sweet time with every turn. (There is the option to introduce a time limit but this should be tried by experienced players only.) Control is very good although I had problems using the grenades to any effect. Usually it wound up bouncing back to whomever threw it and popping his insides to the outside.

The outdoor encounters are straightforward, but the indoor missions caused me much frustration. It may have just been a mental block, but I had a lot of problems with the indoor areas. I saved my game every step (an option that can be turned off) to better my chances of completing the objective. Once the sector is cleared you can turn items youíve found into cash, which can be put toward better weapons, hiring more mercenaries Ė the usual.

Audio is well done. After a while youíll know your mercenaries by the sound of their voices. They offer quips while under attack, which makes them slightly more real than digital avatars usually are. The music is well done and has a definite military feel, which compliments the game nicely.

 

The downsides to UB arenít many but they should be mentioned. As written above, there are fewer missions than JA2, the difficulty level sometimes borders on insane and the variables for each mercenary can be overwhelming. The graphics, while adequate for the job, arenít on par with more current titles. Your mercenaries are barely distinguishable from one another and the enemies all look the same. In contrast, the backdrops are nicely done.

The addition of the mission builder gives you the chance to make your own maps. Itís a good way for people interested in practicing their design skills to exercise their creativity. I like to leave mission design to the pros but even I built a few missions Ė ones that I could defeat easily. And thereís always the Internet to turn to when you run out of ideas.

New players to the genre might be put off by the learning curve and difficulty level, but if they stick with it (and practice) they will start to have fun. Serious players will like the chance to sink their teeth into a good turn-based game. Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business is a game I can recommend.

- Omni

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