Throwback Thursday - Jagged Alliance
There are many games from my childhood that trigger a nostalgic response and Jagged Alliance for the PC is one of them. I remember when my cousin Tom picked this up at his local software store and I had arrived to stay at his house for the weekend. We spent all weekend devising strategies and putting together what we thought were the best MERCs for our team. It resulted in much hilarity and many in game deaths.
Jagged Alliance has a very simple premise. You are contacted by the locals of the fictional island of Metavira to help reclaim all sectors of the island from the evil Lucas Santino and his forces. Doing so entails you hiring mercenaries (MERCs) and invading hostile sectors and conquering them by defeating all opposing forces. This is done by a turn-based strategy interface very similar to the X-com series that popularized the genre.
Throughout the game, Santino will throw you curve balls like kidnapping Brenda the scientist, poisoning the local water supply, and even stealing the headstone of a former native chief. In addition, if you don't protect your newly captured sectors with guards (or even if you do), Santino's forces will attack and attempt to regain their lost sector. This all is to detour your ultimate goal of conquering enemy sectors and defeating Santino.
The coolest part of Jagged Alliance was the different personalities and traits of the different MERCs that you can hire. Some are excellent (Mike, Scully, Lynx) and won't join you until you have gotten your feet wet in Metavira but are excellent mid-to-end game possibilities. Some are just plain terrible (I'm looking at you Ruthless Reuban.) But many have traits that come with trade off of a quirk or two that make the game more interesting. Fidel is a great example. While he is an excellent explosives expert for the start of the game, if Fidel gets into a firefight, he will refuse to move until the fight is finished or until you remove the weapon from his hands. This quirk is something I can definitely live with to gain someone highly trained in disarming explosive traps early in the game. Where X-com perfected the turn-based genre, Jagged Alliance refined this and brought the characters to life giving them individual personalities.
Overall, the gameplay in Jagged Alliance is solid and rarely feels cheap. When you make a mistake, the game will definitely make you pay for it. Luckily, there is a quick-save feature that you can enable to assist in your scouting of the battlefield. Definitely seek this out on Steam or Amazon, as it only costs a few bucks of this writing if you are into turn-based or military action games.