Even if you already liked Jagged Alliance 2 A LOT, you’ll still get a whole lot more appreciation for the masterpiece it was, after playing Back in Action. In JABiA countless great features from the original were removed and a few more were changed (not always to the better) and yet: it still can be quite the fun game. That’s how good JA2 was! Only a few pieces of it suffice to make a decent enough game… Although it IS a little bit sad, that JABiA is the best Jagged Alliance game since JA2 itself. ;)
I tried to play JABiA last year when it came out, but initially it was riddled with bugs and I lost the motivation to finish it. I decided to wait until they had finished their patch cycle (nice touch: they stopped at 1.13). The final version is so much better now, I only encountered a few minor bugs and it didn’t crash once during my lengthy campaign (first version never managed to achieve a high uptime – same PC).
A few of the points that BiA lacks in comparison to the original:
- all cut scenes with Deidranna and Elliott were “removed”/forgotten (how could they?!?) – that costs the game so much atmosphere, fun, story, depth…
- the beautifully animated character portraits were replaced with ugly 3D portraits
- Ira still exists, but doesn’t tell stories anymore, about all the locations she knows inside out, again – huge atmo-killer
- only guns can be repaired now, thus all the equipment must be replaced frequently
- it’s no longer possible to build stuff/mod weapons with found items
- even if the Meduna airport is conquered, all of Bobby Ray’s deliveries are automatically send to Drassen, it’s not possible to select another destination
- “the Internet” now only has Bobby Ray’s and AIM – no flowers etc…
- Skyrider’s helicopter (just isn’t the same without his confirmations :P) and all cars were removed
- several characters are missing
- quests were removed, but there are some new ones as well
- rocket rifles (which now use the same ammo as laws) can be used right away, no need to have them hacked in Grumm – the dude who did it is no longer in the game
- weapons have fantasy names (a little bit of a mood killer), I remember the original had all the correct names (or was that only with 1.13 mod? not sure!)
- mercs are now paid once and then stick around for the rest of the game, removing any need to conquer mines as fast as possible (maybe being unable to repair anything besides weapons balances this a bit)
- real-time with pause replaced the action point system (that one hardly bothered me, it could still be configured to pause the game whenever an enemy was spotted)
- worst removal of them all: there’s no “alter ego”/custom merc for the player anymore, all gone along with the awesome test from Psych Pro Inc. (IMP) – so much for xep624 ;)
So all in all it seems like no one will ever make a game like JA2 again. Features that seemed normal then, are now simply out of the question (just like no one will ever make another Star Trek movie again). When I defeated Deidranna at the end of BiA, I only learned that it was her, because the game immediately ended. No final words, no nothing. She acted like all the other hostiles. Only final remarks of the mercs before the ending credits were kept. And of course the game had achievements…
I don’t want to speculate all too much if they were out of time/money during development, so… But it sure looks as if something like that was the case. :P Sometimes it feels like a prototype, that is created by a studio before voices/characters/story are put in. Just a basic proof that the game system works. It at least should have been possible to put a few lines of text in here and there. It wouldn’t have been necessary to voice everything.
Right now I’m wondering if I should try Jagged Alliance: Crossfire, the direct sequel to this game from the same studio. I read it has more “stuff” (like weapons…) in it, which is exactly what BiA could have used more of and it returns M.E.R.C. the worse competitor of A.I.M. from JA2.
+Added animations for all active disciplines, thanks to EntenSchreck.
+Made new elevator arrows light up and stealth work on clinic guard.
+Fixed LaSombra teleport death and made new occult items undroppable.
+Added Humanity for keeping Zhao alive and restored two feed sounds.
+Fixed getting new discipline, grenade, divine light and Vandal line.
+Restored jenny_cries sequence on SM hub for Jeanette near Mercurio.
+Removed buggy Command schedules and fixed Vision of Death and Sleep.
+Restored animal movement for new warform and swapped some MP items.
Made King’s Way door consistent and fixed a Society of Leopold lock.
Restored Muddy fighting killer animation and so fixed the cutscene.
Fixed warehouse thug with long range eyesight and minor text issues.
Restored sounds at Society of Leopold and made others more audible.
Fixed SM and Hollywood hub club music and restored a Vesuvius sound.
Added or removed doorknobs to make it obvious which doors are real.
Restored unused floats of Larry and five civilians, cops and guards.
Removed histories, skip intro and Nosferatu/NPC changes from basic.
How come that almost all of the Star Trek movie actors are frequently in solid films, just when you put them all together, to make another Star Trek movie, it sucks? :P Anyways, Simon Pegg (and of course the countless other people who worked on this thing) continues to amaze and entertain with this movie. I usually don’t read up on movies before I see them, so I knew nothing (except that Pegg and Frost were in it) and I think this helped to enjoy it more. It’s often lighthearted fun/general silliness and yet it still has some serious undertones, that make it into something more than just some forgettable flick. The way the ending was handled, reminded me a little bit of Cabin in the Woods and that too, was great. Always nice to see some courage to deviate from common formulas.
I played XCOM: Enemy Unknown quite a bit and (surprise) was addicted to it, so that’s the obvious hook for The Bureau, because this different perspective on the already known elements of Enemy Unknown has a high probability to appeal to all these players. It’s a franchise. A series. A bunch of loosely connected games. [...] Thankfully it shares more with XCOM than just enemy models. What, at first glance, might look like nothing but another 3rd person shooter, somehow also inherited some tactical features, with which William Carter (the player character) can command his squad mates. Carter and squad mates can level up and learn several abilities (sometimes choosing one skill locks another), using those during fights works quite well and IMHO successfully adds value to the experience. I can’t say that I use the squad features in most games, all too often I just charge into battle and do everything myself and just ignore the AI characters and what they might be doing (that’s how I typically played all the Mass Effect games – hardly ever ordered anyone to attack a specific target, let alone where they should take cover). In this game I actually used AND liked these options. Lucky me, because often fights can’t be won without them. It’s really designed to require these features – the squad is not a mere gimmick.
The game is set in the sixties and that def met my taste, I was also into shows like Dark Skies (don’t know how I would like it today) and seeing an untattooed Jack (with a 60s haircut :D) amused me more than something like that should (I’m pretty sure it was Courtenay Taylor, love that voice). I wondered at first if this game’s plot is to be seen as a reboot or what intent they might have had, because the attackers are clearly the same aliens as in Enemy Unknown, but EU takes place after The Bureau. I kinda decided it was taking place in an alternate universe, although it might be possible the XCOM operation in Enemy Unknown new nothing, because the evidence of earlier encounters was kept from them? But no matter, once I got into the game a bit, I immediately forgot all about that.
I liked the dynamic a lot, of doing missions and returning to the XCOM base in between, then interacting with all the folks there. I read all the notes, letters [...] that were lying around and appreciated it, that those were renewed after every major mission. Said missions are started using a map in XCOM operations and are divided into 3 categories, besides the major operations, there are smaller, optional missions and even some that can be dumped upon other agents. These agents then will be unavailable for the next mission (with Carter) and return with a reward after. It does the game credit, that the minor missions are shorter than the major ones, but just as good in every other regard. It’s horrible to me, that there are players who just play the missions that are necessary to finish the game.
The story let me down a bit in some regards, some points are brought up but nothing essential happens with them, they are simply abandoned. There is this agent who can easily be counted among the most important characters in the game and it’s possible for him to die, but even if you save him, he still just vanishes and that’s it. He isn’t even mentioned anymore, let alone shows up again in the agent roster as a potential squad mate. So why did I put in all this effort to save him? There was no pay-off. I guess such things were the parts that had to be cut for some reason. The game is still big though, especially for a shooter. It took me ~17 hours to do all missions and I didn’t replay the last missions to get all the 4 possible endings (the endings too don’t care all that much about many earlier decisions – it’s no Fallout 2 epilogue, not that I expected one).