Jagged Alliance (series)
Jagged Alliance is a series of turn-based tactics video games. From the first Jagged Alliance installment on, the series received critical acclaim and gained a significant cult following, although this never translated to major commercial success. The first games in the series were for DOS, but work well under all flavours of Microsoft Windows and in emulators like DOSBox. From Jagged Alliance 2 on, the games were developed using DirectX for native Windows operation. Jagged Alliance 2 was also released for Linux and is currently available on Steam and on GOG.com for Windows.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Intellectual property
- 3 Games in the series
- 3.1 Jagged Alliance
- 3.2 Jagged Alliance 2
- 3.3 Jagged Alliance 3D and 3
- 3.4 Hired Guns: The Jagged Edge
- 3.5 Jagged Alliance DS
- 3.6 Jagged Alliance: Flashback
- 4 Film
- 5 Digital distribution
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The Jagged Alliance games center on strategically controlling mercenary squads, on and off the field, who complete various missions such as freeing countries from oppressive dictators. A sticky phrase describes these games as "X-COM with personality." The games feature a unique mix of turn-based battle simulation, 4X (eXpand, eXploit, eXplore and eXterminate) elements and role-playing video game.
Sharp humour via spoken character comments is a trademark of the series. The personalities of the individual mercenaries range from mildly eccentric to obviously disturbed, and their spoken lines give the games a cartoon-like quality.[clarification needed] This contrasts the games' setting which is otherwise closely linked to such subjects as war and death; the intent[clarification needed] is to avoid a false sense of realism and overt references to real political events.
Each mercenary is an individual with their own traits, and fans quickly selected their favourites from the lot (such as the dour, bearskin-cap wearing Ivan Dolvich, who spoke only Russian in the original game and broken English in the sequel). Part of the strategy and genius in the game was the player's freedom to select a multi-faceted team to win the game in different ways. Not all teams would work; for example, Ivan and his nephew Igor, who work well together, are hated by Steroid, the Polish bodybuilder. "Buns", a Danish markswoman, hates "Fox," a medic with centerfold looks. In contrast, "Fox" loves working with "Grizzly," on whom she has something of a crush.
The mercenaries may be out on various assignments (again, determined randomly) so that the available pool of characters is never quite the same for each game.
The player has to maintain a level of reputation in the Jagged Alliance games. If the player gets his or her troops killed often, regularly hires and dismisses members or generally is insensitive (such as not paying for deceased merc body shipments back home), his or her reputation will lower. Bad player's reputation affects all mercenaries. Mercs may demand a significant pay raise to consider working for the player. Hired mercenaries may quit unless the player discreetly pays them a bonus. And only desperate-for-work mercs will agree to work for really notorious players.
The Intellectual Property (IP) for Jagged Alliance has been exchanged between many companies. The series and IP were created by Mad Labs Software, who later became a part of the publisher for the first game, Sir-Tech Software, Inc., along with a transfer of IP. The second game, Jagged Alliance 2, was also started by Sir-Tech. When Sir-tech's publishing arm went bankrupt, the game rights were transferred to its development house Sir-Tech Canada, and published by TalonSoft. By the time Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business was released, Sir-Tech's publishing arm was out of business and the game was released by Interplay. Subsequently, Talonsoft went bankrupt. At the moment, Strategy First owns the IP and has published Jagged Alliance: Wildfire. Strategy First made several attempts to extend the series with Jagged Alliance 3D and Jagged Alliance 3, both of which never saw the light of day. Strategy First was acquired by Silverstar Holdings, which then ran into financial problems and was delisted by NASDAQ. It is unclear what effect this will have on future games using the Jagged Alliance IP, though in the final SEC filing before being delisted Silverstar stated that it had reached a settlement of some issues with Russian-based Akella: "Akella and 3A Entertainment have the option to acquire certain intellectual property rights for the Jagged Alliance and Disciples franchises for an additional $100,000."
The first Jagged Alliance game was developed by MadLab Software, Montreal. Qc, the following three games were developed by Sir-Tech Development based in Ottawa, Ontario. Ian Currie, Shaun Lyng, and Linda Currie were the lead designers on the Jagged Alliance series. MadLab was absorbed by Sir-Tech Canada, but the company shut down in late 2003. One other notable game Sir-Tech Canada created was Wizardry 8.
Games in the series
Released in 1994 for MS-DOS, this first game of the series tasks the player with freeing the fictional island of Metavira from the greedy Santino. The player must recruit mercenaries as they explore, capture, and hold new territory. The natives harvest the valuable trees from which a revolutionary medicine can be extracted; a result of the island having been used as a nuclear testing ground in 1952. The more trees the player holds, the more income they make. Income can be used to hire native guards and hire more mercenaries to take the offensive and clear more sectors of enemies.
This game features a top-down perspective of the game field for battles, with character portraits framing the view on the left and right sides. A separate map view shows the entire country broken up into distinct conquerable sectors.
Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games
Released in 1995, Deadly Games is a DOS sequel to the original game. It features a different format, however, and is considered by some to be more of a spin-off than a sequel. This game features the same engine and top-down perspective as the original game.
In Deadly Games, the player takes a group of mercenaries through a series of missions. The missions are linked chronologically, removing the need for micro-management on a strategic map. The scenario branches somewhat depending on the player's successes and failures. There are multiple terrain types, the mercenaries are hired and fired between missions, and Micky, the first equipment trader of the series, offers his services; for example, he may occasionally sell the player junk equipment, thereby prompting the mercs to voice their displeasure with the deal).
The most innovative aspects of Deadly Games include a wide variety of special ops mission types like hostage rescues, demolition, and infiltration missions. It featured turn limits and a boosted AI as well as networked multiplayer capabilities. The integrated scenario and campaign editors allow for the creation of custom strategic scenarios, adding to the replay value. Mercenary weapons can be modified by adding scopes, silencers, and barrel extenders. Heavier equipment such as grenade launchers and mortars are available as well.
Jagged Alliance 2
This game was released in 1999 for Windows, and was later ported to Linux by Tribsoft. The mission of this second official game of the series is to free the country of Arulco from its evil dictator Queen Deidranna. Deidranna married the democratically elected King of Arulco, then launched a coup d'état eight years ago, deposing her husband and taking power for herself. The player is "hired" by the exiled king, Enrico Chivaldori, to free his homeland of Deidranna's dictatorial regime.
Gameplay is similar to the original grand adventure style of Jagged Alliance, but features higher-resolution graphics and an isometric pseudo-3D view of the battleground. The terrain has two height levels (ground and rooftops) for player/enemy sprites and a basic physics engine for thrown objects and ballistics. It also features "destructible terrain" in that players are able to blow open walls and buildings with explosives. The game also takes place across diverse and rather imaginative locations including a multi-level prison facility, a school, a hospital, surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites, a swamp, and a junkyard.
The weapons arsenal has grown considerably to include a variety of weapons based on real-life counterparts (such as automatic weapons, shotguns and rocket launchers) and also fictional weapons like an auto firing rocket rifle. There are some more role-playing elements like specialty professions and the possibility to create a custom mercenary as well.
Mercs can talk to one another during missions, usually spouting one-liners and other comments to each other.
Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business
Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business, alternatively known as Jagged Alliance 2.5 is a short, mission-based standalone sequel released by Sir-Tech in 2001. This release adds some tweaks to the combat engine, as well as a scenario editor, yet the gameplay remain largely unchanged. It allows importing of the character created for JA2 with his or her final stats, improved stats of other mercenaries will then be imported too.
A new plot is introduced in Unfinished Business. The original owners of Arulco's lucrative mines have returned and established a missile base in the nearby country of Tracona, demanding the mines are returned to them. They destroy the Arulco's now empty Tixa prison to show an example for what happens if their demands are not met. The player must put a team of mercenaries together to infiltrate Tracona and disable the missile base.
Jagged Alliance 2: Gold Pack
Jagged Alliance 2: Gold Pack was published by Strategy First on August 6, 2002 and adds the improvements of Unfinished Business to the final release of Jagged Alliance 2. Unfinished Business and a scenario editor are also included in the package.
Gold Pack introduces notable changes to the difficulty setting. The player choosing an advanced difficulty level may also decide to make the player turns timed and whether to disallow saving during combat, as opposed to the original Jagged Alliance 2, which set these settings automatically.
Jagged Alliance 2: Wildfire
Jagged Alliance 2: Wildfire, version 5, was programmed by i-Deal Games and published by Strategy First in 2004 as an official expansion pack. The game's sourcecode was also published in the package, albeit under license. The project had started as a hobby addon by Serge "WildFire" Popoff who decided to make it commercial since version 4.
Compared to the original Jagged Alliance 2, Wildfire 5 has not altered the game engine or controls and can be considered a mod. The focus was instead directed into designing revamped environments, new items and stronger enemies. This presents players with a more challenging campaign, however the goals and progression remain the same. In terms of gameplay features, the game remains almost unchanged.
Soon after release, i-Deal Games terminated relations with Strategy First stating "...SF fulfilled none of it's [sic] obligation of contract and paid no single cent to i-Deal Games...". Consequently, WF5 remains largely unpatched, only minor hotfixes were published. I-Deal Games also stated that buggy version were released by Strategy First.
After the falling out with Strategy First, i-Deal Games developed another version of Wildfire, identified as "version 6", with Zuxxez Entertainment (now TopWare Interactive AG) as distributor.
WF6 contains changed source code, a tweaked graphics engine that allows for a higher resolution, introduces new mercenaries and increases squad size from 6 to 10. It can be patched up to version 6.04 (for English version), up to 6.06 (for German version), or up to 6.08 (for Russian version).
WF5 can not be upgraded to WF6 and patches for WF6 can not be applied. See Digital distribution for further details.
Jagged Alliance Online
The MMO offers the usual Jagged Alliance game mechanics, a mix of turn-based combat and real-time action. From a 3D isometric perspective, each player controls and maintains a group of mercenaries and is tasked to use their abilities to complete missions and collect money and build reputation. To succeed, players are required to train and equip their mercenaries with better weapons and tools. Players can also help each other working together to complete battlegrounds and there are also player versus player battles. Players operate from a Headquarters which can be built up and improved upon. From here players can send their mercenaries on over 100 missions around the globe. Although the game is free, there is additional single player content that needs to be purchased, which can be done so online.
Jagged Alliance: Back in Action
On August 20, 2010, bitComposer Games announced Jagged Alliance: Back in Action, a full-scale remake of Jagged Alliance 2. It was originally titled Jagged Alliance: Reloaded. The game was demonstrated at GDC 2011 and released on February 9, 2012.
The stated goal of the remake was to improve the original game concept as well as the visual weaknesses of the original. The story and content are noticeably different from the original as well, with key strategic elements such as boardable vehicles and training of militia removed. Mercenaries are easier to train and permanently hired for a one-time fee rather than the time-based pay of the original. Conversation trees with NPCs have been replaced with linear "talk or stop talking" dialogue. Humorous cut-scenes featuring the exploits of the Queen have also been removed.
Jagged Alliance: Back in Action features modern 3D graphics in an isometric perspective. The user interface was completely redesigned and includes a new detailed tutorial that helps new players to learn how to play the game properly. The new real time "Plan & Go" system optionally removes the classic Jagged Alliance staple of turn based gameplay. It also initially removed the fog of war, making the tactical element of the game simpler and faster to play as it was unnecessary for the player to prepare for enemy surprise attacks or ambushes with all enemies immediately visible. A fog of war system was added to the game post-release called tactical mode, which requires mercenaries to acquire a line of sight on an enemy for them to become visible. The developers estimate that the remake will take players around 70 hours to complete.
The critical reception was mixed at best, with armchairempire.com saying "Jagged Alliance: Back In Action is, and probably will for many years hence be, the definitive textbook example of how to mess up by the numbers when attempting to "relaunch" a classic franchise". Even Finnish Pelit magazine, in one of the most positive reviews internationally, stated "Back in Action is not a bad game, but pales in comparison to its father".
Shades of Red
Jagged Alliance: Crossfire
On June 13, 2012, bitComposer Games and Kalypso announced the first add-on to Jagged Alliance: Back in Action. The standalone add-on, Jagged Alliance: Crossfire adds new mercenaries, new environments and new weapons.
The setting of Crossfire takes place shortly after the events of Jagged Alliance 2 at Arulco, Khaanpa, a small micronation located somewhere in the volatile Asia region. A huge temple has been uncovered, and with it a large vein of coltan ore. This triggers a destructive religious conflict funded by the resources which had led to the deaths of many innocent people caught in crossfire as the leader of the Jenitenn Cult profits from the disaster through humanitarian aid. The United Nations is unwilling to send peacekeepers in a possible chance to fail in peacekeeping efforts and the ambassador of Khaanpa sends AIM to defuse the threat. Upon the death of the leader of the cult, a volcanic eruption occurs near Khaanpa and the UN finally sends in a peacekeeping effort to help rebuild the nation in the wake of the crossfire.
It was released on August 24, 2012, on Steam in a downloadable format and elsewhere on September 25, 2012 as a physical product.
Jagged Alliance: Crossfire was developed by the Coreplay Studio in Munich.
Jagged Alliance 3D and 3
Strategy First and Game Factory Interactive announced in June 2004 that Russian developer MiST Land South would develop the next two games in the Jagged Alliance series: Jagged Alliance 3D (JA3D) and Jagged Alliance 3 (JA3).
Jagged Alliance 3D was envisioned as "JA2 in 3D", or basically the same game as Jagged Alliance 2 but using a 3D engine. Jagged Alliance 3 would be the "true sequel" to JA2, a full-fledged game in the same spirit as JA2, and using the engine developed for JA3D. JA3D would come out quickly, within a year or two of the release of the generally successful Wildfire mod, and be followed by Jagged Alliance 3. SFI choose GFI because GFI had already released Cops 2170, a tactical-strategy game published by SFI in North America. The two companies already had a relationship, and it was felt the JA3D project could be mutually beneficial.
From statements made by both Strategy First and Game Factory Interactive, it is apparent that GFI assumed the costs for the development, with SFI providing the intellectual property and the overall vision for the project. This arrangement proved to be very cumbersome, and prone to misunderstandings and confusion. SFI, naturally enough, had very ambitious goals for JA3D while GFI sought to control development costs and time.
The initial plan was for GFI to use a modified Cops 2170 engine to quickly produce JA3D. However, GFI already had a second strategy game in production, ALFA: Anti-terror, and they made the decision to use this engine for both games. GFI planned to set the game in Africa, which was fine with SFI. However, GFI ran into trouble with the strategic layer for Jagged Alliance. They proposed a mission-based structure for JA3D instead. There would be no free-flowing strategic layer, as in Jagged Alliance and Jagged Alliance 2 where the player made strategic movement decisions, and initiated attacks on a map. Instead, the game would be structured like Jagged Alliance : Deadly Games, with a series of missions, which were essentially combat-only levels. SFI was resistant to the idea, but agreed to it, feeling this would shorten the development time. Besides, JA3D was always intended as a bridge between JA2 and JA3, so it was acceptable that it was not a "full game".
In 2004, initial screenshots of the new engine were released, showing a somewhat primitive 3D engine with familiar Jagged Alliance characters, such as Shadow.
In May 2005, the MiST Land South developers announced they would be discarding the turn-based combat system in favor of real-time combat. The turn-based combat had been a hallmark of Jagged Alliance from the very beginning, and it was a major reason why most fans stayed with the game. This announcement was a surprise to Strategy First, and was very quickly vetoed by Richard Therrien, VP product development of SFI.
In September 2005, SFI withdrew the rights for Jagged Alliance 3 from GFI, leaving them with the JA3D license only.
A pre-beta version of JA3D was shown at the 2006 E3 convention, and received a generally favorable reception. The gameplay appeared to be very similar to Jagged Alliance 2, with updated and improved graphics, as well as a 3D combat engine.
On July 20, 2006, Game Factory Interactive announced that MiST Land South was being dissolved, as of August 1, 2006.
In August 2006, SFI withdrew the rights to JA3D as well. GFI claims that the game simply did not fit within SFI's plans. SFI, on the other hand, states that JA3D was in an incomplete state and not ready for the scheduled release date. It was obvious that SFI, having faced years of development without any progress, had finally given up on the project.
This left GFI with no rights to use any of the intellectual property of JA3D, including characters and story line. GFI now plans to rework the characters and story to remove Jagged Alliance-specific details, and will publish the game under a different name. In a September 3, 2006 post on its discussion boards, GFI claims that SFI owes it money, but this is denied by SFI without further elaboration. Ironically, one of the changes GFI plans to make to JA3D is the introduction of a strategic layer.
Strategy First intended to produce Jagged Alliance 3 internally, with head developer Thiessen promising a much more open experience than any other Jagged Alliance game. There were expected to be five separate factions to fight in JA3, instead of a single enemy. Characters were said to have their own agendas and allegiances in addition to randomization of various settings of the game upon startup in order to make it less predictable; a character who was allied with the player in one game could be their enemy in the next. Player actions were also said to influence how the characters of the world react to them.
In December 2006, Strategy First outsourced Jagged Alliance 3 again. The publisher, along with Russian developers Akella and F3games, were to create the game, setting an approximate release date of late 2008.
As of October 2008 the game has been delayed again, and Akella's website was displaying a release date of Q1 2010. This delay was likely due to publishers demand to improve graphics.
On December 21, 2009, a German language game site reported that Akella had stopped development on Jagged Alliance 3. Strategy First has made no statement on the future of the Jagged Alliance series.
On March 9, 2010, German outfit bitComposer Games (now bitComposer Entertainment AG) picked up the rights to the PC strategy series, and started "preliminary development" on the third full game for release in 2011. In August 2015, Nordic Games acquired the rights from bitComposer. “The decision to acquire Jagged Alliance was an absolute no-brainer for us”, commented Reinhard Pollice, Business & Product Development Director at Nordic Games, although no immediate announcement has been made regarding their specific plans for the series.
Hired Guns: The Jagged Edge
In November 2007 Game Factory Interactive released Hired Guns: The Jagged Edge. The game does not have any storyline or characters in common with JA2, as GFI lost the rights to use any of the intellectual property of Strategy First. Still, it is seen as a spiritual successor; the game is structurally similar to Jagged Alliance series and features a mercenary-themed plot, turn-based gameplay, and a familiar game interface.
Jagged Alliance DS
In June 2005, Pocket PC Studios and Strategy First announced a conversion of Jagged Alliance 2 Gold for the Nintendo DS.
In May 2009, a Nintendo DS Jagged Alliance game was released, based on the original Jagged Alliance.
Jagged Alliance: Flashback
In April 2013, Full Control, a Denmark-based game studio, launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund Jagged Alliance: Flashback. The Kickstarter campaign was successful on May 23, 2013, resulting in the game being fully funded including its firsts stretch goal. The game was released on October 21, 2014.
Unfortunately this project was released in an incomplete state and received very poor reviews, as a result company Full Control pulled the plug on the project immediately after it was released. Following that Full Control went out of business shortly afterwards. Kickstarter backers who funded this project are still waiting on their physical rewards for their pledges with no resolution in sight.
In March 2007, Strategy First announced that they had penned a deal for the creation of a film based upon the Jagged Alliance property. The movie license was acquired by Los Angeles-based Union Entertainment.
Two versions of the same game (Wildfire) exist due to the game's publisher Strategy First, Inc. falling out after a disagreement with the game's developer, I-Deal Games Studios concerning expenses. Version 5 is the version published by SF before this spat and so is more problematic than v6, the version released through ZUXXEZ and others by the developer since the incident.
Jagged Alliance Classics (which includes Jagged Alliance, Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games, Jagged Alliance 2 and Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business) was developed by Full Control and published by bitComposer Games in GamersGate, DotEmu and the Humble Weekly Sale of bitComposer Games.
Jagged Alliance, Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games, Jagged Alliance 2 (distributed by Strategy First), Jagged Alliance 2: Wildfire (distributed by Zuxxez Entertainment/TopWare Interactive) and Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business (distributed by Interplay Entertainment) are all available from GOG.com.
Jagged Alliance: Back in Action, the DLC Shades of Red and Point Blank and Jagged Alliance: Crossfire are available to buy via the Steam distribution service.
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