Jagged Alliance: Back In Action Review

Jagged Alliance has been a relatively quiet franchise, despite all of the critical acclaim for the second game.  So rather than build on its rich past of non-linear mercenary work, Back in Action just decides to do it all again, with a slew of simplified features designed to make the game appeal more to today’s Call of Duty-level of gamer.

Yes, that’s an insult—much like this game.


JA:BIA is rated M for Mature. It’s a realistic combat game with its fair share of mature topics.

Gameplay - 60 / 100

The gist of Jagged Alliance remains the same. You take up camp on an island belonging to an evil dictator, hire up a bunch of mercenaries, and take land back piece by piece until you can put an end to the chaos. The core of the gameplay lies in the tactical combat and resource management, because your mercenaries don't work for free and require upgrades to both equipment and skills in order to remain effective. Money from missions remains tight throughout the game and the decision as to how to spend it presents the biggest strategic challenge to players.

When the battles break out though, the differences between the original and this remake present themselves quite clearly. Gone are the days of turn-based strategy--everything that happens in Jagged Alliance: Back in Action is real time. The ability to pause and issue orders still exists, but all hell can break loose as a well laid plan can fall apart as quickly as a run and gun one.

A riveting shootout .  It would be a bit more convincing if this was the revolutionary war.

This is especially true given the horribly anemic AI.; Not only is the enemy baited into ambushes with ease, your party of mercs won’t even return fire or attempt to defend themselves in melee half of the time. Every single action requires your full attention, which can be frustrating in real time. Even if you pause the game, there’s such a disconnect between strategy and execution that only the most basic of orders should be trusted to the pause-order system.

Mediocrity is the standard here, and whether you’re new to the series or have been waiting for years to get your hands on a spiritual remake, you’ll be disappointed.

Graphics - 55 / 100

The isometric view returns, but with a lackluster engine of detail behind it. Camera control is a chore and you are sadly forced to do it in order to open some doors or loot some bodies. Character portraits lack finesse and personality. For a game that is trying to attract a new audience, Jagged Alliance: Back in Action certainly doesn’t seem like it’s trying very hard.

Sound - 65 / 100

A variety of typical quips and unit responses permeate the battleground, but a powerful music score kicking in at some point would have gone a long way toward making this game feel worthwhile. It’s not an assault on your ears; it’s just that sound is forgettable in this game. If guns are all we're going to get to listen to, the developers should have at least given those a little oomph!

Value - 50 / 100

With a non-linear gameplay style and a good amount of depth in the various mercenary skill sets, there’s certainly some potential for replayability. Unfortunately, the lackluster gameplay keeps that depth from shining through and, as a result, you have a campaign that feels like the same one you ran through 10 years ago with the same characters and the same style of combat and feeling of glory—all with a new $39.99 price tag. I wouldn’t feel ripped off at a price point of $19.99, but at close to retail, Jagged Alliance: Back in Action isn’t worth the price of admission.

Lasting Appeal - 45 / 100

And so another legendary franchise shoots itself in the foot. I don’t know what it is, I suppose it’s the fact that all of the good studios have been assimilated into the large dev houses that produce one popular title in a long running series per year, but we have not had a good year or two in the revival of old franchises. This game will go the same way as Fallout Tactics, and be utterly forgotten in a year or two by all but the most diehard fans.

Pros and Cons



  • Strategy!  Isometric!  Classic Gameplay!
  • Customization and merc loadouts make no two maps play the same
  • Each campaign will take you some time to complete


  • Given the mediocre gameplay, you may not find it in you to play for a week
  • AI is pathetic in all aspects
  • I seriously can’t think of a thing that Jagged Alliance: Back in Action does better than Jagged Alliance 2.


What’s the point of a remake if you can’t imbue the game with the same love and, at least, the same vision? Back in Action is a boring game that just doesn’t cut it, regardless of whether you're a purist or a new player. With a mediocre game play experience and overly tedious micromanagement, you will begin to yearn to get back in action yourself…with a superior game.

Overall 52/100 - Mediocre


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