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Three Moves Ahead Episode 156 – Homage to Arulco

February 16th, 2012 by Rob Zacny · 11 Comments · Podcast, Three Moves Ahead


PC Gamer’s Evan Lahti and game designer Darius Kazemi parachute into 3MA to liberate it from Rob and Bruce. Their only weapon is a frightening knowledge of Jagged Alliance 2, but that just might be enough to get the job done. Darius explains why it is his favorite game, and makes a good case for it being the coolest game ever. Evan sees Jagged Alliance 2 as a game the defines 1990s’ design, typifying the mix of ambition, quirkiness, and technical simplicity characteristic of the era’s best offerings. Rob loves its portrayal of guerrilla warfare, and how Jagged Alliance was willing to punish hubris. Listen to war stories, Easter eggs, and memories of the strange cast of characters that comprise Jagged Alliance 2.

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11 Comments so far ↓

  • Jon

    Great episode guys. The two guests were great.

  • For anyone who wants to know more in… « The Squadron of Shame Squawkbox

    […] anyone who wants to know more, in the Verhoeven sense, Three Moves Ahead have just released their Jagged Alliance 2 retrospective. Next week is their look at Back in Action, so it’ll be a good double-header to see where […]

  • JeremyH

    Considering the age of the game this is going to come across as an insane question, but as someone that missed it totally when it originally came out and has only recently installed JA2 1.13 with the intention of playing it for the first time, should I be worried about spoilers here?

  • Bruce

    @JeremyH – absolutely yes, there are tons of spoilers. We made a kind of joke about spoilers at one point, but given that the game is 13 years old, we figured the statute of limitations had expired.

  • JeremyH

    Thanks Bruce. The statute of limitations very much has expired, but in my particularly ridiculous case I’ll obviously hold off until I’ve had a chance to give the game a proper playthrough.

  • CaptainCat

    Can someone post a link to Bruce Geryk’s 6000 word review or does that not exist in the electronic world?

  • Raúl

    Excellent Episode. Someday I will give proper playtime to this game, played it enough to spot some of the characters affinities (never got too far). The action point based combat was somewhat confusing for me, since units could run, crouch, prone or walk; never understood when to use those actions. I agree that switching to real-time, with the proper interface might be beneficial to this game, it just sounds more intuitive for me.

  • DoveBrown

    Great show as always and welcome new guests.

    Bruce’s Jagged Alliance 2 review from the Wayback Machine

  • Kordor


    great podcast again and it’s great that you finally did JA2!
    As you are doing another one about JA BIA next week, you might also want to think about throwing one or another word about JAO into the round, which just entered open beta.

    Did you ever play Jagged Alliance Deadly Games?
    It’s not so well known and I guess because it’s focus is on multiplayer more or less, it’s not that well known. However it was awesome, you had a map editor, could create coop maps and could play never ending games (one random picked map after another). There was even a function to insult the other players with hilarious comments. I uploaded a video some years ago, you might want to check out, it’s German, but you at lease see it’s mechanic. These comments also showed off the character’s personality extremely well. Skitz for example was schizophrenic and his insults were like “I will kill you and eat your corpse, ears are the best!”
    You can find the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCyOyv36OZA

    JA DG is also a great example about content the majority of player will never see, as you mentioned in your podcast. Did anyone know that you were able to touch a merc with another? Well, you could press CTRL to “enforce” a touch icon and then click on other mercs like shown in the video. Each merc had one comment for being touched by males and another way for females, so…you could even tell smth about their sexual preferences and openness (Skitz: I have already killed two people who touched me like that, and a third one I healed forever). ^^
    Ever heared about Mike? Mike was the most expensive merc in JA1 and DG, in JA2 he might reappear as Deidrannas hired Merc as random encounter. Each Merc has a special Line about having killed Mike.

    I know you simply don’t have time to talk about every aspect of the game, but I wanted to throw in some little bits which were left out.

    History of Characters: One thing you did not mention that much were the histories of the characters. There were already changed from JA Metavira to JA DG, even if they were small ones, like Snake grew a beard and some story changes. Lynx was in Love with Buzz, whom he hates in JA2 after they broke up. There were also these Native guys which joined your team in JA Metavira. One of them is probably very familiar: Hamous. Hamous reappeared in JA DG as Mercenary, and in JA2 you can hire him if you find him drving around in Alrulco with his Ice-Van.
    It’s like the devs felt like they owe their playerbase an explanation in JA2 about what happened to the characters which did not reappeared in the game. So for each of these characters you can find a history. Even for Hamous who reappeared then.

    Individualization of characters: You already spoke that the characters were very individual. I want to point out that they were not only individual but the game even had game mechanics simply made for that. Take Nails for example. He is the one and only character who has an item he do not want to take off (his biker vest). While Larry does not take drugs anymore, left alone he “changes” to Drugged Larry. Now he as other friends. While he likes Flo and Biff and hates Static in “normal mode”, this swaps as soon as he is drugged. He gets drugged simply by leaving him without work for some hours idle in the zone. As you shortly mentioned there are also special abilities. Trevor is a science guy and can control/repair the robot. Fidel doesn’t want to change the target and Razor is a “Psycho” who tends to laugh maniacally and switch from single shot to burst mode.
    If you want to check out merc relationships and their abilities, some years ago I put together a “relationship map”: http://ndnw.net/JA2/relationships.html

    Some of the individualization in the previous games was even stronger: Biff made a short statement at the end of the day if he killed someone and left the party. Reuben hated Ivan, he already said that he is going to kill him right away. Well, he does it, From one day to the next Ivan is dead.
    Also in DG lots of Mercs hat their price. If you picked up to much money in a mission, they just left you with this money.

    Controls: I think the controls were not complicated at all. You might not have been introduced to them very well. But they were easy once you knew them. Pressing shift to strafe for example. That’s something which can make all the difference when moving around a corner (and which is not possible in JAO and always giving your opponent an interruption). But I think it’s easy to press b for burst or click on the icon for that. Besides of that it’s not essential for newbies at all. One you know it, well, you press the keybindings anyways. X to swap mercs is another example.

    Difficulty: One change they made from JA1 to JA2 was the you are able to save in combat. I really hated when I was able to do it (I am sure at least Bruce can understand that), so I forced myself not to do it. However the Gold version also implemented the Iron Man mode. Where you were not able to do it. While I personally tend to flee a few times with Iron Man mode just to save, this means that I take a moral hit by doing so. Meaning it’s saving for a price, and makes it more important to avoid it and check out all the tactics instead. Saving/Loading after each shot is not possible anymore. This change was also implemented in 1.13

    About 1.13:
    Multiplayer is only for single maps. If you want to play multiplayer check out JA DG instead.

    1.13 also adds some features which are changing the game quite a bit which were not mentioned before:
    Inventory System: A completely new inventory system with very special slots, bringing item management to a new level.
    100 AP System: In Vanilla JA2 you had 25 AP at most, in 1.13 you got 100. Everything costs 4 times as much, but now the modders had the possibility to add to the weapon diversity of the probably hundreds of weapons added to the game. With 25 AP One Point more or less to aim or ready a weapon makes a huge difference, more diversity with 100 AP.

    And Speaking of weapon experience: The old JA Games already brought me to a level where I considered to give a weapon lecture in school when everyone had to do a lecture about something (In the end I did one about MMOs though). In the German Army people were kind of impressed that I new the different ammo types (and I can tell you the G36 is an amazing rifle).
    With lots of weapons in 1.13 I asked myself “what the hell is that?” and looked it up on google. Especially with prototypes, shotguns and anti material sniper rifles I had several of these moments thanks to 1.13.

    About the German Version: I had the original German Version of JA2 when it came out (with the age 18 stamp which was then lowered to the age 16 stamp a few weeks later). And I can tell you that the German version also has this smiley in the brothel.
    That said I must mention that I love the voice acting in all Jagged Alliance titles. I also checked out the english JA2 version and I need to say, that the German one can really compete.

    BIA: Imho they should not have used JA as a license for it. Most of the JA hardcore fans, including me, are pissed by removing the core element of the game which is the turn based combat (including fog of war). The only reason for me to look into JA BIA would be to check out how the characters developed. I uninstalled the demo after just 10 Minutes though. Guess it only really works for the same players who also play Dragon Age on lower difficulties and don’t really focus on optimization but look for nice animations instead. Cause on high optimization the plan and forget system limits the “flow” of the game far more than a turn based system or a system like in frozen synapse (which is kinda turn based as well, you cant pause each 0.3 seconds there for optimization, you just plan your turn differently).

    Xenonauts will probably be the next Game bringing a JA-Like turn based combat to life. Though JA Online is not doing a bad job with that either.

    Well, guess that will beat my comment length of Episode71. Hope I haven’t bored you to death. ;)

    Looking forward to your opinion about BIA.

  • MikeO

    God, I love Bruce and Tim’s old Games Domain reviews…some of the best game reviews ever written. I think both Tim and Bruce each wrote excellent reviews of various versions of Championship Manager — I reread those reviews many times, just for enjoyment, even though I never played the game.

    I’ll be curious what people think of the new version of JA. I almost bought it from Steam today, but in the end decided to wait. I played the first one a lot when it was released, but it was never really one of my favorite games. My main memories from 12 years+ ago are how freaking HARD it eventually gets, and, as was mentioned in the Podcast, how difficult it is to hit/ kill someone unless you are at point blank range.

    Good show, guys.

  • tareq

    excellent podcast, i can’t wait for next week!