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Mercenary's menu JA2:Unfinished Business

Unpaid debt
or
Unfinished Business destiny

CD box is getting slightly dusty, and favorite AUG is neatly covered and placed to glass closet. My thoughts are every now and then drifting to the past. How much times insidious queen Deidrana has found the death from my hand? Five, ten, fifteen? How much grey elite soldiers I've seen through the lens of my gun's sniper scope? Don't remember, too many of them. Wow, that was a good time, and good playing...

As you already figured out, I am talking about Jagged Alliance 2. The game have been released a year ago, and so much changed since then. However there were no single worthy competitor for all this time. In spite of some people's dislike for 2D drawn graphics, it is excellent even now, when 3D technologies are overwhelming. Even the absence of multiplayer is not worsen the impression (but hey... wish it were available!). I would dare to call Jagged Alliance 2 (named Regime Agony in Russian version) one of everlasting games like Fallout and Quake. Nevertheless, it is quite boring to play the same game time by time. No, the game's just great, but something new would be helpful... And developers understand it and doing their best to please us.

Now, let us speak about Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business. The name itself now seems slightly ironical. The new game (yes, game - not just expansion set with a number of new missions or levels) accidentally became late completion project. The release terms are keeping to shift month over month. The initial release date was February. Then March, then mid-summer... So, the mid-summer is gone, but still no good news. Add-on is completed, but Sir-Tech has a problem finding the publisher. However Unfinished Business release is still matter of honour for Sir-Tech so we can hope it will happen soon.

The forums dedicated to Jagged Alliance are overfilled with questions - what is Unfinished Business, when is it going to be released, and what is it like. And not only forums. Me, the author of this article, almost every day answers the letters from game fans, which letters contain single question: When can we try Unfinished Business?

It is time to make the things clear. It may sound funny but there may be readers who have not seen Jagged Alliance 2 yet, and of course have no idea what is Unfinished Business. Ok, let us tell a few words on Jagged Alliance 2. It is sequel to very popular games Jagged Alliance and Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games. Those three games are representing tactics genre. What is this game resembling? I think I am deserving a punch from all gamer community if I would say it resembles something... Jagged Alliance is one of the games with no analogues. Such games usually form the backbone of whole genre. Of course, JA has something in common with X-Com, but that's because both games are of same genre and using turn-based mode. JA series history is long, and full of different, sometimes annoying events. Buth the whole JA trilogy is very successful, and it would not be a surprise for me if Jagged Alliance will be named among the best games of the century past.

Everyone of you is first of all waiting to see the answer to a question: when the game is to be released? When we'll have a chance to visit the mercenary world again? I wish I know it. Now I can only repeat the words of Ian Currie: the game is ready and will be available as soon as possible. There was a rumour the game will never appear, but it is not true. Let me prove it by one interesting fact. In one of his interviews to our site Mr. Currie confirmed the intention to release the Russian version of UB, and said the related files are already sent to Russian publisher, Buka. It may seem not so important, but think for yourself - if the game is not planned to be released, will the developer enclose any contracts and send anything? The business is serious thing so please calm down, my dear collegues, and try to keep patience. We have very forcible reasons to guess the game will appear before this XMas, however I unable to name the exact release date.

So let us see what is Unfinished Business. The game is direct sequel to JA2 plot. Arulco is in trouble again. This time because of Ricci Mining and Exploration concern, who owned Arulco mines some time ago. After the civil war, the income from ore export was passed to rebels. Now the company want to restore their mining rights. Corporation has founded a military base in neighboring state of Tracona and threaten to launch a cruise missile attack to Arulco if their demands are not to be satisfied. Arulco citizens have contacted you again. Your main mission is to cross the border with Tracona, find and destroy the missile base and return back alive (the last thing is optional). This is the plot; it may look simple from one hand - but it is the best possible reason to visit Arulco world again.

The game is to be released on a separate CD and do not require preinstalled JA2. As Ian Currie said, JA2:UB is sort of a mini-sequel, not an add-on. You can import characters from a JA2 save game and gain their attribute and skill increases, as well as for A.I.M. and M.E.R.C. mercenaries. And remember, all equipment of both I.M.P. character and mercs will be removed. Also, if some of mercs get killed in JA2, do not expect to see them alive in UB.

Character creation system in UB is drastically changed. No more I.M.P. test, though I must note it had some charm. The character is being created by player's will, without any "try and guess" tricks. Some rare skills are available now, e.g. Camo skill. Initially the only merc with this skill was Shadow, making us envious and trying to cheat own characters (i.e. malevolently hex edit game files).

Now we can judge the game attractivity only basing on developers words. So, Ian Currie sure the game is more interesting now. We don't have to care about towns captured and train militia anymore. Other major game change is mercenary salary system. No more pay-by-days, the mercs are hired for whole campaign at once.

Creating new game, the developers tried to return to JA2 demo version intensity. There you was unable to stop and rest, spend the night quietly and strike when it is most convenient for you, provide your mercs with medical care except first aid.

Unfinished Business is not plain add-on based on old engine, it brings new and very interesting features. The game now has whole six difficulty levels instead of former three ones, new NPCs and a dozen of new weapon models. It may look not impressive comparing to JA2 options, but plain numbers are not the good base for judgement. Real range of weapons in JA2 is not so wide, taking into account the war scale. Now we have new weapons, many sniper guns and other really valued arm types. Sniper guns are modified greatly. Before it was practically useless because of low damage and significant AP expense. Now they are real tools for professionals. Their damage is much more, but AP expense is grown too.

Maybe one of most interesting innovations is Iron Man mode. Several months passed since JA2 release before different game styles appeared, but highest class of all styles is total refusal to use Save/Load in combats. It takes time and sufficient experience gained to come to this style. But it is inevitable if player want to play really interesting game. UB enables this style with its Iron Man mode. Now (of course when this mode is on) you have to accept wounds and even death in combat, there no way back. Additionally, AI's improved a much. New game style raised the intencity. As Ian Currie said, the game now is even more realistic than Deadly Games.

Tracona map is not so large as Arulco. 20 sectors sounds distressing, especially remembering the number of sectors in JA2. But let us prevent ourselves from early conclusions. Yes, UB is smaller, but more does not always mean better. JA2 has more than 200 sectors, but only some sector maps had carefully planned battles - towns and SAM sites. There were many half-empty maps that most people would never ever fight in unless they met a patrol while moving through the area on their way to other towns. This issue in UB is absolutely different from JA2. All sectors here are carefully planned, each of them is test of our toughness and ability to make correct tactical decisions. UB focuses the player attention on combat tactics itself, leaving aside maintenance and supply issues. It is even better!

New game is not only new maps and country, it is also new characters. There sre 11 new characters in the game, including two M.E.R.C. mercs. You can find their detailed description on developer site.

Important issue of each game is AI. AI of JA2 is almost unique. It can make unstandard for such games decisions, but it is not perfect, like most of things ever made by people. Developers knew it and significantly improved AI. Ian Currie said, it's not a total night and day difference, but anyone who's played JA2 a lot will definitely notice the improvements in opponent actions in complex combat situations.

Is it all? No. The game has two new interesting options implemented: visual line of sight indicators and unit cover indicator. Graphics are drawn in the game so it is hard to define by eye if character is covered good by map obstacles. Same problem exist for line of sight. A special feature allows to define the chance to hit the opponent in specific map position. You can check screenshots to see how these options work.

At least, the conclusion. What are we going to have - new game or plain expansion CD? I am sure, the first thing. This game is interesting, and many of us are eager to get it. The release of Unfinished Business is delayed, but tactical games are growing old very slightly. For example, there are lot of people still playing X-Com 1. We'll get UB as full-fledged (though small) game, not plain modification. When is it going to be released? Sir-Tech promised - within few month. Well, let's wait and hope. And such great delay has its advantage too. Now the game will seem newer and more unusual for us, increasing the fun from playing it. I am personally consider UB the most expected game, though this is totally subjective author's opinion.

See you in Tracona!



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