The late, great developer Sirtech became famous for its influential Wizardry role-playing series, though before the studio made the difficult decision to stop producing games in 2001, it also created a cult classic in its Jagged Alliance strategy series. The Jagged Alliance games let you play as a mercenary on a paid mission to defeat contemporary villains in modern-day skirmishes. These games were remarkable for many reasons, including the huge number of options they afforded you. Jagged Alliance 2 let you hang back on a rooftop with a sniper, make frontal assaults with shock troops, sneak behind enemy lines to plant explosives, or infiltrate enemy installations to neutralize hostiles up close, among many other things. You did this with the help of AIM, the Association of International Mercenaries--essentially a talent agency for incredibly skilled guns-for-hire who not only had diverse skills, but also had diverse personalities, which meant they worked well with some teammates and poorly with others. Canadian studio Strategy First, which recently acquired the license to the Jagged Alliance series, is now producing Wildfire, a new game based on Jagged Alliance 2. We caught up with producer Jeff Giasson for the details.
GS: Why did you decide to make an expansion pack for Jagged Alliance 2?
Jeff Giasson: Well, I would like to clear one thing up right away. Jagged Alliance 2: Wildfire is not an expansion pack, but more a reimaging of the original game. Let me explain. There were extensive changes made to the game, but [it seems more accurate to call it] an "add-on."
The community was getting antsy for something new in the Jagged Alliance universe, and while we are looking into the next installment in the JA franchise--no comment about this (!)--our paths crossed with Serge Popoff, a well-known participant in the JA community. Together with Serge we decided to bring his vision, Wildfire, to JA fans.
GS: Tell us about the missions in the new game. How will they be different from the missions in Jagged Alliance 2 and in the previous expansion pack, Unfinished Business?
JG: Wildfire is solely based on Jagged Alliance 2. However, those who played JA2 may not think that Wildfire is very different from the original game [and] will meet with one result if they try to play it the same way: defeat. Therefore, players will have to adopt a new approach to successfully complete Wildfire, and think twice about who to listen to: your boss who communicates to you via e-mail or the locals who want you to prove yourself early on.
GS: One of the most remarkable things about Jagged Alliance 2 was how much variety it offered. For example, mercenaries could walk, run, lie prone, crawl, and climb up to rooftops while using pistols, rifles, automatic weapons, throwing knives, grenades, and static charges, among other things. How will Wildfire take advantage of these many different options? Will the expansion add any new options?
JG: There are no new merc options added in Wildfire, although the way in which the options can be exploited has changed. In JA2, for example, there is little to no grass. This was changed in Wildfire to provide more cover for your mercs. Modifications were also made to trees, shrubs, and boulders.
The towns of Arulco have also been enhanced with the addition of structures like houses, sheds, and others.
GS: We understand that Wildfire will make changes to enemy AI? How will AI be improved in Wildfire?
JG: I guess you can say there have been indirect changes to the AI, using tools to make certain NPC elements, how should I put it, not very pleased to see your mercs in Arulco.
I don't want to spoil the experience, so all I'll say is that organized crime plays a much stronger role in Wildfire than it did in JA2.
GS: Jagged Alliance 2 featured both real-time and turn-based modes, though the game seemed to work best in turn-based mode. What enhancements are being made to both these modes in Wildfire? Will real-time mode be more viable?
JG: Both the real-time and turn-based modes from JA2 have been left intact in Wildfire.
GS: Will the original cast of Jagged Alliance 2 return in its entirety, or have some mercenaries retired? Will Wildfire add any new mercs to the roster?
JG: All the mercs you've grown to love in JA2 are back in Wildfire. No new mercs have been added.
GS: Wildfire seems to have plenty of new weapons, but we understand that it will also feature rebalanced weapons. Could you explain how weapons are being made more realistic in Wildfire and how that will affect the gameplay?
JG: This is the area of Wildfire that will have the greatest impact on gameplay, in my opinion. Many of the weapons from JA2 have been enhanced or rebalanced, and with the addition of new weapons, I expect that players will have to make some interesting decisions about which weapons to use, against whom, and when.
The following weapons have been added to the game: USP, Uzi, UMP, MP5A3, Mini-30, HK33, G36, MP7, MSG90, AN-94, RPK, V-94, VAL, and VSS.
GS: One of the best things about Jagged Alliance 2 was its characters. It had surprisingly funny dialogue, and the game had a lot of mercenaries who had very well-developed personalities and interactions with each other. How will Wildfire expand on the personality of the original game?
JG: I have to agree. The personalities of the mercs in JA2 are one of the strongest points in the game. So I refer to the old saying, "If it isn't broke, don't fix it." This area of JA2 has been left intact and therefore remains unchanged in Wildfire.
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Wildfire?
JG: I would like to stress that Wildfire is more suited for the seasoned JA2 fan. Beginners who are new to the world of Jagged Alliance might find the new game a little intimidating, so for this reason, we will include the full version of JA2 in the Wildfire retail box to bring you up to speed on the Jagged Alliance experience.
For you longtime fans of Jagged Alliance 2--you've visited Arulco before, and we invite you to return again to experience the ruthless reality of Wildfire.
GS: Thanks, Jeff.