Kickstarter backers of Jagged Alliance: Flashback received their digital copies of the turn-based strategy game upon release way back in October 2014, and Danish development studio Full Control closed down in 2015, yet some backers are still complaining. But with no-one to complain to, what’s the point? Shouldn’t they just let it go?
Well given that those complaining had pledged over $100 for premium tiers, which were supposed to include boxed collector editions of the game but never received any physical rewards at all, they certainly have a valid reason to feel aggrieved. Backers in the USA and Asia in particular have reason to feel hard done by as their European counterparts did seem to get physical rewards; they could still complain about the quality and contents of what they received, but at least they got something.
I should also add the upset backers are aware that Full Control no longer exists and aren’t expecting any further action to be taken. For the most part they’re just comparing their respective situations with other backers and sharing their misery. Not only have a lot of them parted with a lot of money yet only received the digital copy of Jagged Alliance: Flashback, they’d already been let down by the quality of the game itself. That feeling was shared by critics as well, with a 52% rating on Metacritic and an initial 40% rating on Steam (later rising to 50%). Even Thomas Lund, CEO of Full Control, who’d bitterly defended its poor scores eventually scaled back his own assessment of it in January 2015:
“Its not a 9/10 – not a 8/10 either. But it has a good solid combat system that screams JA, and an ok story that has good elements.”
– Thomas Lund, January 2015
Luckily I hadn’t yet joined Kickstarter in April 2013 when the campaign for Jagged Alliance: Flashback launched as I’d probably have pledged my support as well. As it is, I’m able to look back and dissect the development process from a (mostly) neutral perspective – a Kickstarter campaign that began so well with $368,164 from over 7,000 backers and an experienced developer. Updates were regular and detailed with Thomas Lund himself frequently responding to posts in the comments section (even if he did sometimes get confrontational with his responses).
In another surprisingly positive move, the finished game was even released a month earlier than originally scheduled. In retrospect, that was a bad decision as extra development time could have helped avoid the critical mauling it eventually received. This – combined with all the negative comments accrued from the Early Access release – contributed to Jagged Alliance: Flashback being a commercial failure and Full Control closing down. Despite running for eleven years and releasing ten games, the studio began closing down in late 2014 with all 25 employees eventually getting laid off – turning this already sad story into a truly tragic one.
“Let me just say, that this [physical reward] is utter nightmare to go through. And if we ever do another Kickstarter, we will keep it extremely simple and preferably digital only.”
– Thomas Lund, January 2015
Thomas Lund continued to post updates. In an August 2015 update, he confirmed physical goods had been shipped to Europe, Russia and the Middle East with the rest of the world to follow. Those backers who received their physical goods complained about the quality of the contents and that many components were missing (the promised printed manuals were eventually made available as downloadable PDFs instead). But with no further updates or comments from Full Control it soon became apparent to those ‘rest of the world’ backers that they wouldn’t be receiving anything.
So where does that leave us? A number of out-of-pocket backers licking their wounds, a long-running development studio closed down and a disappointing game that failed to live up to the Jagged Alliance legacy. Those backers are entitled to keep on grumbling for a while longer (and will no doubt be more cautious in the future) while the members of the development team who were laid off were hopefully not out of work for too long. It’s hard to find anything positive to say about the final game though. It’s still available on Steam but in a fairly broken state and with no further support available it won’t be getting any better – but the poor reviews are likely to put off any potential buyers anyway.