Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Failure Of The Obsidian Order

Strange things expectations. Receiving the same item may trigger either satisfaction or disappointment depending on what you were expecting. From a game that was developed by members of OBSIDIAN, the people who had released such masterpieces as Planescape: Torment and Baldur's Gate, one expects lightening to strike yet another time. Unfortunately, they seem to have stroked out.

The first thing that strikes you with Alpha Protocol, however, are how bad the graphics are. Admittedly, great games have worked wonders and have been offering great fun with only limited graphics. There are games that are 10 or even 15 years old, when graphical capabilities were but a fraction of what they are today, and yet they are still more fun to play than most of the vapid eye-candies released these days. Unfortunately Alpha Protocol is not one of them.
The graphics look just bad. From the institutional colors to the awkward movements of the characters and the almost non-existent interactive environment, the game feels like a cookie-cutter Third-Person Shooter game found in a sales-bin.

Of course this is not a simple TPS game, it is rather a Third-Person RolePlaying Shooter (RPS). Your character advances in level and he also has an inventory. There are classes to choose from and skills to add to. There are different weapons and armor to equip with. Stealth is very important yet not the only way to go and there is a spy story unfolding through the dialogue options and cut-scenes. All this looks quite good on paper yet, somehow, it failed to work for me. And I have been an RPG fan for years.

The story is not absorbing and the characters are caricatures rather than the deep, complex characters one enjoys in a good RPG. The RPG elements are all there but they seem to get in the way of one another and work together. Having a time limit on the (Mass Effect 2-short) dialogue options is not a good thing either.

ALPHA PROTOCOL also games. With variations of ideas we have seen in Fallout 3 and BioShock, hacking and lock-picking are carried out by completing mini-games that (just like in those previous games) get old and tedious. Fast.

As DRM goes, good ol' SEGA slipped in a Limited Activations scheme - but promised to patch it out in about a year, so the game will stay yours. If promises are kept that is.

An RPG that strives to also be a shooter, a stealth tactical game with the possibility of bullet time, an endlessly bifurcating story that manages to end up predictable. This is a game that takes up a lot of different elements on its brush but the picture it paints in the end is unoriginal if not confusing. Had all the different elements worked together, this would had been a masterpiece. Unfortunately, inspiration alone is not enough.
All in all, Alpha Protocol consists of a lot of good ideas that got thrown together but were then left underdeveloped and unrefined. Maybe they exhausted their A-game on developing Fallout: New Vegas, who knows.

Because of the developing team's history, I will be overlooking this one.
If you are out of ideas guys, I would propose developing a game looking like Diablo III and playing like Baldur's Gate. And if it had a steampunk setting it would be heaven.

Alpha Protocol will be remembered as a bump on the road.

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