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Default RPGWatch Feature - Alpha Protocol Impressions

May 31st, 2010, 13:56
After a dozen hours play, we've got some early impressions of Obsidian's Alpha Protocol. Here's a sample:
I found a stealth character (or at least, a cautious character that doesn't rush in) to be rewarding. Using cover (which could be better), watching guard movements and carefully choosing the best route meshes with the slow aiming for critical shots and using different abilities. While I enjoyed the stealth play, it could be better. The level design could offer more choices and there's no real use of light and shadow; anyone expecting something like Thief or Splinter Cell will be disappointed. Because stealth is more about watching guards and hiding behind objects than melding with the shadows, the advanced stealth skills are underwhelming. Shadow Operative, for example, simply makes you invisible for a limited period. It works well enough but breaks the suspension of a real world setting to simply press a button and walk past guards unseen. In practice, it's probably not that different to other stealth games but it does stand out in the supposedly realistic setting.
Read it all here.
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May 31st, 2010, 13:56
It seems we generally agree, my impressions (found here) were roughly the same. It's definetly a good RPG once you see past certain flaws.

Soon done with my stealth character, and I must say it has been far more rewarding than the soldier approach. People saying sneaking is not possible are just not trying hard enough - it's definetly possible to take out most targets on most levels by sneaking around and doing a takedown. If that fails, martial arts and pistols will get the job done.

Oh, and I'll restate the tip I previously mentioned: Put some points in Sabotage to make the minigames easier. Also gives you the option of opening them with an EMP charge if they are too hard.

However, those points won't save the hacking controls - I most certainly agree that they are just not good enough. Whenever I fail, it's usually a matter of the controls being poor, not the puzzle hard.

Edit: I actually suspect Alpha Protocol might end up as something of a cult classic. There really are loads of options and things to explore/figure out, but only if you have a little patience. It still gives me slight "PS:T vibes" - excellent characters, background information and so on, but with mediocre gameplay (at least the action aspect), so it'll never be a huge hit.
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May 31st, 2010, 14:05
Well, Maylander, I remember that when I played Planescape Torment I had very little combat to do, and I spent most of the time talking, doing puzzles, founding creative way to manipulate people etc..
Alpha Protocol looks like it focuses far more on the gameplay, so if it's really 'mediocre' this flaw will basically kill any chance that the gameplay will become a cult classic.
Also, PS:T had a very definite 'style', that, again, from all the impressions I've gathered Alpha Protocol sadly seems to lack.
Too bad, because I'm pretty sure I'll manage to have fun with this game but it will be undermined by that 'what could have been' feeling…

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May 31st, 2010, 14:10
i've played for about 8 hours or so and I'd pretty much agree with everything above. Anyone hoping to play a new splinter cell game will be hugely disappointed - the game is definitely an RPG! The reviews giving the game 2/10 are frankly ridiculous - its far better than that (even if it were just a simple splinter cell clone).

A lot was made before the game was released about choice and consequence, and I've got to say I'm hugely impressed with the game in this sense. In fact I'd even say it sets something of a benchmark for games in this respect. The problem is that this obsession with making C&C game design has been done at the expense of the player being in control which can get a bit frustrating! Checkpoint saves are an example - i can only assume this was a design decision so that people had to live with the consequences of the options they chose, which is fine if this is the way you like to play games. I almost get a sense of arrogance from the way the game has been designed like the developers are telling you how you should experience it.

That said i'm personally really enjoying it - it definitely reminds me a lot of deus ex. I'd give it an 8/10 so far.

Put it this way - its nowhere near as bad as some people are making out!
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May 31st, 2010, 14:27
Good article.
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May 31st, 2010, 14:36
Very fair "review", in my opinion.

Touches on most of the vital aspects and gives a pretty objective look for others to base their purchase decisions on.

The only thing I'd disagree with is the dialogue stance system, but then you DID mention it wouldn't gel with everyone. I hate it, but I think I would like it if toned way down. Say, have a number of vital dialogue sequences where you really DID have to think on your toes. But not being able to hear the line you're responding to, in general (even during relaxed conversations), before making a decision is simply not a good way to handle interaction - in my opinion.

The boss fights, at least SOME of them, are utterly counterproductive to the whole stealth/spy feel of the game, and I agree completely that it's a game that doesn't know what it is, or what it's really trying to be.

Oh, and I think it's important to mention that levels close off from backtracking very often, and you're never going to know when you should go through a door, or hack a system - because it might cut you off from side missions or goals. I don't think I've managed to complete a mission without being frustrated by this.

So, while I still like it overall - I find it particularly sad that a game with such potential, didn't manage to really pull off the whole thing. Not a lot of work would have been required to take this from good/interesting to great/fantastic.

It still wouldn't have been for everyone, though, but at least it would know its audience.

Naturally, I'd prefer a deeper and more complex Deus Ex'ish experience - but I think it would have been objectively better even as a more streamlined shooter game, for that kind of audience.
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May 31st, 2010, 15:17
Question time, for people who have already played the game:
Do you think that taking out the character development system (except maybe for equipment) and simply concentrating on polishing the stealth/action elements would have made the game more fun?

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May 31st, 2010, 15:17
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
After a dozen hours play, we've got some early impressions of Obsidian's Alpha Protocol.
That was very clear and looks fair and to the point.

Thanks Dhruin. It started getting very confusing trying to follow all the controversial info on this game.

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May 31st, 2010, 15:22
Originally Posted by WorstUsernameEver View Post
Question time, for people who have already played the game:
Do you think that taking out the character development system (except maybe for equipment) and simply concentrating on polishing the stealth/action elements would have made the game more fun?
Hmm…

That would depend entirely on what you mean by polishing.

The RPG system makes it highly "gamey" - and many powers aren't "natural", and feel out of place if you're not used to CRPGs.

So, maybe for a shooter fan - that would help, but they'd still need to seriously refine the stealth mechanic (even more so) and the action would probably never be at the same level as a good shooter. Not without changing the structure entirely.

Note, that I don't think Mass Effect (1 or 2) is a good shooter. In fact, I think it's horrible.

A good pure shooter would be something like Call of Duty 4, which is pretty damn far from what Alpha Protocol is.
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May 31st, 2010, 15:25
Do you think that taking out the character development system (except maybe for equipment) and simply concentrating on polishing the stealth/action elements would have made the game more fun?
For me, a definite no. That's not to say I wouldn't redesign the current system a lot but for me, taking out the character system would've made for a less interesting game. The key point for me would be designing levels and boss fights so that they really supported more options all around, supported more of the various specialization instead of going the action route.

Anyways, really good preview. The only thing I'd disagree with is that I actually felt that some of the most over-the-top characters fit right in. That was a worry of mine before the game was released but I think it ended up really well in that regard.
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May 31st, 2010, 15:33
I love the characters and feel they are obviously a homage to slightly-over-the-top Bond films but I feel some of the criticism (I've seen people talking about cliche characters) is because the real world setting sends a different message to 80's Bond exaggeration.

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May 31st, 2010, 16:35
Man I hate mini-games getting in the way. Just make it a skill check and be done with it. Well I'm still planning on going stealth with pistols.
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May 31st, 2010, 19:42
Are you all saying that gamespot's 6/10 is an utter fail and the reason never check the game ranking there?
You didn't have to tell me that, I knew it from the start.
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May 31st, 2010, 21:01
Trying to live according to your screen name ?

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May 31st, 2010, 21:26
The intricate plot changes, character relationships and quick-fire choices with consequences are miles ahead of any other action/RPG - and many traditional RPGs for that matter.
That sounds really positive to me.
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May 31st, 2010, 22:25
Chris Avellone and Mikey Dowling both linked to this 'impressions' through their twitter accounts.

Looks like they're interested to see what the niche thinks.. or maybe they're just trying to link something that highlights Alpha Protocol's strengths? Who know.

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May 31st, 2010, 22:38
There aren't that many other positive articles about alpha protocol to choose from.
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May 31st, 2010, 22:41
There are quite a lot of European ones actually, sadly enough they are in strange non-english languages like French and Spanish.
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May 31st, 2010, 23:04
I've played through half the game twice now with different character builds and am giving up, just not having fun.

Dhruin's impressions claim the characters are over the top Bond style, I wish.

I found nothing Bond-ish about the characters nor the story, it's all generic american spy stuff. Muslim terrorists, satellites register every fart you take, spies are geniuses in all domains, weapon manufacturers infiltrate politics. Yawn.

Same goes for gameplay, it's splinter cell lite, what happened to stalking someone through the crowded streets of an exotic location, getting smalltime locals to work as informants, roleplaying your cover identity to fool targets, running away from other spies/organizations who are hunting me through crowded streets, infiltrating some place/organization, by posing as one of their own?

The apartment-> mission structure would already have been bad enough for an rpg(and I don't think this is one) but they could have at least compensated with variety of missions and quality, yet most of the time all you'll be doing is sneak or shoot your way from one end of the map to the other, always picking up/activating whatever has the giant yellow indicator.

I wanted to feel like a movie spy, not an american ninja with timed responses.
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June 1st, 2010, 12:47
Finished the game last night - played the Rome hub and the final missions - and I am sooo disappointed.

I had my hopes up after Moscow and parts of Taipei, but what I had to pass through last night was plain awful - the missions in Rome are bland, with unimaginative and sometimes absolutely amateurish level design.

And the ending feels so f@$%#@ rushed, the plot is tied together ridiculously and characters that you've learned to like and know suddenly come up with batshit stuff, the final boss battles feel so prolonged and out of place…


I have no idea how Obsidian intended to tie this up, and what the fuck they did in the time for polish. Now I start to understand all those 5-6/10 reviews - to play a game with such brilliant parts and so much potential burried under mediocrity and bad design feels very frustrating at times.


I'll probably replay it, just to check different outcomes, character development, but am no longer looking that much forward to it, now that I know what shitstorm awaits in the end. Hopefully all those choices&consequences will wash away my bitterness, but until then…

OBSIDIAN, I AM DISSAPPOINT

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..chasing a trail of smoke and reason..
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