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Default My thoughts after completing Alpha Protocol

May 29th, 2010, 21:09
Allright, time for another random rambling after finishing some new title.

First off, allow me to say that whether or not you enjoy Alpha Protocol will depend on your approach - if you're in it for the RPG you'll most likely enjoy it, but if you're in it for the action, you should look elsewhere (the action is decent, but it's not the reason anyone should pick this up). I believe this is why the reviews are so varied.

I'll make some general comments on the various aspects. As always - if there are any questions, feel free to ask.

Gameplay
It starts out rather slow, but once you get the hang of it, it's actually quite good. Roughly on par with Mass Effect. I played a fairly straight forward soldier that focused on martial arts, assault rifles and toughness (increase hitpoints, damage reduction, etc). I'm not sure how the other characters play, but I suspect they are considerably harder, based on the locations I've seen so far (quite a few heavy gunfights).

I intend to try a pistol/martial arts/stealth character soonish, so I'll see how that turns out. I played on normal, by the way.

Story
Fairly good, definetly above par. It's well written, didn't see any inconsistencies (unlike ME2 where there are a lot of them). Not a whole lot to say here without it being a major spoiler.

Characters
Very good. A ton of interesting characters that are involved in various intrigues. Also a lot of extra background information on most characters (can be found throughout the game, available in your "journal"). Trying to figure out the various characters and their motivations will help you gain influence with them, which makes dealing with them easier - a lot of bonuses can be gained this way. Overall, the writing is excellent, but that is no surprise.

World/atmosphere
The various places Mike visits are well made and interesting, though they sometimes feel a bit constrained. Luckily they are more varied than ME2, so the action parts aren't as obvious or linear. Still, I feel that it should've been possible to visit more landmarks to get a feeling of being somewhere specific instead of somewhere generic. I'm not saying the action should be placed near a landmark, as such things tend to be filled with tourists, but it would've been fun to have undercover assignements or informant meetings etc near landmarks.

Quests/missions
Not a lot to say about missions. Quite a lot of variation, though they are mainly along the lines of Jason Bourne, not James Bond. Could've had a few more infiltration quests. The dialogue system would work great in such missions. Other than that, it's all good.

Choices/consequences
Amazing. Period. It's as if Obsidian wanted to prove something - how many decisions can we throw at the player within a given timeframe? They're everywhere, popping up non-stop, either between missions or during them (they're not even obvious, you could get a call smack in the middle of a mission where you have to choose really fast and then live with the consequences). The consequences are huge, both in terms of how you play the game and how various sequences in the main quest play out. I don't think I've ever played a game where I've had to make decisions as often as in Alpha Protocol - in a way it was incredible, but also fairly intense, because there's no way to systematically replay the game to experience everything - there are just way, way too many options to keep track of.

Needless to say, this aspect is deeply impressive in Alpha Protocol.

Graphics
The graphics are below Mass Effect 2, so I assume most it will be subpar for most. However, in all honesty, it gets the job done. It's just not something you'll even notice once you're playing the game. For us RPG fans, this is pretty much as good as we can expect while still getting a complex RPG behind the graphics - the RPG elements in AP are far stronger than ME1 or 2, and the quest structure is also more advanced with a lot more options and outcomes.

Sound
Good music, good voice acting. I like it. I like the main character - he may not be as slick as James Bond , he's a lot closer to Jason Bourne no matter how you try to play him, but that's fine by me - I prefer Bourne over Bond anyway. Not a lot to say here; the music is good enough to create a decent atmosphere, but nothing exceptional like Gothic 3.

Technical
I've seen reports of bugs and technical issues on consoles, but I experienced no issues at all. None. I had a single reload because a named enemy I had to take out decided to never leave a cover I could not reach. Other than that, I had no crashes, no slowdowns, no bugs of any kind, despite playing the majority of the game in long gaming sessions. Without a doubt the most polished product from Obsidian.

Overall
I like it a lot, though it has its flaws, such as weapons being somewhat unbalanced (from my brief tests with all weapons, it seems the assault rifle is overall superior, with pistol being the weakest, but I need further testing before I can say anything final). Also, there could've been more James Bond, as I've mentioned before.

Beyond that, it's a great RPG with a very impressive amount of options and decisions. Anyone enjoying Mass Effect, but feeling it was a bit "light" as an RPG, should definetly try AP - the action is roughly on par with ME, and the RPG elements are significantly stronger. ME definetly has a more interesting setting though, but that goes without saying (sci-fi vs modern).

Unless your gaming budget is extremely tight, the 20 hours or so you'll get out of a single playthrough is definetly worth it. Of course, if you want to fully explore all options, you'll be stuck for weeks or months, but only the most dedicated gamers will do that. Personally, I'll do one more playthrough immediately, to try out a completely different approach - change the order of the locations I visit (yes, even that changes certain things), the way I fight, and the way I respond to people. Should be very interesting.

.. aaand that's about as much as I'm willing to write right about now. Like I said, feel free to ask me anything.

Edit:
A tip to everyone playing the game: Invest two points in sabotage to get the minigame improvement. Trust me. They'll get increasingly hard later on, so having a little extra time comes in handy.
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May 29th, 2010, 21:51
Anyone enjoying Mass Effect, but feeling it was a bit "light" as an RPG, should definetly try AP - the action is roughly on par with ME, and the RPG elements are significantly stronger.
Sound good. ME is okay, it's like a half way game between rpg and action but satisfied neither pure rpg or action fans, unlike Deus Ex with deeper gameplay.

Would wait for more reviews on AP.
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May 29th, 2010, 22:33
I honestly think a lot of it boils down to whether or not you like the setting and characters. After watching a friend play it for about an hour today, I think I'm going to pass on this one, or at least wait until it hits the bargain bin.
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May 30th, 2010, 03:21
Thanks for the impressions, Maylander. I especially liked your thoughts on choice and consequences.

Choices/consequences
Amazing. Period. It's as if Obsidian wanted to prove something - how many decisions can we throw at the player within a given timeframe? They're everywhere, popping up non-stop, either between missions or during them (they're not even obvious, you could get a call smack in the middle of a mission where you have to choose really fast and then live with the consequences). The consequences are huge, both in terms of how you play the game and how various sequences in the main quest play out. I don't think I've ever played a game where I've had to make decisions as often as in Alpha Protocol - in a way it was incredible, but also fairly intense, because there's no way to systematically replay the game to experience everything - there are just way, way too many options to keep track of.

Needless to say, this aspect is deeply impressive in Alpha Protocol.
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May 30th, 2010, 07:55
It's getting to the point where I'm going to have to get this game just to check the reviewers!

Lots of fast decisions…. hmmm…. I wonder if that encourages you to "get into character" and try to think like the role you are playing, or if it reduces role playing because you don't have time to think "what would my character do?"
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May 30th, 2010, 08:17
Thank you Maylander - after reading your impressions I will give Alpha Protocol a try.

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
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May 30th, 2010, 08:33
Interesting how different this game is received.

I completely disagree about the C&C and conversation system - which I think of as a nice idea executed abysmally and without much thought, and I think pistols are very overpowered once you get to a later stage. In fact, I don't see myself ever going for another weapon, because it feels so good in most ways - except for regular gunplay, which I don't think is a fun way of playing this kind of game.

Other than that, I feel much the same way - and I'd recommend it to everyone into the genre.

Lots of fast decisions…. hmmm…. I wonder if that encourages you to "get into character" and try to think like the role you are playing, or if it reduces role playing because you don't have time to think "what would my character do?"
Unfortunately, the latter is exactly what it does 90% of the time.

It doesn't help that I don't like the guy I'm playing, but you have very few opportunities to think about what you're doing, or what you're going to say. I think it's the most unnatural and frustrating conversation system I've ever tried, and I don't think there's ANYTHING realistic about it. Maybe in a FEW rushed situations, you'd have that kind of pressure - but you'd at least have some idea of what you wanted from a dialogue.

This game FORCES you to make unclear choices, even BEFORE you've heard the line you're going to respond to.

I really have NO idea why people like that - but it goes to show how different we all are.
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May 30th, 2010, 09:59
Playing a sneak game now, quite challenging, very rewarding. I've focused on stealth, martial arts and pistols (+2 points in Sabotage to make minigames easier). Pistols really are quite overpowered, especially when using the special skill. At least as long as you are able to avoid the biggest gun fights.

This is definetly a more fun way to play the game though.

Oh and about the choices - yes, I agree that it can feel a little rushed at times, especially when the choices are coming out of nowhere. I made the "wrong" choice several times due to this, but in a way I like it - I have to live with the consequences, which is what a real agent would have to do. It's supposed to be intense.

Of course, when replaying it, it won't feel as intense or rushed in any way, as it's possible to prepare for all the decisions.

Example of a wrong choice:
Spoiler
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May 30th, 2010, 10:29
I just uninstalled in disgust due to the rockstar boss fight. I wasn't expecting that a single encounter could ruin all my goodwill towards the game, but it managed to do it anyway.

I don't think I've ever seen a more effective way of completely annihilating everything a game is supposed to be.

That's impressive in a tragic kind of way
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May 30th, 2010, 10:46
I'm impressed that people have finished it already. It was released just a couple of of days ago. I'm never able to finish games that fast.

*ponders*

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May 30th, 2010, 10:53
Originally Posted by pibbur View Post
I'm impressed that people have finished it already. It was released just a couple of of days ago. I'm never able to finish games that fast.

*ponders*
Maylander and Jemy are kind of special in that way

I must be getting old, but I rarely last more than 2-3 hours at a time, before I have to go do something else.

I really wanted to finish AP today, so I could get to all those other games. But the boss fight ruined everything ;(
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May 30th, 2010, 12:29
Maylander you might have just helped to convince me not to hurry to buy it yet. It's the amount of times you used the words "Mass Effect" in your post - although I enjoyed ME a lot it certainly wasn't because of its RPG part, and even when you point out the differences the fact that you still find it appropriate to compare the two games so extensively tells me that there's some obvious strong connection between them, which is not what I hoped to see in that game.

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May 30th, 2010, 12:56
@DArtagnan
That fight took me a few tries to figure out. The second time around (stealth/pistol/martial) it was very easy. Pistols can take him out in no time if you know when you shoot at him.

@holecraw
Well it's the natural comparison, as there is no other game I can compare it to. Like I said though, it's far stronger as an RPG, but significantly weaker as a cinematic movie experience.
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May 30th, 2010, 13:34
Can someone inform me what's this game about at all, plot-wise ? Just a few hints. I have no idea / no clue at all.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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May 30th, 2010, 13:36
How much gaming time is there if you finish most of quests?
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May 30th, 2010, 14:07
Originally Posted by Maylander View Post
@DArtagnan
That fight took me a few tries to figure out. The second time around (stealth/pistol/martial) it was very easy. Pistols can take him out in no time if you know when you shoot at him.
When I shoot?

I was making chain shots x6 to the head, and he was barely injured. I'm playing hard, by the way.

He's easy to get to the "knife" part - but I couldn't do anything to him except exploit the environment.

I'm sure there's some kind of puzzle element to the fight, and it's not really the difficulty I'm upset about.

It's how incredibly jarring that fight is, in the context of the game - and me being a Jason Bourne kind of dude. It's like they turned the game into Doom for that fight - just because they needed a traditional boss fight.

That in itself is enough to put me off the game completely, as it's simply too plain a demonstration of designer incompetence. I take it as proof that they had no coherent vision, and I can't enjoy a game like that - even though I had up until that point - because I could deal with the other oddities.

But that's me, and I can be difficult to please - I suppose
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May 30th, 2010, 15:42
Spoiler – When to shoot


@Alrik
Mike is the main character, he works for Alpha Protocol, a secret organization. He's trying to hunt down terrorists, but gets betrayed by his own country. Then you have to figure out the plot behind the betrayel and how they are linked to the terrorists.
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May 30th, 2010, 16:39
Ah, okay, thanks.

Does this take place like … today, or rather Sci-Fi ?

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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May 30th, 2010, 16:45
It's present day, I think.
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May 30th, 2010, 18:46
Thanks Maylander, game sounds great.

As long as there is a good story, character and RPG development there of then I should be a happy secret agent. The rushed dialogs and lack of Quick Save (iirc) is very annoying. I looked and do see a Trainer that talks about Freezing Time and Save/Load positions. Since I don't have the game yet, I am not sure what they are referring too as Force or Pirate.
NUMPAD0 - FREEZE FORCE TIMER
NUMPAD. - FREEZE PIRATE TIMER
NUMPAD/ - SAVE POSITION
NUMPAD* - LOAD POSITION

My question is can we play as Michelle Thorton, last thing I really want to do is run around with some guy's ass on my screen for 30 hours?

Trust me, most of the names I have been called you can't translate in any language…they're not even real words as much as a succession of violent images.
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