Pointless Nonsense

Posted in video games by Bill on June 5, 2016

alpha-protNeeding another break from another dreary Telltale game (in The Walking Dead Season 2, just about everybody dies), I decided to check out Obsidian’s past games, since they’re still basically the real Fallout people. Wasteland 2 has been on my wishlist for over a year but it’s never had a good discount and the price hasn’t come down. But 2010’s Alpha Protocol was pretty cheap. It sounds like there were a lot of negatives on the combat, but that the story and RPG elements were very well received. And I can see what they mean on both fronts.

The story sees you as a dude who’s a new recruit into a black ops type organization. After initial evaluations (aka tutorials), you’re sent into the field to chase after a terrorist organization. Then it goes in the classic espionage story way, something upends your view of things, and you don’t know who to trust, so you go on the run. It’s a pretty good plot-twisty story from there. My only major complaint is that I got a shit ending, because in the final mission, I failed to grasp which way I was supposed to go to save my lady friend, and by the time I realized I’d skipped that and gone to confront the bad guys, it was too late to double back and save her.

As I discovered in Fallout 4, BioWare’s approach to romance where you have to pick one partner is a lot more engaging, because you find yourself torn and have to ultimately make a decision. Here, I’m pretty sure you could sleep with four women, but I didn’t pursue the Brigitte Nielsen type. You just figure out the type of conversation that appeals to a woman, use that a bunch in conversation, and then if your reputation with her is high enough, you can choose to bang when that point in the story arrives.

Combat is sorta stealth-based, but it’s hard to stick in cover. The controls for it just aren’t totally natural, and you end up dropping out of cover by accident pretty frequently, or getting stuck in it when you’re trying to dodge a grenade. I’m not that into stealth stuff in general, but luckily you can do pretty ok with a shotgun, body armor, and just running around killing shit. Amusingly, your after-mission report lists your kill count with the header “orphans created,” so they want me to feel guilty for my non-stealthy playstyle. It’s a little buggy in spots. Third person overhead perspective, so when you aim, the camera shifts to being straight behind you. But if that puts a tree or something between where the camera is and you, you’ll just see the tree. So looking forward, the tree that’s behind you is blocking your view. I died once because of that… really annoying.

The dialogue stuff takes an interesting approach. Rather than letting you pick what you’re going to say, or a summary of what you’re going to say, you just pick the attitude of your response. A common option is between Aggressive, Suave, and Professional, but sometimes it’s to be impatient, loyal, suggestive, defiant, curious, etc. Sometimes the option to pull a gun on the person shows up, too. Once in a while like during mission briefings, you choose between topics to ask about, but the rest of the time you’re only deciding on the attitude of your statement, and the content can come sorta as a surprise. Different people respond better to different attitudes. Like one of your handlers hates bullshit, so any straight to the point attitudes goes over well with him. But another handler is a wiseass, so being sarcastic or casual with him gets a better response. I like the approach, because in a lot of other games, the summary can be misleading. And the Fallout-prior-to-4/Dragon Age: Origins approach made it impractical for your character to have a voice actor (since you already knew the complete content of what you were going to say, why do you want to hear it said aloud? waste of time).

I can see why paying $50 for this at launch would have been quite disappointing, given the flaws. But for cheap it’s not bad at all.


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