Experienced Points: Alpha Overhaul

By Shamus Posted Friday Jun 25, 2010

Filed under: Column 102 comments

This week’s column should please the Obsidian apologists who have protested my comments on the game so far. Let’s go over a few:

You keep saying the game is buggy, but *I* never had any problems with it.

Tragically, it is not possible for you to share your flawless experience with me. And I have to review the game as I experience it, not as other people tell me they experienced it.

The game would have been fine if Obsidian had more time to finish it properly.

True, I suppose. But alas we are obliged to play the game they released, not the game they had written on their drawing board.

And in any case, isn’t this always so? Just about any game could be improved by giving it more time. I don’t know why Obsidian keeps getting this free pass. Just how much lenience can we give them based on their good intentions? At some point shouldn’t they resolve to implement a good idea they can do as opposed to a great one they can’t?

I realize that dedicated RPG developers – by which I mean roleplaying game developers and not these impostors – are few and far between. Our genre has been whittled down to a handful to titles, and maybe my demands come off like a man beating one of the last pandas in the world because it crapped on his shoes. There is probably some truth to that, but damn if I’m not sick of all this panda crap on my shoes.

If the PC version sucks, why did you get it? Play it on a console!

I played it on the PC because… they released it on the PC? I think insisting that the game work is a reasonable position for a consumer to take. I will hold this course until developers start debugging their software or they abandon the platform.

(If you do have it on the PC, this user-made fix will correct the most annoying problem with the game. My enjoyment of the game increased greatly once I followed those instructions.)

It’s not fair for you to pick on all these little flaws when the game is so great!

My comic is many things, but fairness has never been part of my comedic mandate. My usual defense is: I’ve said worse about better games. Which is true. I’ve made fun of games that I loved. I’m not trying to inform a purchasing decision. In fact, my comics are usually aimed at people who already own the game in question. Sometimes the jokes stand on their own, but in most cases you’ll get more out of them if you are already familiar with the truth I’m using as the fulcrum of the joke.

Well okay. But I still like the game.

Me too. Having said all this, I think Alpha Protocol is the best Obsidian game to date. (Excepting the NWN2 expansions, which I have not played.) This isn’t a broken, unfinished mess like KOTOR 2. This is a good game with a couple of unfortunate flaws. The boss fights are lame and unsatisfying battles against repetitive one-note bullet sponges, and they’re either murderously hard or piss easy depending on the character build you’re using. There are lots of little bugs and several balance issues. But beyond that the game is solid. Not just solid, but innovative. Like I said in my column, this “consequences” business is dynamite and you really have to try it to appreciate how different the game feels when you have to worry about the future. It’s a stern rebuke to a lot of the shenanigans that Bethesda and BioWare have been using in recent years.


From The Archives:

102 thoughts on “Experienced Points: Alpha Overhaul

  1. Andy_Panthro says:

    Shamus, you really need to play the NWN2 expansion “Storm of Zehir”. I found it was the best Forgotten Realms-based RPG I’ve played since Baldur’s Gate 2.

    Many others will tell you how good Mask of the Betrayer is, but I never really got the feeling it was as good as people made out. It’s certainly miles better than the OC though, shame it was just an extension of the original NWN2 story though. Some blend of MotB and SoZ would be a wonder to behold.

    Anyone know if there are any DnD games on the horizon? Or is that particular franchise dead these days?

    1. acronix says:

      Storm of Zehyr was a bugfest, though. That was the killer shot for me.

      1. Andy_Panthro says:

        Never noticed any bugs. Although I got it a while after release, so may have been patched up. Did it have particularly game-breaking bugs, or just a host of minor issues?

        1. acronix says:

          In my case, it crashed a lot for no apparent reason. Moving through the world was chaos, and not only because how all the patrols and encounters moved to my position all the time. I never managed to get the reason, so it drove me off quickly after a number of reattempts. Never got the patch, neither, since Obsidian took to long to make one.

    2. Raygereio says:

      D&D computer games are dead at the moment. There’s a big lawsuit between Atari (who currently has the exclusive right to produce D&D computer games) and Hasbro (current owner of the D&D IP).

    3. Anaphyis says:

      What? Mask of the Betrayer is not an extension to the NWN2 OC. Sure, there are some continuity nods but thats about it. The story itself is about the most inspired and immersive Obsidian released since Planescape.

      Storm of Zehir on the other hand is a remarkably shallow attempt at an open sandbox in an engine not designed for it. Because every RPG these days has to be a sandbox.

      1. Andy_Panthro says:

        Well, I view it as an extension because you are the same character and there are a few things that carry over. It’s not that important a distinction.

        I preferred SoZ because it felt like a proper party-based RPG, and reminded me of the likes of Icewind Dale. They made use of a lot of D&D skills that were next to useless in NWN2 which was nice. Oh, and I detested the whole “spirit meter” thing in MotB (and the ending, but that was a minor issue).

        Generally though my point is that they showed with the expansions what good games they can make, and I only wish that they’d used some of that skill in the main NWN2 campaign. It had the potential to be an awesome game, but I can’t bear to play the NWN2 OC these days (played through it twice, wish I hadn’t bothered the second time).

        1. DrinkingWithSkeletons says:

          Man, I’m glad to hear some love for Storm of Zehir for once. Yes, there are bugs, but honestly I think it’s a reasonably polished product at this stage. Here are a few of my thoughts on it:

          1. Dialogue system is improved.
          2. More dungeons means more (long) loading screens…
          3. …and shorter dungeons…
          4. …but the dungeons are more manageable in terms of time (you aren’t likely to get sick of any of them) and more meaningfully challenging. There are often many ways to approach the challenges, and the quest rewards tend to be far more, well, rewarding, particularly if you poke around a bit (Ring of Djinn Summoning, anyone?)
          5. Rangers and rogues are FAR more useful, almost to the point of being necessary, the Swashbuckler base class is fun and makes the Duelist prestige class worth playing with (if still underpowered), and the Hellfire Warlock makes for a fun twist on the oddball base class.
          6. Revised resting system + Appropriate-sized dungeon = You’d better be careful about using spells
          7. Accessible crafting system!
          8. The story does, however, suck.

          1. acronix says:

            You mean rogues and ranges are a neccesity because how every mob patrol in the world map pursues you to no end when they spot you, which can only be avoided by habing the party leader be a rogue or ranger with sneak?

            1. DrinkingWithSkeletons says:

              I was talking more about their wide variety of skills that made them much better at guiding the characters around the over-world map. Also, the random encounter system made it so that a ranger could specialize against just about any kind of monster and not basically waste the feat. Furthermore, the traps in the dungeons seemed significantly nastier than in the OC and MotB; rogues were needed where before my party could mostly just walk through trapped zones.

    4. Steves says:

      You can’t really have an opinion on what Obsidian are capable of until you have played and finished the Mask of the Betrayer expansion for NWN2.

      By this point they had ironed out most of the annoying stuff from the crappy engine, and you were left with just pure essence of quality RPG, with an amazing story and genuinely interesting characters.

      Taking the obviously evil path is more entertaining if you can only play it once, but I would really recommend at least 2 runs.

      Alpha protocol is…horribly disappointing by comparison.

      1. X2-Eliah says:

        If they made 1 good (bug-free) expansion and about 4 bug-littered games/expansions, then why is it the reasonable thing to hope for the 20% and not the 80%?

      2. Ateius says:

        I played about two hours of Mask of the Betrayer, finally received a second party member, and gave up in disgust soon after. Why? Because I’d made the cardinal sin of choosing a caster for my own character, which meant my party was now caster, caster, caster … none of whom could break through the defenses of the epicly pre-buffed enemy casters and who got chopped to ribbons by the swarms of enemy melee fighters. Sure, I could have re-started with a melee character of some sort, but two hours in and I hadn’t seen anything that made me want to go through it all again.

        Storm of Zehir? Uhm, about 10 minutes. After the lovely opening sequence where I’m not allowed to do anything at all to stop the idiot from repeatedly taunting the hostile enemies with his attempts at diplomacy, I decided I didn’t need any more headaches.

        1. krellen says:

          At the levels you run in MotB, Caster Caster Caster should be a grossly overpowered, not underpowered, group.

  2. Marlowe says:

    I especially appreciated the contributor to your LotR Online column at The Escapist who attempted to counter your virtual frame by frame walk-through demolition of the Sara quest with his own dim, hazy recollection, several years fresh that it wasn’t all that boring. What a winner.

  3. Zukhramm says:

    You keep saying the game is buggy, but *I* never had any problems with it. The game would have been fine if Obsidian had more time to finish it properly. If they PC version sucks, why did you get it? Play it on a console!

    It's not fair for you to pick on all these little flaws when the game is so great! Well okay it has some problems. But I still like the game.

  4. krellen says:

    I think Shamus has finally come to understand why I wanted Obsidian to be the ones making Fallout 3, not Bethesda. The potential is there, and it’s good to hear they might have finally realised it at least.

  5. WILL says:

    Didn’t run into that many bugs during my game, but of course that’s probably just dumb luck on my part.

    To me, the problem seemed to be the lack of focus. If this game had combat entirely composed of stealth takedowns or just plain stealth, the game would have been much more balanced and felt much more… logical, I guess? Tons of options are great, but Obsidian tends to try and do too much when they clearly don’t have the budget or the manpower.

    I still like the game. Best CnC in years.

    1. Andy_Panthro says:

      If they’d focused just on stealth, people would just say it’s a bad Splinter Cell rip-off. Focus too much on guns and it becomes like any other third-person-perspective shooter.

      You have to bear in mind it’s an RPG, so you can’t force people to play it one way, or it loses that RPG-ness. If that makes any sense.

      1. Anaphyis says:

        They clearly tried to go the Deus Ex route and thats fine. Unfortunately the level design is inconsistent, some missions allow for many different options, others are straight shooters and stealth is impossible.

        1. The Scarlet Mathematician says:

          To be fair, Deus Ex is also like this in a lot of places. People tend to forget the shooty parts of that game, because they weren’t very good, but they were there.

  6. Nick Bell says:

    “Someday I’d love to have terms that clearly differentiate between “leveling up” and “roleplaying”. But today is not that day.”
    Could tomorrow be that day? Or Sunday? I’d even be patient and wait until Monday. But this would make a great column and I’d love to read it.

  7. Someone says:

    Damn, I really want to try out this game. Ive been waiting for patches so far, but Im growing impatient.

  8. RPZip says:

    The game would have been fine if Obsidian had more time to finish it properly.

    The game was completed about six months before it was released (delayed so as to not come out next to Mass Effect 2), and as far as I can tell they didn’t put any Q&A time or additional polish into it. They had a golden opportunity to fix some of the glaring issues with the game and didn’t take advantage of it at all.

    I’m not even talking about high-level additional content or even balancing the different paths, but they didn’t even have someone play through it and take out some of the incredibly prevalent bugs. That’s just being lazy.

    1. SatansBestBuddy says:

      Can you quote a source on this?

      Cause I find that pretty hard to believe, in fact, I believe the opposite is true, that we’re all playing the version with fewer bugs and more balance.

      1. Corran says:

        There was an interview with someone from Obsidian who said that the six month delay was purely a business decision by Sega and wasn’t because the game wasn’t ready.

        I really like Alpha Protocol and had loads of fun playing it. But I am really disappointed they didn’t use those six months to create a patch for the few real problems the game has.

        1. Leinadi says:

          They did confirm that some work was done on the game during the delay, namely improving the lighting in the game, adding the weapon comparisons in the interface when purchasing weapon and so forth. The amount done on the game during the delay would obviously depend on SEGA and what they paid OEI for.

        2. guy says:

          I strongly suspect that when it was “ready” they just meant that every single encounter and most game mechanics were implemented. That’s becoming a disturbingly common definition these days.

  9. Josh R says:

    I had the same problem with KOTOR2… I just assumed the story would have made sense had I maxed out favour with my team mates, instead of systematically alienating all of them.

    1. Kavonde says:

      I finally got the game working on Vista (for anyone else struggling to do so, this forum thread is a godsend) and completed my second-ever playthrough, and the story made a LOT more sense…until the ending. Wookiepedia’s page on Kreia clears up a lot of it, but yeah, while I absolutely love the game up until the sudden and unexpected four-hour dash to the finish line, it does turn into sort of a mess.

      Still, back to Shamus’ comment about not cutting Obsidian slack on “not having enough time…” I know that, logically, I should stop giving them so much slack, but damn it, it’s ALWAYS TRUE. EVERY TIME, they have a nearly incredible game that they didn’t have the time, or the budget, or the creative freedom, or whatever, to get right. And every time, it’s heartbreaking.

      Each game is just close enough to perfect to make you believe that their next one will be their masterpiece. It should be the company motto: “We make brilliant, wonderful RPGs that are nevertheless horribly flawed in some irrevocable way.”

  10. CruelCow says:

    If your playstyle leans towards the paladin end of the spectrum, then you might learn a little lesson in pragmatism when sparing the life of an enemy means they might come back to give you a wedgie in a subsequent mission.
    Damn, that quote makes me want to play this more than any trailer I’ve seen for it.
    I’m currently completely sucked into ME2, but it’s starting to annoy me how little your choices have consequences, mostly being a few emails saying ‘You rock shepard’.

  11. swimon says:

    Obsidian burned me pretty hard in the past, KoToR is one of my favourite RPGs out there and I couldn’t find anything I liked in KoToR II. At the end of it I was so angry I was actually trembling a bit.

    That said Alpha Protocol does seem like a nice idea and I want to check out how the whole consequences bit that has been hyped up so much works. Maybe I should pick it up after I finish Arcanum, it can’t be buggier than that can it?

    Also as a side note I realise that games used to be longer back in the day but how long is Arcanum anyway? By this point I just want some closure.

    1. krellen says:

      Very long.

      What are you doing now? I remember the rough plot; I could probably tell you how far along you are.

      1. swimon says:

        Edit: sorry to all who saw that but can’t get spoiler tags to work :E can’t really respond then

        2nd Edit: ok now it works the S tag don’t seem to work but the strike one do.

        I just met Nasrudin who told me that Arronax was his son and how they banished him in a really aged cutscene. It’s right after you discover that the church is worshipping the wrong reamains

        It seems like it can’t be that much longer but I could be wrong.

        1. Michael says:

          That’s most of the way through. I forget if there’s one more town before you go into the endgame area or not, it’s simply been too long.

          1. swimon says:

            good :D

            Ok I have to clarify that. I love the game, it’s interesting well written and has a really unique levelling system that gives every character very different feel. It’s just that the game is a little too long for my taste and I made an uncharismatic gunslinger which apparently are somewhat underpowered which means I have to xp grind a bit to finish the quests (it’s nice that I can though there are very few enemies that level with you).

            So to sum up: great game but I’m glad it’s soon over ^^

            1. Michael says:

              A Mage with one point in negative necromancy can break the game over their knee. Harm (and every other spell) levels up with you based on your magic/tech alignment. You’ll get bored to death of hearing that BAUHM! BAUHM! BAUHM! over and over again, but you’ll never have to grind ever for any reason, and it hurts EVERYONE.

  12. Kanodin says:

    I’m suprised you are receiving angry responses, almost every other source I’ve seen has been much more critical of the game. You’ve been offering a nice counterpoint that paints it in a much better light that’s convinced many (myself included) to pick it up.

  13. Adam says:

    Obsidian is too ambitious for their level of organization. With as many systems as they’re trying to stuff into the game (stealth, gunplay, RPG stats, dialogue, choices, etc) simply taking time to polish isn’t enough if they haven’t built a really good foundation.

    1. =Dan says:

      So true…Whether KOTOR2 or NWN2 or any of the expansions (admittedly I only got half an hour on NWN2 and one of the expansions at my friends house) I’ve always felt that the games lacked the depth and polish of the originals…I am always hopeful that _this_ time they won’t disappoint me.
      I do wonder if at this point I examine their games closer than anyone other developer. But then it is legitimate to be concerned that what you are getting is a game with a crazy unfinished plot (KOTOR2) or a game with an assortment of minor annoying glitches that can combine to make the entire experience frustrating instead of relaxing (NWN2).
      Once I heard that Obsidian was making the Fallout:New Vegas, and that Alpha Protocol was a typical “chipped” delivery, I decided not to pre-order it. Obsidian is fail.

  14. DrinkingWithSkeletons says:

    Anyone ever play Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines? This discussion really reminds me of that game. It had meaningful ways to approach most situations and, even though there were a very finite number of endings, they covered a pretty wide variety of end scenarios for your character. Heck, my personal favorite (at least from a game play perspective; some of the choices you would have to make up to that point don’t really gibe with my preferred play style) actually involves your character being the victim of the hilarious–but not insulting–twist ending!

    It also had a lot of technical problems and some epically bad forced combat sections and boss fights. Two hours of creeping around in the sewers, game? You’re really going to make me do this? *Sigh*

    1. SatansBestBuddy says:

      I remember that game!

      Unfortunately, I never finished it…

      Can’t remember why, mostly I was just lost at some point and got sick of wandering around doing nothing, so I simply quit and haven’t been back yet.

      1. DrinkingWithSkeletons says:

        My first playthrough I somehow avoided all the bugs up until the very end of the game: a door that wouldn’t open because of a glitch in the physics engine. And it was virtually the only time in the game that physically moving an object was required! Thank God for the fan patches.

    2. Michael says:

      Where were the two hours of forced stealth in a sewer? I remember an hour of forced combat in the sewers under Hollywood, but that’s about it.

      1. acronix says:

        I think he means that same section. You can run past it quite quickly if you know what you are doing (or by clever use of Obfuscate + blood packs), but unless you have played the game a couple of times at least, it can easily get on your nerves…and your time.

      2. DrinkingWithSkeletons says:

        Two hours rounded up; maybe my loathing of that section just makes it feel longer. I also always seem to end up sneaking through it, which really drags the pace down further.

        Still, I would say that all of the combat dungeons in the game are awful due to the crappy combat. Groote’s (spelling?) Mansion is the only one I kind of like, but that’s mostly because of the entertaining audio logs and the fact you can stealth kill virtually every enemy with no problems. The non-combat dungeons (the haunted hotel, the abandoned hospital, the planting-the-cameras quests, the Russian mob quest [well, that one depends on how you approach it], and the first part of the Giovanni quest) are all really enjoyable.

    3. Monkeyboy says:


      I’m replaying Bloodlines right now.
      I do love the lampshade hanging in that game.

      1. DrinkingWithSkeletons says:

        It does have a really good sense of humor, including some fourth-wall-breaking material, but it is also surprisingly well-integrated. It isn’t a game where the jokes undermine the seriousness of the plot or the overall mood (even though some of them, from an objective standpoint, seem like they should).

        I particularly liked “The Deb of Night.” One of the late-game episodes features the Tzimisci calling in. The game doesn’t draw attention to it, but the idea of that guy sitting around listening to late-night radio–let alone calling in!–is just hilarious.

    4. tremor3258 says:

      The two hours /six days and nights in the sewers is why I have trouble going to the char select screen and not making a character with boffo melee and celerity. It just seems to keep going and I could easily see running into serious blood and ammunition shortages by the time you’re done.

      I do remember when I first got the game, I got to the Ocean House, and it was dark outside and… well, I got creeped out sufficiently I set the game down for a few months. It’s very atmospheric.

  15. Jarenth says:

    You do realize, Shamus, that the next time you DM a tabletop game, all your players are going to want to run a unicycle repair shop. Forever.

    On topic: I also really enjoyed Alpha Protocol despite its flaws, and I’m hoping there’s a sequel in the works. I’m really, really hoping they’ll go the Bioware route and let you import an earlier savegame, even — given that your actions have actual consequences in the span of this one game, I’d love to see how Obsidian takes on the continuity-over-multiple-titels that (for instance) Mass Effect has.

    I’ve backed up everything I could identify as a save file already, just in case.

  16. John says:

    Actually the Witcher was pretty good about choice. There were drastic changes with some of them and things came back to either haunt or help you down the road. This was in 2007. I haven’t tried Alpha Protocol, but just saying.

    1. Rosseloh says:

      Indeed it was, and The Witcher is still my favorite game to date.
      However if I recall correctly, Shamus didn’t get terribly far through the plot of that game, because he didn’t like various other aspects of it. So he can be forgiven for missing it.

  17. Neil Polenske says:

    I noticed the comments you’re responding to don’t have quote marks. So are these comments taken directly from a source or are did you make them up?

    Cause you tend to do that…a lot.

    1. Shamus says:

      Yeah they’re not quotes. They’re an aggregate of objections that have been posted to the last three comics here and at the escapist. Some before the game even came out. So no, I wasn’t going to round up all those comments and cite them properly. :)

      1. X2-Eliah says:

        On the internet, citing is half the battle. If you don’t have hyper-linked ‘proof’ to any of your claims, people will not trust your logic.

        Actually, since you didn’t prove in any way that such comments ever exist, I am forced to conclude that Alpha Protocol is a horrible & linear game gameplay-wise, but with very high production quality and a bug-free experience, whereas you, sir, are just a troll. Have a nice day.

        Alright, If I am not mistaken, that’s how these things go, right? Obviously, that was not meant seriously.

        1. Neil Polenske says:

          I’m just saying it’s human nature man. We all have bad habits. One I’ve noticed from Shamus is the ‘imaginary opposition’, where he will create an opposing viewpoint to respond to that may be based on common or well known comments/crits/etc., but never directly associated with one. Which is fine on its own for the reasons already mentioned above.

          The ‘bad habit’ comes when I notice emotional context being subtly or unsubtly placed on said viewpoints, which obviously undermines the purpose. It happens, I’ve seen it happen before, and calls ’em likes I sees ’em. That’s all.

          1. OEP says:

            How much of this perception is based on your inability to perceive irony or sarcasm?

            1. Otters34 says:

              First, that is entirely unessential to your meaning, second, that is pointlessly rude, and thirdly, it is unlikely that objections based at least partially off of an emotional state wouldn’t have that element duplicated when recounting them.

              On more less serious matters, how’s Farcry 2 coming along? if it’s TvTropes page is anything to go by it should be hilarious to uncover the enormous hypocrisy within it.

      2. Felblood says:

        Looking back I see how some of my comments could have been construed that way, and I just want to say that, if my statements are among those you are referring to, that’s not what I meant.

        You are perfectly within your rights to expect a quality product, if a product is released. If a developer isn’t going to put any effort into a port, they should just make an exclusive.

        Still, if you’re a person who is going to get this game, and you have a 360, it’s a good way to go.

  18. Stellar Duck says:

    Shamus, this is not a comment, really. I’m not made of money, the same as you, as far as I reckon. Alpha Protocol is on sale on Steam right now at a price I can tolerate.
    My question: As a person who generally find myself in agreement with your assessment of games, is AP worth getting? I’d love a good game, but are the flaws minor enough that it’s manageable? Is it worth picking up on sale?

    1. Michael says:

      It’s $33 right now. I’d say yes, but I do love the game, so there is that element to consider.

      1. Stellar Duck says:

        Well, just meeting someone who loves the game is rare enough. :) And 33€ (Damn it Steam 1€ is not 1$) is in the price range I can live with. If the game is worth the gamble? But you say it is. :D

    2. Shamus says:

      I would say for $33 the game is a mild risk. You might be put off but the wonky bits, you might find a new favorite.

      I’d say it’s a slam dunk at $20.

      Note that the game starts slow. The first real twist happens at the end of the first act, which is where the game picked up for me.

      1. Legal Tender says:

        Hi Shamus!

        Is there any chance you could write a series similar to Yahtzee’s Fun Space Game: The Game?

        I really, really enjoyed the one about building the city scape as well as the, uhm, the procedural wossname one (racing game?) AND the one about that early effort of yours creating landscapes.

        I have zero knowledge of programming but I would love to read you go on about how you would conceptualize a true-er RPG experience. I’m thinking it might all be a bit out of the scope of 20D but I would still love it nonetheless :D

        /now at 27 I missed Deus Ex when it came out but ever since I got into gaming I’ve been waiting for a game that really lets me go all ‘ha! I’m a master pie maker. I shall solve this quest via the might of pie. Harrumph!’
        //that last bit was hyperbole, of course. But you get my drift.

        1. Michael says:

          Well… Deus Ex is $10 on Steam… since that is what started all this comment nest… so what are you waiting for?

      2. Stellar Duck says:

        Thanks for the input. I think I’ll risk it. Wonky bits be damned, I really want to try a new RPG.

        Also, since I’ve got your attention, thank you for an awesome site.

  19. Gandaug says:

    Good article. It gave me a slightly wider view of the game in general. I still need to decide for myself if the bugs are worth enduring or not. I’m one of those that’s gotten lucky and not had the many bugs in games like KOTOR2 that people talk about. I doubt my luck will hold though.

  20. TheZoobler says:

    Reading your comments on Alpha Protocol has been really refreshing and nice. All I’ve heard on any review site or from any reviewer is that “This game is buggy, glitchy, broken, and horrible.” You are the only one I’ve read so far who actually highlights the good parts of the game to any extent, and goes as far as to claim that the game is actually a very good thing. To everyone else, the game is just a mediocre near-shovelware quality game. At least that’s how it seemed from the reviews I’ve been hearing.

    This article was really cool. I might even want to buy the game now :D.

    Here’s to hoping more developers DO take this cue.

    …how does Peter Moleyneux sleep at night, claiming his games have “choices” and “consequences”…. lol…

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      Choice to imagine the consequences?

      1. 8th_Pacifist says:

        I want to punch Peter Molyneux. That man killed my inner child.


        1. evileeyore says:

          What The Hell Is Wrong With You?

          Peter Molyneux brought us Dungeon Keeper and Populous. The man could eat babies and floss his teeth with freshly harvested kitten entrails and I’d still love him immensely.

          1. acronix says:

            The man you speak of is long gone. His mind was devoured by an Eldritch Abomination. Now, Peter is only a husk for his new host. That´s why you receive 4d10 sanity damage everytime you try to understand the plot of Fable 2.

          2. FatPope says:

            But that was the Bullfrog Peter Molyneux. The Lionhead Peter Molyneux is a twisted mockery of his earlier incarnation

  21. Scourge says:

    After playing Alpha protocol myself, and not having any problems PHEW, can I only say that this game delivers the Choices and Consequences option.
    The level loading problem was pretty minor, however sometimes when dying would no enemies spawn again and you could just run through a level without being seen.

    Everything you do has a consequence, piss of a weapon dealer? The government guy later will not tell you everything because he talked to the weapons dealer and got a negative idea about you.

    Be a nice to a secret group? You can meet them later again and they will help you and share secret data.

    Take down people running and blazing? You get a feat that causes your favored weapon to cause more damage, be more accurate, etc, etc.
    Take down people silently? You get more AP with Feats.
    Completely avoid enemies? You get a feat that helps you sneak around unseen longer.

    Basically whatever you do or don’t do has a choice, a reaction, a reward.

    Now if the game was more open ended and rather set in D&D, then I truely would love it, but it works pretty well as a spy game in modern times.

    Aside from that.. there is of course sex in the game too.

    And you can sleep.. with three woman! Well, two, the latest sexual encounter is more along the borderlines of your character saying “Do not want.. albeit..” and the woman “Do not complain dahling!”

    You also get feats for that. *cough*

    1. Jarenth says:

      You can sleep with four women, actually. I’ve been given to understand you get an extra feat for this.


      1. Scourge says:


        Oh yeah.. Right, I remember now. I totally forgot the first one, hehe. :P

        And yeah, you get a feat for sleeping with all of them and another one when having slept with all of them.

  22. Roll-a-die says:

    Shamus you got a mention on the codex http://rpgcodex.net/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=45953.

    Also don’t stay too long, we people are crazy.

    *Warning the Codex is not for anyone with a heart condition, or a heavy sense of morals. The Codex contains, trans-sexuals, Neo-Nazi’s, racism, misogyny, furries, NSFW images, scalies, drug users, gays, closeted gays, homophobes, references to pedophilia, shock porn, and finally intelligent discussions.

    1. Nihil says:

      That’s all fine and well, just please don’t tell me any of you actually gets laid on a regular basis. A community that crosses that line of debauchery, dear sir, is beyond all hope of redemption.

    2. X2-Eliah says:

      This: “Shamus you got a mention on the codex” together with this: “The Codex contains, trans-sexuals, Neo-Nazi's, racism, misogyny, furries, NSFW images, scalies, drug users, gays, closeted gays, homophobes, references to pedophilia, shock porn, and finally intelligent discussions” makes me feel very, very sorry for Shamus right now.

      1. Roll-a-die says:

        That’s just what’s there, the vilest are always the loudest. It’s just a warning, the majority of us are fairly moderate, the mods will generally retardo(basically trash it) a thread that gets too bad. Expect lot’s of cursing if you do visit there. Chris Avalone actually drew the troll you can see on our headers. It suits us very well.

        1. Leinadi says:

          The codex was a good but rough place to visit once upon a time. There were always idiots around but it was a good “anti-place” for the direction RPGs were going, and you could find lots of good articles, interviews, reviews and discussions.

          Nowadays it’s more like the 4chan for people who like RPGs sadly.

          1. Roll-a-die says:

            Part of the trial nowadays is countering the 4chan idiots. You still do have some quality posters, such as Azael, or nomask when he’s not on a Nazi/antisemitic rant, and shitty ones who entice flame wars, like skyway, or nomask/Cleve, and even shittier ones who just spam an image macro and are done.

            From what I’ve heard from the people who have been there from the beginning and read from the archives, the codex has essentially stayed the same, just with the addition of a few different type of characters. What’s changed is the amount of people posting, making it look like the intelligent ones are no longer there because of the wealth of unintelligent posts over a quick period. You can still have intelligent debates with people, over things like the merits and flaws of Arcanum, or the relative quality of stealth in a Deus Ex game, or an argument about what is art, or an argument about the merits of a VM or interpreted language versus a compiled language. You just have to ignore the retards in the back shouting pick up lines and flashing you their junk. Honestly the best way to remove a shock image from the picture, is simply to belittle it’s shock value, laugh at it with the guy, most of them are actually pretty funny in a disturbing way. Maybe I’m just a jaded internet viewer. But most things don’t shock me any more, unless they catch me really off guard.

            I think DU said it best when he referred to the trolling of Quinn, “Quinn needed to toughen the fuck up.” What differentiates the codex from places like RPGWatch, is that, you do need thick skin and the moderators won’t coddle you if you don’t have it. It’s not a place for everyone, but it’s probably the only honest place on the internet in regards to games, and the dissenting opinions people have for said games.

            1. acronix says:

              Doesn´t look like a nice place to take vacations.

              1. Roll-a-die says:

                Funny thing is when I went to France to visit the Louvre, you experience the same kinda thing, a crowd of loud gibbering morons, with a few there for legitimate purposes, generally found outside of the wing where things like the Mona Lisa are found. Or how a bout this, take any protest of more than around 20 people, you’ll generally find around 5-6 people who really know what it’s about. The others are there as a measure of crowd support and as loud voices to harangue passersby. Even in something like tech support, your front line agents, their generally gibbering morons without a clue, who often fuck shit up because they don’t know what their doing. But when you get higher in the ranks, say tier 2s, that’s when you start getting highly skilled support individuals. The ratio of tier 2 per front line agents, is 1 per 7 in large centers.

            2. equinox216 says:

              Man, the longer you go on about the place, the less interest I have in visiting it. It’s not even ‘damning with faint praises’ at this point; you’ve moved straight to ‘praising with faint damnation’.

              1. Roll-a-die says:

                I praise everything with faint damnation, it’s kind of a my shtick. The codex is the same as any group of 50-60 people from wildly different backgrounds and nations. It’s a clusterfuck of degradation, debauchery, douchebaggery, and other damnable words starting with D. It’s also one of the only places you can go and find people talking honestly, with relatively little media bias and with little moderation about their hobby and the culture surrounding it. Picking out the propaganda on release, explaining flaws, analyzing plots, etc. Yes, we’re pent up and aggressive about it. But in our minds, we had a glorious dawn at the end of the nineties and start of the 2000s, it was a fucking golden age of innovation and creativity, all we could see was an upward spire. But then come 05 or so, everything started turning completely to shit. Consoles, which had previously been a market unto themselves, started porting games to the PC, crappy ones at that, this trend caught on, until 90% of mainstream games for PC, came directly from the consoles. The PC games that were developed, started being predominately developed for consoles. KotOR, Jade Empire, Mass Effect, Oblivion, A Bards Tale, Fable, Dragon Age. Then the games that were getting developed for the PC, started sucking majorly in comparison to the old crowd of games, Hellgate, Gothic 3, Titan Quest, NWN2, DE:IW. Not only that but it saw the rise of the MMO, nowadays more MMO’s get developed to lose money colossally and ultimately be shut down in 2 years, than actual RPGs.

                From out mindset, we have a right to bitch about the decline of games as a whole. Everything is getting dumbed down, no more med kits, lemme fill yer health right up there, no more dodging, fast and frantic gameplay, you just sit right there behind that piece of 4 foot high wall, pop your head up now and then to whack some moles, remember to bring your head under cover, so we can refill that health. Story, eh, we’ll just recycle our old plots, or Tolkien, or ask my kid to do it. Setting, let’s just murder it(TES), or let’s just use what everyone else is using(Dragon Age).

                We had a video game golden age to end all golden ages on the horizon, the industry blew it.

                Lets take a look at franchises that are considered iconic from that time,

                Thief, 1998
                System Shock, 1995
                Hitman, 2000
                Fallout, 1999
                Max Payne, 2001
                Baldurs Gate, 1998
                Icewind Dale, 2000
                The Elder Scrolls, 1994
                Half-Life, 2001
                Splinter Cell, 2002
                Devil May Cry, 2001
                Diablo, 1997
                and more I just got bored of thinking of them all.

                Not let’s look at from 2004 onward,

                Mass Effect
                Dragon Age
                Gears Of War
                God of War
                Assassins Creed

                Help here? I can only think of 7 that are actual new franchises. Are there any more? Not only are there less, gameplay wise, Gears is identical to Mass Effect 2, minus dialogue, inventory and trivial stats.

                What have we seen improve, graphics, which don’t really matter in a game.

                I don’t condemn them for getting angry or cursing. What I do condemn is the 4chan shock image spammers, and the Neo-Nazi’s and I argue with them on a regular basis. But the other 70% are perfectly fine, if perhaps a little too rowdy.

                1. Electron Blue says:

                  Portal, Left 4 Dead, Just Cause, BioShock, Alpha Protocol, Prince of Persia (Sands of Time), F.E.A.R., Borderlands, and many I’m sure I’m forgetting. There’s plenty of iconic stuff, and you refuse to see it.
                  Also, “Gears is identical to Mass Effect 2”? Are you high? Have you played either of these games? Yeah, sure, the basic run/sprint/take cover mechanics are there, but that can be applied to say “Thief is just Half-Life with sneaking”. You seem to be forgetting the powers that define ME2 combat.
                  And on another note, “Setting…let's just use what everyone else is using(Dragon Age).” Have you freakin’ played this game? The setting is quite different despite initial similarities. It was designed to work within standard fantasy tropes, but I can guarantee that more work went into it than any other setting constructed in years. You’re just repeating what people are constantly saying about these games instead of actually pointing out the things that don’t work.

                2. Roll-a-die says:

                  Gameplay wise it can be won using only guns, your stats also barely factor into it. And all your going to be doing is still, run, take cover, let health regen, fire off a power, run, take cover, let health regen, etc. THOSE are the basic mechanics to a cover based, stop and pop shooter. And it’s boring generally, because as soon as you are behind cover, you are essentially invulnerable to front ward enemy fire, you know, the kind it sends at you all the time. Occasionally breaking it up with a flanking encounter, where you typically have 2-3 paths to defend and cover is placed in various places so as to provide forward facing cover from those threats. Why does this cover exist, because it is vital to the gameplay. Can you incorporate vertical gameplay into it, at all? No, you can’t it breaks the cover based system.

                  Your still going to be taking cover, at least in ME1 you could still run and gun, ME2 discarded that.

                  Thief, however, incorporated stealth, and nonlethal takedowns, and made these vital, it wasn’t run and gun like Half-Life, unless you taffed.

                  Prince of Persia is an established franchise, it’s been that way since the eighties. It doesn’t count, also SoT came out in 03, before the 04 limit. And you still see the decline in the games in the series after that.

                  I forget about Bioshock, because while admittedly beautiful, it didn’t feature any uniqueness other than the art style. Most of it’s features were directly taken from SS, and not done very well at that.

                  Also I tend to group, Left for Dead as a half-life game. But I apologize for disregarding it.

                  FEAR I found to be incredibly droll, and to reliant of shock horror. It was a bland corridor shooter full of repetitive levels, even before the two expansion packs. How long has it been since it came out? Are they still talking about it? You know like the way people are still talking about Fallout, or Thief, or SS, or deus ex, or Baldur’s Gate? Are they still saying it’s the best game ever?

                  Alpha Protocol isn’t a franchise, nor is Borderlands unless they announced a sequel while I wasn’t looking.

                  Just Cause is admittedly a franchise, but doesn’t show uniqueness to differentiate it from GTA. It’s also not cited as one of the best games/most iconic games ever, like the ones I posted above.

                  The point is compared to the golden age, there is a STUNNING lack of innovation.

                  As to dragon age, I went through the races in one of the LPs. The mages are pretty much the psykers of WHF/40k.

                  I have played through both ME2 and Dragon Age twice. I have played Gears of War once.

                3. Isn’t it a touch disingenuous to say that the first 10 years are full of brilliance, and the next 10 are full of suck, because all they do is copy the first 10? You’re running in to the “Only 7 stories” issue. Of course 94-04 is revolutionary. We had so little background that it was easy to be new and different.

                  Also, Fallout is just a graphical improvement on Wasteland, System Shock is just Doom with a computer, Baldur’s Gate was a dumbed down Pools of Radiance, Icewind Dale was Baldur’s Gate without a plot, Devil May Cry was Mario with guns, and Diablo is just putting a front end on Rogue. Games after ’93 suck.

                4. Roll-a-die says:

                  What I’m not saying is that they are copying it, I’m saying there was a drastic loss in quality in video games in just 1 years time. They are also failing to innovate upon features that were genuinely not done well enough due to technical limitations. Stealth in Thief could have been so much better. Add in some dynamic patrol patterns, time based events like hourly sweeps or unscripted shift changes, a coherent alert system, a way to quickly but very loudly knockout enemies once they are in combat mode, and a searching algorithm that doesn’t automatically track the PC as soon as he is detected and the NPC is in combat mode, and BANG, you have a better, more replayable Thief.

                  That took me less than 5 minutes to think up, if the developers liked these games so much, why did they fail to see the strengths and weaknesses for what they were. Deus Ex’s maps were always large, non-linear, and sprawling. It was one of the strengths of it. The stealth system was shoddily implemented, and corpse detection didn’t work. So what did deus ex IW do, cut’s down the level sizes by powers of ten, and botches the stealth even more, that’s not even going into the travesty they made the ammo and weapon system. Or the screw up they made with the UI. But wait, it was one of the hailers of the age to come, Deus Ex IW was developed targeting the XBox.:P

                  As to your old school/retro troll attempt,
                  Wastelands skill system was even more fucked than Fallout’s, with many being completely worthless or obsolete in a second. It was a brainfuck to navigate the UI the combat rolls were very schizophrenic, and the area and combat encounter system were fucking stupid at best. Not to mention the actual story took about 15 minutes, the rest is just chaff fights. Take it from someone who gamed in the 80s, Fallout was better, just as Ultima 7 is better than Ultima 4.

                  Combat mechanics wise, IWD is probably the best infinity engine game, and if your going to make a plot reference for an infinity engine games, PLEASE use Planescape: Torment. It has the best written plot yet seen in a video game.

                  Also Gold Box reference, good on ya. We evolved far beyond that quaint base implementation of a ruleset. Try again next time.

                  Doom had the sophistication of graphing paper and an 8-track player. System Shock wins hands down in a battle between them, the horror felt right, the combat felt smooth, your stats influenced what you can do. You had an actual gear system. Once again from someone who’s actually PLAYED both, I would rather play SS.

                  Not going to dispute the devil may cry allocation though, simply because it’s too stupid to dispute. Even more so than the other ones.

                  Diablo however is debatable, it could be a roguelike, it could also not be one, I played Rogue as SuperRogue it’s not that similar.

                  I get that your trying to prove a point and make me look bad, but your forgetting something, I am Shamus’ age, I’ve been playing games nearly as long as he has, we both agree that SS is better than Doom. Otherwise his novel length retelling would be about the doom marines adventures on mars. Making comparisons like that without backing them up with substantiated wordage just makes you look bad when I post walls like this.

                  Now for some questions to you, why is it, that these games are still being said to be the best by gamers who have been gaming since the 70s-80s, when it’s been nearly 15 years for some. It’s not even that we don’t play modern games, or that we don’t play the old ones. I still start up Thief for some stealthing when I want to do that. I still pull up system shock 2 when I want to be scared out of my mind by the atmosphere. I still pull up Deus Ex when I want to get inspiration for the Cyberpunk PnP campaigns I run sometimes. I still pull up Planescape when I want to bask in truly good writing, I still pull up Arcanum when I want to experiment with the character creator and the different effects on gameplay it brings. I still pull up fallout when I want to bask in the post apocalypse. I’ve completed all of those games at least 3 times. If not 6 or 7 for some. I still enjoy playing them more than any other games released after 2k4. Why is that? Why is it that you will find at or near the top of any veteran computer gamers top ten either A:Thief, B:System Shock, C:Deus Ex or D:half-life? It’s a universal amongst us. Why is that, could it be that they were actually good, better than what comes out today? That’s why you’re still discussing the merits of some builds in Dragon Age Origins over others, right(this is a reference to fallout1/2)? That’s why you break out a calculator every time someone mentions mass effect in an attempt to make a better build(this is a reference to wizardry and M&M)? This is why you get up in the morning with a strange urge to just play ME1, right? This is why the voices of the zombies in dead space still give you nightmares, correct? This is why you still have graphing paper around for when you want to play Dragon Age, right(reference to the early lack of an automap in games).

                5. acronix says:

                  To be honest, Roll, I think your last salvo points some of the old games´ demerits as merits, like breaking a calculator to get the build, or the flowchart…okay, I think those are the only two… but I tend to agree with the rest you said. Though I liked FEAR more than any other shooter even knowing it was repetitive and not worth more than a playtrough.

                  To Electron Blue, about Dragon Age being original: The proof it is not can be easily got by just reading/playing other, earlier, books/titles. I think someone enumerated in another post comments the similarities between DA:O and other settings. To name just those that come to mind right now: Orzammar feels a lot like it is an updated version of Ironforge (of WoW fame); darkspawn are Tolkien orcs (they even move a lot like the orcs of the movies); Andraste is Joan of Arc; the Chantry is the Church; the Maker is the christian God mixed with some agnostic beliefs…even the different countries are clearly based on some real ones (and you can just go to the wiki to see that the developers didn´t hide this one). This can be justified by saying that DA:O is a reinvention. Not a particulary bad one, I must say, but it´s too easy to identify where most stuff comes from, making it hard to be amazed at it (unless you ignore all the previous works).

                6. Felblood says:

                  Gaming didn’t get worse, you just got old.

                  It happens to everybody who isn’t retarded into a permanent childhood (which judging from my retarded manchild co-worker isn’t such a terrible fate, even if he can’t shut up about how much he loves Dragonball Z).

                  One sunny Saturday morning you suddenly realize that the fight choreography in Power Rangers is really bad, and has always been that bad. From that day forward everything you see slowly turns to drek.

                  The next stage (which most internet forum users are yet to reach) is when you learn to see the good in things despite the flaws, and maybe even love them anyway. Only when the ability to criticize is tempered by the ability to forgive, does the critic become complete.

                  Once you get old, it’s time to grow up.

            3. Soylent Dave says:

              If you’re having to use the phrase “he’s quality, when he isn’t being an anti-semitic neo-nazi” about someone, isn’t that round about the time you should be realising that he is in fact not actually a person of quality?

              Or is that just a personal line I’ve drawn?

              1. Roll-a-die says:

                In GD he’s an asshole, but he knows his games quite well, even if he is slightly elitist towards gothic. Basically you keep the Racism, antisemitism and shock porn, mostly to the hallowed corridor of GD(general discussion). And even then you have to tag any thread that’s going to have porn in it with a “*NSFW*” in the title. If you hit a non NSFW thread, within 10 mins to an hour it’ll be gone, or listed as a link if it’s relevant to the conversation at hand.

                Antisemitism has to be relatively PC, you can’t just go around say something like “JEWS, JEWS, JEWS, JEWS, KILL ALL JEWS,” seriously. Or that the Holocaust didn’t happen. Basically, if you say it in a dignified or obviously joking manner, you can say pretty much anything. Expect to get counter flamed/trolled and your thread retardo’d, though. Nomask has pretty much given up trying to be antisemitic on there, he still makes comments, but most times someone will call him out on it. Cleve and Higher Game, are more parodies of the arch-type though. Flamebait at it’s highest, again they get rightfully flamed. Basically if you can’t tolerate opposing view points, and form decent arguments against them, than it’s not a place to go. I can, and I firmly believe in freedom of speech, and that even the most ignorant can say something intelligent at times. Except Cleve, but then he’s playing a character. Like a much less PC Colbert.

                Remember, we have people from everywhere and every race, 6-8 South Americans, 3 Swedes, 4 Finns, 2 Germans, 7 Ukrainians, 2 Dutchmen, 4 Englishmen, 4 Aussies, 2 Scots, 2 north Irish, 2 Irish, 4 Arabs, a few Africans, and innumerable Americans. There’s always culture clash. The racism is mostly humor and not really serious. And is often times perpetrated by the members of the race in question upon themselves.

                No it’s not very nice, but then, I’m not nice. I put the warning there primarily so you wouldn’t see the news post, and go, “Let’s browse around, WHO IS THIS CLOCKWORK KNIGHT AND WHY IS HE POSTING CROSS DRESSING FURRY PORN COMICS. OH SHIT I’M AT WORK!” to me. Really, I probably shouldn’t have even warned you guys at all, it’s stirred up far more trouble than it’s worth, feel free to delete this area so it doesn’t draw further derision, Shamus.

                1. oldmanpaco says:

                  Clockwork Knight – Keeping threads on the Codes Real since May 09.

  23. Warwick says:

    The good thing about making a brilliant game with issues is that if it’s brilliant enough it encourages the development of fan patches to fix it. I’d rather play a could be great game with bugs than a mediocre game without bugs (not that you have to have bugs to make a brilliant game).

  24. Otters34 says:

    Mr. Young, while the Experienced Points post was highly informative and engaging, I couldn’t help but observe a slight misstep in regards to your statement that “…while your playstyle leans towards the paladin end of the spectrum, then you might learn a little lesson in pragmatism when sparing the life of an enemy means they might come back to give you a wedgie in a subsequent mission.”. While the use of the term ‘Paladin’ when denigrating something goes from ‘an annoying Superman in shining armor’ to ‘the Spaniards Inquisituon has a sword with your name on it’, it isn’t really very useful. A more preferable alternative would be to go with the ‘paragon’ karma(blech) side, thus keeping up a theme that anyone even mildly aware of Mass Effect will get.

    I apologize for the pettiness of the post, but using ‘paladin’ as a cuss seems to me to be over used. I’ve played a paladin with a day job as a lawyer, and I can’t think of any time I annoyed anybody.

    On more congenial matters, what do you think the odds are that Obsidian will blow Bethseda out of the water in the plot department of New Vegas? there’s no way they could do worse than how you stop Project Purity.

    1. Shamus says:

      That is one comfort. No matter how badly FNV might go, the plot HAS to be better.

  25. FutureHero says:

    Yeah, for me this game went far too much into the unplayable side to really be any fun. It’s riddled with bugs and gamebreaking annoyances, like the mouse aim thing, not to mention it crashes almost 7/10 times at the loading screen. While it might have a good story and deep choices and all that, if the game is literally unplayable for me, I don’t give a shit. I know this might be uncalled for, but I would seriously advise people to pirate this game first, and THEN consider buying it.

    Holy shit I just realised! THESE are the people that are going to be making Fallout: New Vegas! Man is that game gonna suck, now I know how the jaded Fallout 1 fans felt when Fallout 3 was announced.
    Why are these people still getting contracts for high profile games? KOTOR 2, and now this?

    Aw fuck, they’re making Dungeon Siege III too? WHAT THE HELL PEOPLE!

    1. Robyrt says:

      To be fair, Dungeon Siege 3 has similarly low expectations. It would be difficult to imagine it being worse than Space Siege, and Gas Powered Games is just as guilty of releasing an unplayable mess and patching it into a good game 2 months later as Obsidian is.

  26. Phoenix says:

    Speaking of Alpha Protocols brand-new meaningful decisions: If I’m not completely mistaken even good old Fallout 1 gave you separate relations with all the different villages and power groups, and no of this stupid global karma scale BS.

    1. StashAugustine says:

      I must jump in from the future to say: No, FO1 had only global karma, FO2 added the reputation and New Vegas stuck with it. (Also, basically everything here is unintentionally hilarious from three years in the future.)

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