Why don’t video games ever include actual espionage?
They’re either like the James Bond games–which are always completely action-oriented–or like the Splinter Cell and Metal Gear games–which may be a bit closer to actual espionage, but are more about being a stealth commando than a secret agent.
At some point, Obsidian Entertainment peered into the void that is the espionage genre and set out to fill that space with Alpha Protocol.
Since being introduced to Baldur’s Gate when I was around 10 years old, I’ve been kind of obsessed with dialogue options and developers like BioWare and Black Isle. In fact. to this day, Black Isle’s Planescape: Torment is my favorite game.
As you could imagine, it was a sad day when Black Isle closed down, and the developers on the inside revealed the Fallout 3 that almost was. Fortunately, that tragedy was short-lived, as soon afterward most of those guys came back together and made Obsidian Entertainment. Since then, they’ve been almost entirely relegated to making buggy RPG sequels for other developers, with Alpha Protocol being their one hope to create an original IP. Unfortunately for them, it released to mediocre reviews and did not sell very well.
Now, combat is all well and good, but the most important part of Alpha Protocol is the interactive conversations between the main character, Michael Thorton, and everyone else. On the surface, it looks like Obsidian took some notes from Mass Effect, but there are some significant differences.
First, you have limited time to pick a response, something seen in the last two games from Quantic Dream, Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain. Second, since Thorton doesn’t have a squad of NPCs, every character in the game has their own loyalty meter that can change with every single response. Finally, your responses are limited to three tones: suave, professional and aggressive.
Alpha Protocol put me in a tense world of espionage where I could trust no one, and no one could trust me. I had contacts and allies all over the globe. Some professional, some batshit insane–but all dangerous.