Tag: rpg (page 1 of 2)

Words of the Dovahkiin, III: The Sons of Skyrim

Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and apologize in advance for what may turn out to be only passable fan fiction as I write down stuff that goes through my head as I play this game. Also, the following does contain spoilers for the game. Fairly be ye warned.

Previous Word


21st First Seed, 202 4E

She waited until we were outside Solitude’s gates to speak her mind.

Courtesy Bethesda Softworks

“I think you’re wasting your time.”

“How do you mean?” The wind was picking up, and I put on my helm before drawing up my hood.

“You have the Scroll. You know what must be done. Why not hunt down Alduin and kill him, while you still have the element of surprise?”

“I’m still not certain that I’m ready.”

She shook her head. “You are Dragonborn. You’re one of the most powerful people I’ve ever met. I know you can do this.”

“But if I do it now, would it be for the right reasons?”

“I’m not sure I follow.”

We hired horses from the Solitude stables, and we were on the road, riding side by side, when I picked the conversation back up.

“I’ve been to Windhelm. I’ve seen how Ulfric Stormcloak treats those of other races, especially Dunmer.”

“I don’t blame him for keeping an eye on the dark elves. I wouldn’t want them running rampant in my streets, either. They can’t be trusted.”

“Not all Dunmer are cutpurses and backstabbers, Aela. That’s like saying all Khajiit are scoundrels and liars, or all Nords are illiterate barbarians.”

She looked like she wanted to elaborate on her opinion, but she regarded me carefully as I continued.

“If Skyrim is to be free, it should be free for all who wish to live here. I’m not enamored of the Aldmeri Dominion, either, but I will not trade a puppet regime for a racist one.”

“There’s an alternative, you know.”

Before she could go on, we encountered what I’m told is a place called Robber’s Gorge. We were ambushed, and our horses killed from under us. The bandits, to their dismay, were no match for the pair of us. Unfortunately, we needed to proceed on foot from there.

“Go on.”

“What?” Aela was inspecting her bow as we walked, making sure the string was still taut after so much use lately.

“Tell me about this alternative.”

“You are Dragonborn. The blood of conquerors and kings flows in your veins. Why not unite Skyrim under your own banner?”

I didn’t look at her or respond, at first. That very thought had crossed my mind more than once. But when it did, the voice that carried it was only barely my own. It’s woven into the chant that exists in the foundations of my soul, the one stirred by Alduin and awakened by that first kill outside Whiterun, when Mirmulnir fell and I breathed in his essence.

The day was waning and I could make out the houses of Rorikstead in the distance. I looked at Aela and smiled a little.

“Let me show you something.”

Courtesy Bethesda Softworks

Nahagliiv’s bones remain where we left them.

Just outside of Rorikstead, where the dragon fell, Aela and I studied the sight. She’d been there when we’d slain him, but I hadn’t spoken of it since. I walked up to the skeleton and ran my hand down a rib.

“This was Nahagliiv. His name means ‘Fury Burn Wither’. His is one of the voices that now prompts me to do the very thing you suggest. And if I were to listen, I don’t think I’d be any better than our dead friend, here.”

Aela said nothing. I turned to face her.

“I won’t save this world simply to put it to the torch myself. The sons of Skyrim are owed more than a mere conqueror. I would be known throughout the land for who I strive to be, not merely what my blood demands. I hope you can understand that.”

She stepped to me and took my hands.

“I do. But I still think that we should ensure there is a Skyrim whose sons can learn who you are, as I have, before something truly horrific happens.”

I looked over my shoulder. In the distance, I could barely make out the sky-stabbing height of the Throat of the World. The wound in time was there. My destiny was there. The Elder Scroll felt heavy in my pack. I turned back to my wife and nodded.

“We deliver the horn to the Shrine of Talos, and ask for his favor. Then we ascend that mountain, and we put an end to Alduin’s evil once and for all.”

Aela leaned up and kissed my cheek. “I’m by your side no matter what comes. Remember that.”

Words of the Dovahkiin, II: Aela the Huntress

Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and apologize in advance for what may turn out to be only passable fan fiction as I write down stuff that goes through my head as I play this game. Also, the following does contain spoilers for the game. Fairly be ye warned.

Previous Word


18th Morning Star, 202 4E

Since coming to Skyrim, I’ve faced many challenges. I’ve faced down wolves, bears, trolls. I’ve taken on a veritable army of draugr and more than my share of hagravens. I have laid waste to bandit encampments and strongholds alike. I have slain dragons. I have saved the world on at least one occasion. And yet, yesterday morning, I felt more edgy and nervous than on any of those occasions.

Courtesy Bethesda Softworks

Aela, of course, knew something was on my mind, and asked me about it immediately.

I remember the first time I saw her. Fresh from my aborted execution, on the run and confused from Helgn, she glanced at me with narrowed eyes while she fought that Giant outside Pelagia Farm. I’d met Nords before, but to see one such as her in her native environment, full of beautiful ferocity and unwavering bravery, I was struck, even then. She said nothing of my magic but I could feel her suspicion. Now, as a Companion, and chosen by Kodlak Whitemane to succeed him as Harbinger, her eyes were not suspicious, but concerned.

“I’ve been thinking,” I managed to begin.

“You do that quite a bit, for a Companion. Maybe that’s why Kodlak chose you.”

“He could have chosen you. You were close. He trusted you. You ran by his side many nights.”

Aela shrugged. “What could be is not what is. I’m more concerned for you than I am for Kodlak. He is in Sovngarde. You are here.”

“And so are you.” I cleared my throat. Why was this so difficult? “I keep thinking of how I came to be here, of that day at the farm when we met. Do you remember?”

“I do.” She smiled a little. “I thought this spindly little mageling had a surprising amount of balls, standing with us against a Giant.”

“And I found you more dangerous than that Giant, to be certain.”

“Yet you stood by me and helped take it down. You’ve stood by me many times since then.”

As she spoke, Aela noticed the metal glittering under my tunic. Without prompting, she pulled out the amulet, and looked in my eyes.

“You know what wearing Mara means, don’t you?”

I nodded. “The priest in Riften told me. The question is, Aela, do you know why I wear it now?”

There was softness, there in her eyes, that I had not anticipated. Her fingers lingered near my chest. “I won’t lie. I’d like that.”

“I won’t lie either. I want you for my wife.”

She smiled. “Then it’s settled. We should go to Riften immediately. Times like these, to dally is to waste precious moments.”

So we did. We made the arrangements at the Temple, and the delighted priest admonished me not to be late for my own wedding. We rented a room at the Barb and Bee for the night, but Aela was restless. It was her nature. Her blood ran as hot as ever.

“You know what we should do?”

She turned and looked at me. It was an incredulous gaze, anticipating some sort of arcane scheme worthy of the Archmage of Winterhold.

“We should hunt.”

She blinked. I smiled. I was glad I could surprise her.

“On the eve of our wedding?”

“Can you think of a better way to spend it?”

Her smirk was coy. “Connor, you do know the way to a lady’s heart.”

Courtesy Bethesda Softworks

So it was that we found ourselves north of Riften, stalking wolves, her with her bow and I with my Skyforged blade. Its edge softly glowed with the electric energy with which I’d enchanted it. Eorlund disapproved of my doing so, but nobody denied the results. I was watching Aela, taking in the way she matched the wolves move for move, until they bolted. She looked back at me, wondering perhaps if I’d made too much noise, and then her eyes lifted and widened.

I don’t know how it snuck up on us. They’re not known for being terribly sneaky or subtle. But the dragon plummeted out of the sky on us, and my Skyforged blade flew from my grip. I brought up my dragonbone shield, and seeing it and that I was armored in the stuff, the dragon was incensed. I looked in its eyes and, in that moment, as it always was when I fought the Dov, we knew one another. His body pinned mine and his jaws snapped at me. My other blade was far from my hand, strapped to my back, and I was too distracted to summon Magicka. I struggled, smelled the fetid breath, closed my eyes.

I heard Aela’s howl. By the light of the moon, I saw my bride-to-be leap across the dragon’s snout, raking him with her claws. I had banished my own wolf-spirit to settle a conflict within myself, but Aela was as comfortable as ever wearing her two disparate skins. Now she wore the skin of Hircine, the skin of the werewolf, as she protected me and distracted the dragon. He wheeled on her, leaving me half-pushed into the muck, taking a deep breath and bathing the foliage in blue fire. Aela was quick, dodging away, roaring in defiance. The dragon snapped at her, swept in with claws and wings, finally catching her with his tail. It was when Aela was knocked away that I properly introduced myself.

“YOL TOOR!”

The words Paarthumax had taught me took shape in my mouth and issued forth as orange flame. The dragon staggered, turned, and stared. Now on my feet, I reached over my shoulder and drew Dragonbane, the sword of the Blades given to me by Esbern. I gripped my shield and charged. Dragonbone met dragonbone with a mighty crash, and Aela was slicing into its hide with her claws. But dragons are cunning, and he knew there was a bond between us, the way we each leaped to the other’s defense. When Aela sprang again, the dragon spun and swept out his tail, grabbing Aela’s ankle and slamming her back into the ground. He faced away from me, and even if I got his attention, I didn’t know how badly he would hurt her with his back claws as he turned.

“TIID KLO!”

Time itself stilled at the sound of my voice. I dropped my shield, ran as fast as I was able, and with my free hand I scooped up the werewolf from where she lay. I shoved her with as much strength as I could muster. I then backed away, as time once again flowed, as the dragon’s jaws closed on empty air. Aela hadn’t yet moved from where I’d pushed her. I swallowed my fear and looked up at the dragon, backing away slowly. My foot glanced off of Skyforged steel, and I bent to hold my Companions blade in my off-hand. Dragonbane seemed to gleam in the moonlight. The dragon leapt into the sky, blanketing the forest in fire. I ran, sheathing my blades, picking up Aela and running from the inferno. The dragon landed directly in front of me. I bent to lay Aela aside and stood between her and my foe. He inhaled, glaring eyes full of hatred, nostrils flaring as he prepared to breathe again.

“FUS RO DAH!”

The first shout I’d ever learned, one of my most powerful weapons, caused the dragon to lose his footing and slide down the hillside. Blades came free of their scabbards and with the mightiest cry I could muster, I leapt down after it. I slashed across his snout, ensuring I had his full attention. He roared at me, and I roared right back. I stabbed him in the cheek with Dragonbane, pushing myself upwards using the blade as my fulcrum. Landing directly between his horns, I brought my weapons down with all of my strength. Scale, muscle, and bone gave way under the strike and the dragon twitched violently as life fled from his body. Gasping for breath, I pulled my blades free and slid down the side of his still face, returning my blades to their homes. I looked up at the moon and closed my eyes as the wind came over me, carrying the voices of the Dov with it to fill my ears and my soul, telling me this Dovah‘s name and adding his voice to my own. When it was over, and nothing but his bones remained, I turned to see to Aela.

“No wonder they sing songs about you.”

She was already there, clad only in moonlight, holding my shield in one hand and her own axe in the other. Bruises and scratches did nothing to slow her as she made her way down the hill to me. I tipped her chin towards me and tasted her kiss for the first time.

“After tomorrow, I will take this dragon’s scales and make you something special.”

“You already gave me something special.” Aela’s gaze didn’t break from mine. “I’m going to spend my life giving you all I can in return.”

First Impressions: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Courtesy 38 Studios
The environments have some great detail.

If you’re even tangentially connected to video games that deviate from the big cash-cow options of linear, realistic first-person shooters and endorsed sports simulations, chances are you’ve heard of a game called Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. After all, it isn’t often when a new IP makes it out of the imagination of a basement programmer and onto major platforms. Sure, indie titles can sneak into consoles and hard drives, but we’re talking a full-blown commercial release backed by the marketing juggernaut of EA. You need to have serious clout to get them involved. Being a major league baseball star helps.

Curt Schilling isn’t just a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, you see. He plays and is passionate about MMORPGs. He founded 38 Studios to develop his own, currently code-named Copernicus. In the meantime, his creative resources for the art direction and backstory for the project, Todd MacFarlane & R.A. Salvatore respectively, also developed a single-player RPG called Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which boasts an open world, organic and free-flowing combat and a dynamic character-building system allowing you to change what sort of character you play on the fly. It’s an impressive endeavor on paper.

At first blush, however, it seems that a few notes have been cribbed from BioWare. You start the game having been recently resurrected (Mass Effect 2) in an underground facility reminiscent of the Deep Roads (Dragon Age: Origins) and everybody seems to be in awe of you but are no help in filling in the gaping holes in your memory due to your amnesia (Knights of the Old Republic 2). I don’t mean to say or even imply that Reckoning is ripping off BioWare or anybody else. R.A. Salvatore apparently wrote up a timeline of 10000 years’ worth of history for this new world, and I like the fact that the primary conflict is due to a struggle between the Summer and Winter Courts kind of like that one novel in the Dresden Files.

While the story beats may feel familiar, the world at least has a unique aesthetic with a breathtaking amount of detail. The world is rendered in such a way that every aspect has some thought & creative energy behind it. The walls and decoration of buildings give them a lived-in feeling and the forests have flowers, fungus and greenery aplenty. Character designs opt more for fantastical, painter-like style rather than photo-realism, and it fits in with the overall design of the world even if the NPCs seem to only have three or four gestures between them.

Courtesy 38 Studios
I can see why you’re by a fire. Doesn’t it get cold in that getup?

You’ll be seeing those gestures quite a bit, too, as you go from one glowing exclamation point to the next picking up quests. Like the MMOs that drove Schilling into the gaming business, Reckoning is structured to present a world in which you can explore every corner as you hunt down quest objectives, item drops or just some extra experience to build your character. The knowledge of these origins and the nature of the gameplay make it not quite as immersive as Skyrim but it’s still a tried-and-true design that will have players grinding for hours, battling enemies they happen upon and taking all their stuff.

Combat immediately reminded me of the likes of Fable and Dragon Age 2, with a slightly better pace. You can switch on the fly between two melee weapons and a variety of spells, stringing them together into interesting combos to vary the ways in which you dispatch hapless opponents. You also have a blocking maneuver, though you may need to wait for the animation of your last attack to finish up before your shield appears, and you can also dodge. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of delay outside of what I’ve mentioned, and I’d say the game encourages you to try different weapons and styles because sticking to one particular set of skills could get a bit repetitive. Also, on Normal difficulty, it was entirely possible for me to run roughshod over the guards in the starting village and collect whatever gold and armor they dropped. I spent the night in jail afterwards, sure, but other than that there was no consequence. It was like nothing ever happened, kind of like appearing outside the police station in a Grand Theft Auto game but retaining all of my weapons and stolen goods.

In addition to your normal means of laying waste to folks is the Fate meter that grows as you deal damage. Fate plays a big part in the world of Amalur, and as one who does not have a pre-determined Fate, you have the power over the Fates of others. After enough mundane destruction you can go into a special mode that slows down the world and allows you to unload on an enemy with abandon. At a certain point you can execute that enemy with a special quick-time event for bonus XP. It’s animated well and has a unique look to it, varying the means of execution enough to keep things interesting in that regard.

Courtesy 38 Studios
FINISH HIM.

Character advancement revolves around three skill trees: Might, Finesse and Sorcery. The more points you invest in a particular tree, the more options you unlock in the form of character classes based on Fate cards. This makes it easy to create a hybrid class of character rather than being rigidly fixed within one of the three main archetypes. And if you’re ever unsatisfied with your choices, a little gold to a Fateweaver allows you to re-specialize immediately. I didn’t spend enough time to delve into the crafting professions or really check out the selection from vendors, but if my experience thus far is anything to go by, they’ll be very similar to established conventions with a bit more depth in places.

I guess what I’m getting at is that, to me, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning feels a bit derivative. Don’t, however, take that as an entirely negative thing. What the game does, it does well. The way lore is weaved into most aspects of the game is impressive and I can’t deny it has a neat look to it, even if some of the proportions and fashion decisions strike me as somewhat odd or trying too hard to be ‘fantastical.’ It sticks to tried-and-true methods of RPG design and for the most part is functional and slightly above average without pushing too many boundaries or blowing a lot of minds. For a first title in a new IP from an untested studio, I can’t help but be somewhat impressed, and I can understand cribbing notes from what’s worked before in order to forge a successful title. I just hope that Copernicus and future Amalur titles take a few more risks, as Reckoning tends to play it safe. Still, there’s some good game to be enjoyed here, and if you want to pick up Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning for some MMO-flavored action that also lets you unlock collectible armor and weapons for other titles like Mass Effect 3, I say go for it.

That Skyrim Bug

Courtesy Bethesda Softworks
This world is what you make of it.

He worked the bellows, breathing more life into the forge’s fires. Any moment the flames would be hot enough for him to begin beating the iron into the appropriate shapes. He wondered if any of the early morning passers-by in Whiterun found it odd that their thane was spending his time thusly, and at the smithy run by a woman, no less.

It was a passing curiosity. He really didn’t care what people thought. He deeply respected Adrianne for building her own future, both with these tools and her shop. Apparently she was married to the oaf behind the counter inside. He shrugged. He wasn’t one to pry.

He took the length of iron, drew it from the fire and laid it on the anvil. He raised his smithing hammer high.

“Hey.”

He stopped, looking around. Where had the disembodied voice come from? Were the Greybeards summoning him again?

“Hey!”

I turn and look at my wife. Her eyebrows are raised in that incredulous way.

“I thought you were going to bed ten minutes ago.”

“I was.” I feel a bit sheepish, but unashamed. “I got distracted by smithing.”

“God, it hasn’t been this bad since World of Warcraft. Go to bed!”


What can I say about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim that hasn’t already been said? Read any review and you’ll know what it’s like mechanically. Read this blog and you’ll get a sense of its wide-reaching adventure. Read forums and tweets and people will tell you about some hilarious bugs. The bug I’ve found, however, is the one I’ve caught.

I knew Skyrim would be the same sort of open-world RPG as the previous games in this series, as well as Fallout 3. What I didn’t know was how quickly and completely it would suck me in. Not long after the first scripted sequence, I was wandering around the world, just exploring points of interest because they were on my compass rather than for any specific objective. I found myself wanting to mine up my own ore to more cheaply raise my smithing skill. I look at my map and find myself prioritizing visits to the college and other holds over main quest objectives.

I have also encountered the random things others have mentioned. Adrianne, the aforementioned lady smith, ran up to me and handed me a book as a gift. I thought it might have meant more, but then discovered she’s married. I’ve been jumped by an assassin of the Dark Brotherhood, accosted by a wandering Khajiit soothsayer and gotten my heartstrings tugged by the ghost of a little girl burned to death in a house fire. And all of this was from nothing more than walking around with my eyes open. The main quest is pretty good, too.

It really has been a while since a game has drawn me in this completely. It’s built in such a way that any means of playing it is rewarding. You can stick with just using the quest objectives as goals, or come up with your own. Fling magic, loose arrows, swing swords or any combination of the above. Deal fairly with folk or break into their houses to nick their stuff. Skyrim isn’t just a part of Tamriel created for this game – it’s your world, and it becomes what you make of it.

I think that’s why I’ve caught the Skyrim bug. “Here’s a new part of this world,” the game says, “and here are all the tools to build your own story out of the game. We have one to tell, sure, but if you want to tell one too, go right ahead.”

Don’t mind if I do.

Game Review: Alpha Protocol

Courtesy Sega & Obsidian Entertainment

One of the things that made Wing Commander such a memorable series of video games for me, beyond the cool spaceships and neat character design, was the branching campaign. You could choose to defend a particular asset for the Confederation, or take the fight right into the Kilrathi’s furry faces; you could completely botch a mission and the game would not end; you could lose wingmen and shipmates and life would go on. It was storytelling that felt open-ended even if the plot was rattling along on rails towards the final destination. At least those rails had junction points.

Alpha Protocol brought back some of those memories, mixed in with liberal doses of Deus Ex and Mass Effect, to produce a gaming experience that, quite frankly, surprised the hell out of me.

Courtesy Sega & Obsidian Entertainment
It’s a balcony hot tub in Rome. Eat your heart out, Mr. Bond.

We’re introduced to Mike Thorton, an American international operative candidate with a shady background recruited by an organization called Alpha Protocol. The organization is a covert unit attached not to the government per se, but to one of its biggest private military contractors. Mike is dispatched on his first mission to Saudi Arabia, but before things can be properly concluded, he’s betrayed and abandoned. With few resources to begin with, Mike must travel around the world to build a case against his former employers, or at least collect enough explosive devices to make the PMC’s stockholders very nervous and very angry.

More often than not, when a game declares itself to be an “action/RPG”, what they mean is that you can customize a few of your weapons and maybe put a different hat on your self-insertion military fantasy persona. The games that continue the traditions of System Shock 2 and Deus Ex are few and far between, allowing you to make a character tailored to your particular gaming tastes not just in terms of weapon mods. Alpha Protocol may not be as deep as those others in terms of game engine, and I’m not sure shotguns needed their own category1, but at least an effort is made to allow a player to guide Mike down a particular path, and not just through the medium of the thumbstick.

Courtesy Sega & Obsidian Entertainment
Well, I could beat it out of him with own vodka bottle… hmm.

Indeed, between the action set pieces players have opportunities to determine how the story will unfold, and without the benefit of a color-coded morality meter. Instead, Mike interacts with people through one of three attitudes, chosen on the fly: professional, aggressive and suave. They’re three distinctive flavors of one overarching attitude, however. Mike’s a bit of a jerk. I mean, sure, he’s been backstabbed by his government and the company trying to buy them2, and that’s likely to make anybody a little cross. Some of his antics are excusable under that circumstance while others are inexplicable in their maliciousness or mischeviousness, outside of just being a troll. This doesn’t stop them from being hilarious, but how professional can one actually be if they’re sending emails about bovine weaponization conspiracies to trigger-happy nutcases just for a laugh?

I don’t want to give the impression that moral choices don’t exist. Most of your conversations, however, are more personal matters. The choices you makes in how you relate to certain people will raise or lower their respect for you, and consequently can either make them inclined to help you or eager to put a bullet in your skull. However, there are moments where you must make a decision, and you’re not given a lot of time to make up your mind. Brilliantly, you will not always know the full ramifications of the choice you make when you make it. Only at the very end as the news is relating stories from around the world do you realize exactly what you’ve done3. Amongst games where choices are almost always squeaky-clean white or dastardly black, Alpha Protocol paints its plotlines in shades of gray. And they’re really attractive shades.

Courtesy Sega & Obsidian Entertainment
I told him what I’d do if he crossed me. He thought I was bluffing.

When the words stop flying to make way for bullets, Alpha Protocol still does a few things quite well. Like any good game with emphasis on stealth and gathering intelligence, it gives you the option to sneak past opponents rather than shooting them in the face, even if the “takedown” option still induces wincing on the player’s part. While it’s possible to play through without making a single kill, I can’t imagine getting punched in the throat by a professional martial artist is particularly pleasant. And the mini-games you must play to hack computers, pick locks and bypass circuits do a great job balancing a limited time-frame with puzzle-solving skills, for the most part.

It’s not a game without flaws. The engine occasionally goes a bit berserk with its rag doll physics, and you’re never 100% sure the wall or prop you’ve chosen to take cover behind will (a) conceal you or (b) allow you a clear line of fire to your foes. Some of the boss fights can make life very difficult for particular character builds, and on a couple occasions I set off an alarm trying to pick a lock when I distinctly hit the button to quietly cancel the attempt. I hear there are also conversational bugs but I can’t recall running into any, so if I did they were somewhat insignificant, not unlike the others. None of the bugs or hiccups I encountered felt game-breaking, and more importantly, none of them got in the way of the story. Indeed, the story is what keeps the action moving, even when nobody’s getting shot at. Here’s a case where the strengths of the game outweigh its flaws, and while I can’t blame some hardcore shooter fans for letting those flaws keep them from checking out Alpha Protocol, enthusiasts for this style of game are sure to be pleased.

Stuff I Liked: Weapon customization is pretty cool, and having be only one aspect of character building rather than the extent of it is even better. Every safehouse is distinctive for its area which was a great touch, as were the little trophies and mementos Mike keeps. Options to decrease difficulty of missions through gathering additional intelligence felt smart. No hilariously stereotypical accents – “ZEY HAFF GIVEN ME LEMON-LIME” is a thing of the past.
Stuff I Didn’t Like: Could have consolidated SMGs, shotguns and assault rifles into one category and spread out lock-picking, hacking and electronics. Some obtuse boss fights. The occasional bug that will break a lockpick, your cover or that gas canister next to you, but thankfully not the entire game.
Stuff I Loved: Writing and voice acting well above average. A conversational system that makes sense and works well without being tied to rigid morality. A sense of purpose and weight to choices made. Satisfying stealth gameplay. More than a few laughs when Mike starts trollin’.

Bottom Line: It could be because I’m a fan of good storytelling that drives the action, or decently balanced stealth/shooting gameplay, but for me, Alpha Protocol shines. As shooter-RPGs go, it’s around the same level as the first BioShock in terms of action, definitely inspired by the aforementioned superstar shooter-RPG tagteam. And in terms of plot and character, the plot adaptability and solid writing has it swinging from the same monkey bars as Dragon Age: Origins while Halo and Gears of War participate in a game of gay chicken over in the nearby sandbox.


1 Deus Ex filed them under “Rifles” for a reason, after all.
2 Just swap “Halbech” with “Bank of America” or “Wells Fargo” or any oil company and you’ve got the right idea.
3 I’m giving Sega & Obsidian the benefit of the doubt and thinking this was meant to promote better storytelling, not just a way to get us to play the game more than once. Which I think I may have to, now. Bastards.

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