Alpha Protocol

Developed by Obsidian Entertainment
Published by SEGA
Released in 2010 for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360

With Chris Avellone of Planescape Torment fame on-board, Alpha Protocol secures the valued achievement of a narrative that reacts to player decision-making. (Even if that achievement, much like Planescape, is largely accomplished through narrative rather than playstyle.) But it takes a truly special development studio to fuck up everything but “decision-making with consequence”, and there are very few games on the Obsidian Entertainment resume that don’t speak to some degree of development hell. Obsidian’s first “original property” is a design document for botching the stealth-action genre: Inconsistent stealth mechanics, broken combat skills, minigames that require inconsistent proficiency in atypical skillsets, and “one or the other” level design that rejects the illusion of choice provided by the dialogue trees. And yet, the novelty of making meaningful decisions to drive a conspiracy-driven narrative gives Alpha Protocol some reason for being. I suppose that makes it Planescape Torment: “Plays Like a Forgotten Stealth-Action Game From 2003” Edition.

★★