by Marcus Mulkins
previewed on PC
You can’t keep a good designer down
When I look back over the years, I see an enormously long string of games that I have played; games that I have played and tossed, and games that I have worn out playing them to death. The population of that last group can be counted on various bodily digits and I would still have at least one shoe on. The oldest in that category is Fallout, followed by Fallout 2, Baldur’s Gate 1, 2, and 3, Icewind Dale 1 & 2 and Neverwinter Nights 1 & 2 (and a whole slew of expansion sets for those two).
For those that are somewhat familiar with these games, you might know that the Fallouts and Icewind Dales were developed by Black Isle Studios, a subsidiary of Interplay which went bye–bye right around the change of the millennium. The Baldur’s Gate series and the beginning of the Neverwinter Nights series were developed by Bioware Corporation, but then finished out with Obsidian Entertainment.
What do all of these games have in common? Well, they are all RPGs, but whereas Baldu’s Gate, Icewind Dales, and Neverwinter Nights use the AD&D rule sets, the Fallouts use the SPECIAL character development system. However, if you’ve played all of these games, you might have noticed that they have a similar feel to them. The quality of the graphics, the music, the way the characters move on screen, the banter and humor in the dialogue choices, the many “Easter eggs” to be found squirreled away across the game landscape – all of these make these games feel like “siblings” to one another (if not “siblings, then at least ‘cousins’).
Even without knowing who the heck Feargus Urquhart, Chris Jones, and Chris Avellone might be, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there must be somebody tying all those games together. Well, those are the main names that have had a heavy hand in the creation of all of those outstanding games. They all worked for Black Isle before its demise, and they all managed to come together again at Obsidian Entertainment. And though I’m not familiar with them myself, I’ve heard that those guys also had their hands on the develop of some very notable games such as Planescape: Torment, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, and Arcanum.
Now, knowing that so much designing genius is behind the upcoming release, Alpha Protocol, what kind of game quality might you expect?
Doesn’t anybody remember “Secret Agent” or “I Spy”?
Jason Bourne. James Bond. Jack Bauer. These are supposed to be the names that come to mind when playing Alpha Protocol. Bourne and Bauer I can see: The game’s plot starts with the main character, Michael Thorton, being pushed out “into the cold” when a mission he was participating in falls apart – apparently because his team was betrayed by someone on the inside. And the US government is operating under the assumption that that someone was him.
So now Michael has to not only contend with the ubiquitous Bad Guys, he also has to worry about being snuffed by his own team. Now, Michael at least KNOWS he wasn’t the leak, so he has the obvious task of exonerating himself with the US government – while that same government is doing everything it can to terminate him. As daunting a challenge as that may be, he must also deal with the fact that the threat that his team had been investigating is still proceeding. If left unchecked, as is likely because the US Intelligence community has developed tunnel vision while pursuing him, bad things will happen.
Michael’s mission (whether he accepts it or not) is twofold: Prove his innocence and stop the Bad Guys’ plan before the big “GAME OVER” message pops up.