Obsidian’s Next Game: Alpha Protocol

By John Walker on March 11th, 2008 at 12:38 pm.

Via the exclusive-happy Game Informer, the previously unnamed next game to come from Bioware Babies, Obsidian, has been discovered. Alpha Protocol is a spy-themed single player RPG, developed for PC, 360 and PS3, due next Spring. Via EG, and in turn the Neogaf forums, a few details from the April Game Informer have leaked.

Most importantly, it’s described as,

“A modern day espionage focused action/RPG that takes you on a suspenseful ride in the vein of James Bond, Jack Bauer, and Jason Bourne. Take a wet-behind-the-ears greenhorn agent up through the ranks to become a bona-fide super spy.”

It’s looking to be an action-focused RPG – an area we’ve not seen from Obsidian, who are famous for their Bioware sequels, Knights of the Old Republic 2 and Neverwinter Nights 2. Perhaps troublingly, the details include this snippet:

“Battle system is similar to Mass Effect but have more in common with Uncharted. It revolves around real time combat with an emphasis on gun play and high tech gadgets.”

If there were an aspect of Mass Effect you didn’t want to emulate, it would be the combat. But we can assume that neither Bioware nor Obsidian are blind to the response it’s had, and with at least a year until release, improvements would be likely.

Dropping classes, instead your character, Michael Thorton, will develop in accordance to your style of play, with ten skills and ten ranks for each skill. This, they suggest, will let you approach the action in your own style, whether heavy-handed, or sneaky-stealthy.

And the conversation system sounds intriguing. Called the “Dialog Stance System”, it apparently emulates Fahrenheit’s approach to chatting, letting you have only one go at each conversation (something that’s always felt unnatural about the Biosidian RPGs is the ability to talk to someone a second time, and say the exact opposite – it seems a splendid idea to limit this). But rather than selecting the sentence, you select the tone of your response.

Being a spy, you’ll be travelling around the world, weilding gadgets, and indeed taking the ladies to bed. At this point it seems that there’s only a male character available, and very many women for him to sleep with. It seems a shame that the people who’ve consistently delivered the ability to play male or female and have romances based on this during the game, should shut off one side. But then, think of all the free advertising they’ll receive when Fox News finds out about all the sex.

According to Eurogamer, SEGA aren’t commenting at this point. But expect more news very soon once the hungry, angry gaming press gets their copies of the mag and demands more.

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36 Comments »

  1. Larington says:

    Wow, there’s an impressive amount of content coming out of RPS today. Major kudos.

    Wait, is it my imagination or have spy games just become the new first person shooter (Equivalent to, grey being the new black, or whatever)?

    And will any of them ever pull off the same gaming joy I used to get out of spy versus spy all those years ago on the speccy.

  2. Nick says:

    Action RPG.

    *sigh*

  3. Hieremias says:

    Everything gets called an “action RPG”. They even said Gothic 3 was an “action RPG”. I think the phrase just means “RPG with real-time combat”.

  4. Lightbulb says:

    “A modern day espionage focused action/RPG that takes you on a suspenseful ride in the vein of James Bond, Jack Bauer, and Jason Bourne. Take a wet-behind-the-ears greenhorn agent up through the ranks to become a bona-fide super spy.”

    3 totally different characters and only JB is a ‘spy’ but hey never mind…

    As a fantasy game it could work, we shall see…

  5. Jonas says:

    Hey, anything vaguely related to Deus Ex is good news to me. Action/RPG spy thriller? Bingo.

    I agree with John about the apparent lack of gender choice though, that’s a shame if it’s true.

    [Edit]
    Lightbulb: “Only JB”? Which one? All three of them have those initials ; )

  6. Rushe says:

    I hope to be wrong, but the only thing I can think at the moment is “Goodbye Obsidian, it’s been a nice journey while it lasted”.

    Maybe it’s just normal marketing having the opposite effect on me as usual.

  7. James says:

    I think if it’s *anything* like the Bourne films, I’ll be a happy guy. It’s a difficult thing though, seeing as I have serious doubts whether the actual Bourne game coming out this year will be anything like the films, but hey, I live in hope…

  8. Matt says:

    The concept sounds cool to me, but Obsidian’s last two games have felt very rushed out the gate. Hopefully they’re taking more of a “when it’s done” approach to their first original IP.

  9. Schadenfreude says:

    Wonder if they’ll actually manage to finish a game this time?

    And the dialogue systems seems to be lifted from Blade Runner (Always pick Angry with Runciter… then shoot the bastard :D )

  10. Gylfi.Fenriz. says:

    Why care that it has action combat ? If the RPG part is good it’s still gonna be a great game. Deus Ex was action, and yet it was a great RPG.

    What they have to do is simply provide different ways to complete the missions according to the character’s style, which in turn affects the plot and so on.

    It’ll turn out well if they do this.

  11. Jachap says:

    I’d love a game where you were a proper Cold War-era, John Le Carre/Len Deighton spy. That’s a world worth exploration. Maybe some sort of strategy title where you had to infiltrate the USSR with sleeper agents and covert saboteurs. Where you actually, you know, spied.

    Superspy is a misnomer. It basically means that, as this article states, the emphasis is on gun play – stealthy or otherwise – and that means you’re not really spying at all.

    Also – “high tech gadgets.” Are they really a selling point? In games they’re generally so boring, just a snazzy looking Deus Ex multi-tool.

    “Press X to progress the plot/mission.”

  12. The Sombrero Kid says:

    @Schadenfreude
    that’s genius, i wish they’d bring out Blade Runner HD where they replaced all those 320×240 cut scenes with higher res once & then i could play it again without hurtung my eyes!

    Edit: all games released this year should’ve had the ‘HD’ sufix! it’s the new ‘i’

  13. Chaz says:

    My word another spy game in the works. It seems that the spy theme is the “in” fashion for games this year.

  14. Stick says:

    @Jachap:

    I always thought superspy meant “looks dashing, skips the boring parts, has more time for wooing of ladies” rather than “very competent spy”…

  15. Phil says:

    @Jachap –

    The ancient KGB and the slightly less ancient and more torture happy Spycraft are two options if you’re looking for a non-super spying experience.

    I don’t think anyone in this medium’s got close to Len Deighton in terms of sweaty paranoid, wheels-within wheels and vicious treble-crossry, Funeral in Berlin would make a stunning Broken Sword style adventure.

  16. heartless_ says:

    Obsidian has trashed everything they’ve touched IMHO. KotOR2? NWN2?

    I can’t trust them to deliver anything but heartbreak.

  17. Jonas says:

    Come now, Mask of the Betrayer was a great game with an outstanding ending. I believe the primary reason NWN2 felt uncompleted was because they were making room for the expansion.

  18. Schadenfreude says:

    And there was no DM Client on release (And still doesn’t have half the functionality of NWN1′s) and the multi-player was borderline broken; stuff that was pretty integral to NWN1′s success (and in fact the entire point of NWN1).

  19. Alex says:

    Am I the only one who is really, really tired of all these ENDLESS previews constantly streaming out of publisher’s offices?

    I wish things would go back to publishers announcing their new game when it’s 3 to 6 months from actually going gold.

  20. Jachap says:

    Stick: that is sort of my point. I’ve got no real problem with action-orientated James Bond titles. I’m just saying that there’s room in the genre for a more cerebral, truer experience. You could still skip the filing-reports, trawling reams of data aspect of espionage. I don’t want an analyst game, particularly.

    But the actual, fraught nature of fieldwork has huge gaming potential, as Phil says.

    Phil: Funeral in Berlin was exactly the novel I was thinking of. I went through a period of reading basically all of Deighton’s output. Bomber is his masterpiece – and still relevant – but Funeral is simply one of the best, most readable spy novels ever.

    Its a great deal more entertaining than reading about James Bond playing golf or playing Baccharat or eating expensive foreign food.

    I might give those games you mention a try, if I can find them. I think I unsuccessfully hunted for KGB a while back. There’s a great text-adventure that PC Gamer once gave away for free where you’re a spy in a near-future setting, framed around your interrogation – but I forget its name.

  21. Xagarath says:

    I’d be much happier if the game let me play the John Steed kind of super-spy, but I suspect that’s just a pipe dream.

    Jachap, I think you’re thinking of Spider and Web.

  22. Stick says:

    @Jachap: Ah, alright. (And I don’t have a disagreement, just… talking for the sake of it here.)

    I loved KotOR 2 for the sheer subversiveness of it. (It’s really more of a Farscape: Torment than a Star Wars story…)

    I sort of enjoyed NWN2 but… NWN1-related exhaustion with the game mechanics meant I couldn’t get through it. (Also, the graphics engine seemed to demand lots of buck and deliver only moderate bang.)

    Definitely curious about what Obsidian will make outside the sequel/franchise box.

  23. Stromko says:

    I’ve always assumed Obsidian has a much shorter dev cycle and that’s why their games tend to be critically flawed. I wonder if they’ll be able to take their time on a new IP and actually carry it all the way this time. I have no idea.

    I’ve got to disagree about Mass Effect’s combat being all that bad. What are we comparing it to? The latest and greatest FPS, or an RPG? It sure blows VTM: Bloodlines’ combat out of the frigging water. How does it compare to Oblivion? A bit of a divisive question but I think I made my point.

    It does demand a lot from the player. You need to want to dig into the skill system, you need to react quickly to take cover or fall back when the enemy rushes you, you need to pick the right weapon mods for the enemy and get used to handling whatever your chosen weapon is. You also need to adjust your expectations on how helpful your allies will be.

    It actually did frustrate me a lot when I was getting used to it, but get used to it I did and I’m glad. It’s actually a lot of fun.

    Other Bioware RPGs only asked you to hit ‘space’ when it got too hard and you had to figure sh*t out. KoTOR basically boiled down to maybe re-loading a save if the fight turned out badly, popping a few stims at the start and giving an order to fire off some buffs, and bring more lightsabres to the fight than the other guy.

    Baldur’s Gate was pretty complex and difficult but we think it’s worthwhile to spend a lot of time figuring out the D&D system and reloading a save 20 times to beat a red dragon, because hey, it’s a red dragon! That was worthwhile to me, and it’s also rather accessible to anyone who’s the least bit cerebral. Not every game is aiming for that though.

    When I say what a game’s combat ‘needs’ from the player, I mean the least amount of effort required to advance. I’m not saying how much complexity KotOR and BG had, but how much effort it required to advance through the combat portions and get on with the story. I think that’s where a lot of the Mass Effect complaints come from, it’s not so much that the combat is shit, it’s that the story is better and you have to get through the combat to continue with it.

  24. Phil says:

    @Jachap

    If you are still after KGB, Home of the Underdogs has got it for free:

    http://www.the-underdogs.info/game.php?id=586

    Incidentally, has RPS highlighted the Home of the Underdogs before? Server stability aside, they are the daddies of abandonware.

  25. Kieron Gillen says:

    Pretty much any time we talk about an old game, we link to Home of the Underdogs. So not explicitly talked about ‘em, but certainly pointed people in their direction. Not that they need it, being The Daddy.

    KG

  26. Electric Dragon says:

    Bond+Bauer+Bourne = you get to use implausible but snazzy gadgets in pursuit of a madman who wants to take over the world while torturing anyone who might have even the most remotely useful scrap of information (and finding out that the real plot was hatched by your own father/son/boss/president), all rendered in gloriously nauseating Shaky-Handheld-O-Vision.

    Also:

    It seems a shame that the people who’ve consistently delivered the ability to play male or female and have romances based on this during the game, should shut off one side.

    – That’s actually shutting off three sides (Guy Burgess?). And as an added bonus the idea of queer spies might cause Fox News to burst an aneurysm.

    And Spycraft sounds interesting.

  27. Optimaximal says:

    If you are still after KGB, Home of the Underdogs has got it for free:

    http://www.the-underdogs.info/game.php?id=586

    Ideally, you’ll want to try and find the CD version on Ebay or something – it’s called Conspiracy (as mentioned on The Underdogs) and features Donald Sutherland providing hints in mid-90′s FMV.

  28. UncleLou says:

    Obsidian has trashed everything they’ve touched IMHO. KotOR2? NWN2?

    I can’t trust them to deliver anything but heartbreak.

    And both games were far superior to their predecessors, made by Bioware. Kotor 2 obviously suffered from serious time restraints, and iirc, NWN2 was done in record time, too, as demanded by the publisher, so that explains a few of the flaws, but the writing, characters is far better than anything I’ve seen from Bioware in years (caveat: I haven’t played Mass Effect).

  29. Xaero says:

    I agree with UncleLou. KOTOR 2 was done in 13 months if iirc, and considering that time frame, Obsidian did an excellent job. The game featured better writing, and at least the storyline wasn’t the typical “save the universe” crap like KOTOR 1. Sure, the end felt rushed and incomplete but that has to do with Lucas Arts pressuring Obsidian to ship it. NWN2 had a far better OC than NWN1 and while I agree that the MP was broken & buggy, that also has to do with the limited development time. Their most recent game was the NWN2 expansion, Mask of the Betrayer and that was even a bigger improvement over the original NWN2. It was one of the best RPGs last year.

    You guys need to stop hating on Obsidian. They’ve had bad luck with their publishers. This new game sounds interesting but I’m not convinced yet.

  30. InsertNameHere says:

    I finally got round to playing KOTOR2 earlier this year and I was blown away by the story, it was truly excellent. Sure, the execution was somewhat flawed in places but the first chapter on the mining planet was brilliant.

    I still haven’t played NWN2, but I very much look forwards to this new game.

  31. Sucram says:

    >:”Welcome, you come seeking the truth about the One spy that the Sneakographon speaks of in legend, he who infiltrated the great underground lair of old through a milkshake straw; who defeated an army of evil henchmen with a peanut shell; who stole the plans of weapon forged to create much dooms and who smited the overlord who was his boss but actually a triple double agent?”

    >’Yes’

    >:”He who was the result of secret secretives, who seduced all on his exit, who monologued himself out of the trap of much escapability and who never needed a comic relief sidekick?”

    >’Yes’

    >:”Fine, click on the four statues in the next room, they have some riddles for you.”

  32. Pidesco says:

    I really haven’t seen the “action” part in an action RPG ever done well, and I’d really like to see Obsidian pull it off. Torment like dialogue options and storyline accompanied by, say, NOLF like combat options is what I’m thinking of.

    Or, if it wasn’t a spy game, a deep RPG with a Ninja Gaiden style combat system would be nice to see.

  33. hellboy says:

    If there were an aspect of Mass Effect you didn’t want to emulate, it would be the combat

    I must be the only one, but I quite liked the combat in Mass Effect. Except for the bits driving around in the buggy.

  34. Ozzie says:

    Obsidian doing something original sounds good to me.
    I wasn’t interested in their sequels of games I wasn’t interested in in the first place.

    And Chris Avellone is designing it! I’m already full of anticipation!!

  35. Volrath says:

    Chris Avellone (Torment) and Brian Mitsoda (Bloodlines) are doing the dialogue. How the fuck can this not be awesome?

  36. dhex says:

    bioware’s patented “the good, the bad and the neutral” approach to storytelling?

    it’s starting to get old.