What Alpha Protocol’s bad reviews really mean

In Videogames on June 3, 2010 at 3:02 PM

Alpha Protocol’s recent release marks Obsidian Entertainment’s latest flop in the world of dynamic roleplaying games.  After mounting subpar sequels to two beloved Bioware franchises, Obsidian’s latest marks their first opportunity to create an original IP as a studio.  From the beginning, Alpha Protocol showed much ambition and many of the aspects of the game seem to carry through according to initial reviews.  The plot evolution, unique dialogue trees, and character customization all came to fruition from concept.  Yet broken mechanics, flawed gameplay, and last gen graphics have doomed the game to become just another failure in Obsidian’s catalogue.  Obsidian rose from the ashes of Black Isle Studios, developer of the beloved RPG Fallout.  While Alpha Protocol’s development always came with a grain of salt, had the game executed on its lofty goals it could have been a groundbreaking RPG on Fallout’s level.  Instead, it’s just further established Obsidian as a company stuck behind concepts and unable to execute fluid and entertaining gameplay.

For Knight’s of the Old Republic fans, Obsidian’s failures as a developer aren’t anything new.  Obsidian’s first effort as a studio, after the destruction of Black Isle Studio, was a sequel to one of the most well regarded Star Wars and roleplaying games ever.  However, Knights of the Old Republic lacked much of the charm of its predecessor, recycling content rather than adding anything new.  The pieced together story and hollow party characters couldn’t hold the game up.  Despite generally positive reviews at the time of its release, Knights of the Old Republic 2 now stands as one of the more reviled sequels in gaming history, a major step backwards from the foundation Bioware built and almost a destruction of the series (until Bioware began work on the upcoming MMO The Old Republic).  Obsidian’s second attempt was another sequel to a beloved Bioware RPG, Neverwinter Nights.  Much like Knights of the Old Republic 2, Neverwinter Nights 2 suffered from a substandard story and gameplay from its predecessor as well as numerous technical malfunctions.  Considering those same complaints arise in reviews of Alpha Protocol, there may be reason for concern over Obsidian’s ability as a game developer.

Will New Vegas live up to its potential, or be another massive letdown by Obsidian?

The larger issue is Obsidian’s involvement with Fallout: New Vegas, the upcoming spinoff of multiple Game of the Year winner Fallout 3.  While initial coverage of the game has been overwhelmingly positive, and Obsidian’s track record with Fallout.  Obsidian’s continual production of incomplete games puts Fallout: New Vegas under a very scary lens.  If Fallout: New Vegas can live up to its billing, the game may even surpass Fallout 3 in accolades.  With its more vibrant Las Vegas atmosphere and creative forces behind the beloved Interplay Fallout games, New Vegas could offer one of the most expansive and awe inspiring experiences in gaming history.  But if Obsidian continues their trend, we could be looking at one of the biggest gaming disappointments of the year, if not all time.  For the sake of gamers everywhere, here’s hoping that Obsidian finally gets it right this fall.


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