So, when I first decided to do this Alpha Protocol thing, I guess my initial idea was to play for a bit, find something vaguely RPG-like that would normally scare me off, and then write about it. There’d be all kinds of different things, I thought…it could be a kind of weekly ‘feature’ until the game got too hard, or I got bored, or I decided to do an actual proper review of an old game [Now there’s an idea – FFG reader].

Since the genesis of this idea, though, the thought struck me that most of my RPG fears boil down to essentially one thing – the freedom to make choices. Frankly, not knowing what I’m supposed to do next scares the hell out of me in the gaming world as much as it does in real life. Which is kind of sad really, seeing as games are supposed to liberate you from the crushing weight of your everyday responsibilities rather than add to them.

But we’ll get onto that some other time. I’m going to be talking about my inability to make decisions, especially in RPGs, in subsequent posts, so in the interests of adding some small level of variety to this whole enterprise, we’ll start with something else.

In fact, let’s start with a decision-making process that’s really not that taxing at all. Now, in Alpha Protocol, you play Michael ‘Mike’ Thorton, a super-spy who can do loads of spy stuff (but not that well at the start, until you level-up and buy gadgets and do all the other RPG stuff that’s necessary). With the role of hero already cast, you don’t have to spend (waste) time customising your character to make him/her look exactly/nothing like you.

Well, you can alter your appearance by changing a handful of settings, but the number of options is so limited that you’re basically left with two choices – either keep Thorton looking as the developers intended:


Or you can make him look like a total prick, instead:


(Incidentally, Thorton does seem to act like a bit of a knob most of the time, but, again, we’ll get onto that later).

Some might say this is disappointing, but frankly, anything that saves dicking around with sliders for half-an-hour or so, altering the bushiness and height of a fake computer game character’s eyebrows, is fine by me. So, er, hoorah for Obsidian!

Back to moaning now. One of the things about being in Alpha Protocol (the government agency, that is, not the game – that’s Alpha Protocol) is that it’s so secretive they can’t risk giving you any money. Fortunately, though, there’s plenty of it just lying around. Seriously, there are piles of cash everywhere. Yoink!

And so we come to the first thing about RPGs I can’t get to grips with: there’s stuff, everywhere, inexplicably just sitting there waiting for you to take it (in some cases it does seem to involve breaking and entering, although often non-player characters don’t seem to notice, or mind, anyway).

Some of this stuff could be important, some of it could be totally useless. But what to take and what to leave behind? I’m the kind of person who wants to pick everything up, just in case. You soon run out of room, no matter how big your pockets are.

Admittedly, this hasn’t been a problem so far in Alpha Protocol – cash is nice and light, and it’s definitely important, so I’ve been taking it, and I’ve usually shot whoever it belonged to anyway, because they were shooting at me, so I don’t feel too bad. But then of course, you get around to wondering how to spend all that money. That sounds like a tricky decision to me.