Recently I purchased the game Alpha Protocol. Despite mixed reviews, it’s one I fancied getting ever since the first set of previews started doing the rounds. As I’ve mentioned before, genuine ‘spy’ games in the Bourne Identity mould are few and far between, and I reckon there’s definitely a gap in the market for a decent one. Or even a half-decent one.

So, when the nefarious/brilliant Steam sale dropped its price to a fiver, it was too much to resist. And unlike many of my impulse purchases, I actually started playing it rather than hoarding it away in my metaphorical digital cupboard for an unspecified time in the near future when I would be ‘less busy’.

So far, I like it. But there’s a problem: it’s an RPG. It even says it on the box, in capital letters: THE ESPIONAGE RPG. Now, my experience with RPGs is a brief and largely unhappy one, limited to the following:

1) Dungeon Master – I played this a bit when I was a wee lad. But I don’t remember getting very far, or an awful lot about it. Here’s what I can recall: some monsters looked like vegetables and when you killed them you could safely eat their remains; also, when you accidentally walked into a wall there was an amusing ‘whooyah’ noise which became so ingrained in my consciousness that to this day I involuntarily echo it whenever I sustain minor injury in real life.

2) Deus Ex – I don’t reckon this really counts, because it hides all of its RPG-ness to the extent that you don’t really realise that it is one. When I played it, I thought of it more as a shooter with a few interesting choices to make along the way. But, on the other hand, if it doesn’t count, that’s the only RPG I’ve ever finished out of the window. So we’ll call it an RPG.

3) Fallout – I bought this with the intention of playing and reviewing it for the site. But it disappointed and overwhelmed me in equal measure. I got about halfway through but the whole thing seemed like a bewildering slog and, knowing that the game was massively popular, I abandoned my plans for a review in case it attracted negative attention and revealed me as the dunce I most certainly am. [Except you’ve ruined it now, you pillock – FFG reader]

I can’t really tell if my time with Alpha Protocol is going to be any more successful, but from initial impressions, I reckon I might make more progress with this one. Even so, some of the RPG hallmarks that baffle me have already made an appearance, and I figured it might be an idea to write about them a little as they crop up.


So, all being well, that’s what I’m going to do. Once upon I time I did think it would be a jolly good laugh for me to review a game that I wouldn’t normally play, and would find really, frustratingly, hard, and then write about it. That might still be worth a go, but I seriously doubt I’ll ever persist with an ageing role-playing-game for long enough to produce a decent review, so I may as well get all of my gripes and anxieties out some other way. That okay with you?

Disclaimer: Now we’re on Facebook and Twitter we’ll use those for dispensable twaddle while aiming to produce something more substantial and entertaining for the journal. However, this could all fall apart, very, very quickly. No refunds of time will be given.