In the coming week we'll be going in deep with Alpha Protocol, Obsidian's new espionage RPG and revealing new and exclusive details. Each day we'll post info on a particular element of the game: today we're looking at the innovative way Alpha Protocol uses dialogue, and how it effects your progress through the story.
Above: Alpha Protocol wants to charm you, as well as shoot your nose off
Guns and gadgets may get all the headlines in the espionage world, but they’re pretty blunt instruments. For the true master spy, it’s the more subtle skills of intelligence gathering, conversation, subterfuge, charm, seduction and of course downright aggression which are better employed to achieve his aims.
Alpha Protocol allows you to bring these conversational skills very much to the fore and dialogue and character interaction form an integral part of the game, affecting everything from how you’ll approach your missions, to the weapons and items you can acquire to carry them out. Unlocking people with your conversational skills is key to success, so whether you’re as hot headed as a chilli-chomping chinchilla or as silver tongued as a thermometer-licking aardvark, Alpha Protocol’s dialogue system has something to offer you.
Alpha Protocol uses a conversation scheme which Obsidian have dubbed the Dialogue Stance System. While comparisons with Mass Effect’s dialogue tree are perhaps natural, Alpha Protocol doesn’t ask you to wade through tons of conversational gambits or carefully consider and weigh every single response. This is a conversation system stripped down to the bones with the default options being Suave, Professional or Aggressive.
Above: Forget threatening this shady dude, draw the damn gun already!
Different characters will react differently towards you depending on which stance you take with them, but there’s also always a countdown timer in operation meaning you just have a few seconds to decide which way you want to play a situation. There’s no going back either once you’ve made your choice, although, occasionally, further context sensitive fourth options might appear, like Investigate, Apologetic or Friendly.
Are you suave and sophisticated? A misogynist or a ladies man? A chauvinist or a gentleman? Alpha Protocol allows you to explore all these personas and in extreme circumstances there’ll even be instant action options, allowing to drill your antagonist through the kneecap, head slam them against a table or give them a beating to force them into revealing further information.
The idea is to give your conversations a movie-like feel where dialogue is snappy and naturalistic and constantly flowing with witty repartee or cutting one-liners, just like you’d see from a Bond or a Bourne. On-screen pointers and of course the character’s body language and responses will give you further indications about how they feel about you and after that, it’s up to you how to play your conversational gambits, as any real master spy would.
Above: A run-down of how you dealt with various people and how it's affecting your game progress
Be warned though. every conversation carries a consequence, whether it’s in the form of people taking an instant like or dislike to you. It’s not as simple as picking ‘good’ or ‘evil’ options either, sometimes you need to ramp up the aggression to get the information you need, or lie and sweet talk characters into revealing things they shouldn’t.