Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Disclosure Alert: Alpha Protocol: Episode 11: Unnoticed By the Trail of Bodies

In this episode, we kill an alarming number of people in the pursuit of knowledge.

Let me first say that calling Aldowyn an "idiot" was incredibly rude, arrogant, and stupid on my part. That should never have happened and a large part of me feels like I crossed the line there. With that said:

I don't think I've ever completely stealthed this mission. Every time I end up getting detected. Part of me wonders if you get that notice anyway, even if they don't see you (because Albatross ALWAYS talks to you here no matter what).

Speaking of, though most first-time players are more likely to meet them in Moscow before doing meeting them here, this mission does serve as a good introduction to Albatross and his organization, G22. You begin not knowing who these people are and what they are doing in this abandoned warehouse, but as you advance in the mission you realize that these guys have access to a lot of processing power. Once you beat the level, you are introduced to Albatross himself. (As an aside, Thorton will comment on G22 in the introductory scene to this mission by saying "Why are G22 agents here?" instead of "Who're these guys" if you have met them before.)

From our short "meeting" with Albatross, we can discern all we need to know about him. The fact that he contacted us almost as soon as we reached the end of the level means that he was able to find and detect either the breech or our presence quickly and start dealing with it. Since he already found 5 of our 6 bugs, we know that his organization is tech savvy and/or had code already in place to deal with bug. (Side note: Mumbles mentioned Hollywood Hacking when talking about Albatross. Sadly, this tends to be par for the course. Albatross and G22 are Hollywood hacking incarnate.) Lastly, the fact that he is even speaking to us let's us know that he is willing to let bygones-be-bygones if it means advancing his goals or neutralizing a potential threat. It is a very short scene that only makes about one minute, but the way the scene is framed gives us a lot of information without bogging down the player with exposition.

The Halbech data gives us a very interesting mechanic. As you play through missions in the game, you will find pieces of information that prove Halbech's involvement in a variety of schemes from voter fraud to weapons trafficking. When you collect one of them, you send an e-mail to yourself with the file. From there, you have three choices on what you want to do with the information. You can:

  • Blackmail Halbech: This option will have a Halbech executive pay you $15,000 in exchange for your silence. (One of them remarks that their is a pool of Halbech funds set aside just to make blackmail payments.
  • Give the information to Scarlet: This is why Scarlet needs to meet you on plane, even if you're not heading to Taipei like she is. Without that scene, this option would make no sense. Choosing this option will give the information to Scarlet Lake for use in one of her stories, netting you a $1000 reward from her publisher and +1 Reputation with her.
  • Sell the information on the Black Market: With this choice, Thorton can use the Clearinghouse to sell the information to an anonymous buyer for his/her own use at a price of $5000. You don't know what the buyer will use it for. They could easily use it to bribe Halbech or otherwise get leverage over them and their allies. Or, they could want to expose Halbech. We don't really know. Mix-maxers have no real reason to choose this option over blackmailing Halbech as Halbech gives you more money, but role-players who have it out against Halbech may find this to be an appealing alternative to the small fee Scarlet gives you.
What you do with each piece of Halbech intel document is a very minor choice, but I good way for min/maxers and role-players to better customize their experience. I'm curious what many of you guys do with the Halbech data. I usually sell them on the Black Market because Halbech does not deserve to know it's been compromised.

Anaphysik says at the end "This should be the end of the first episode...." This is because we had planned to make the conversation with Steven Heck and the bugging of G22's servers one episode, but cut it because we underestimated how long these two missions would take and overestimated how long one of the other missions in this chunk would take, so it did even out to four episodes anyway.


Thomas said...

I stealthed it and he still manages to contact you (although I think he complements you on the stealth? It might be worth reputation?) I guess its part of his hacking super powers. The dialogue is phrased complementary enough and the encounter is positive enough that it's not obnoxious

newdarkcloud said...

One thing about Albatross is that he's quite polite even when you wrong him. If he's mad at you, you can tell he's pissed, but he keeps his composure remarkably well.

Thomas said...

I think he might be my favourite character, his role in the story is interesting and I love the sort of soft calculating balance he has. Him or Marburg. Maybe Heck. Deng was pretty cool too. And Leland. And Parker. Also Sis but since she never does anything thats probably because I'm being a total guy

newdarkcloud said...

Indeed. The characters are part of why Alpha Protocol is such a good game! :D

Thomas said...

Checked a walkthrough and it does change the convo a little bit if you're undetected. Unluckily this mission is no detection instead of no alarms (it's normally no alarms) so Aldowyn didn't trigger it. Most missions that would have counted as a stealth run

anaphysik said...

Incidentally, did either of you get the Galaxy Quest ref that I made (and that Mumbles clearly got)?

Btw, you may know a cravat as a more common term for it: ascot.
In our joking, I say that it's a sort of vase; I was making a play on 'carafe.' I wonder if Mumbles' "it's a type of morgue" was a similar play?

Anonymous said...

I do wonder, though, if he's already met G22 in Moscow, why doesn't Thorton have the option to just abandon the mission immediately and then try to contact Albatross to ask him what's going on? If he's worked with them before, why risk jeopardizing their alliance by attacking/infiltrating one of their bases of operation?

newdarkcloud said...

I had the same thought when I did this mission, and I honestly don't know.

anaphysik said...

Frankly it's sort of a continuity error. Albatross is described in the dossiers as merely the leader of one of several G22 cells, so it's weird to have him contact you in both Taipei and Moscow. OTOH, he really does feel like the leader-leader of the whole organization, and his Parker-like status double-implies that. Of course, Shaheed is described as the leader of al-Samad but even he doesn't know what the activated al-Samad cell is doing in Rome, and can only get the al-Samad dudes there to be not-hostile to you.

Really, it's kind of a problem with the mission-focused nature of the game, where having chosen a specific choice before would logically eliminate an entire mission. Now, the game does do that elsewhere... but NOT with any combat-focused mission. (And it's important to note that I think you can only get XP on missions with potential combat (since defined mission objectives can't show up otherwise :S).)

Anyway, I would prefer if you could simply contact Alby/Shaheed/etc. and have that complete those missions in a different way (probably just a dialogue sequence). Alternatively, pull a Moscow-embassy-style move: e.g. if you Alby likes you/you allied with G22, have him contact you, telling you that CSP had taken over their servers, and asks you to surreptitiously infiltrate and destroy/bug/fill-with-disinformation the captured G22 servers.

Ringwraith said...

I do believe you get +1 reputation from Albatross as soon as he contacts you if you stealthed it fairly well, and +2 if you shadowed it (i.e. no-one went to high-alert). The results comments on this as well if you shadowed it, in place of the "was detected" message.

Anonymous said...

Also, the 'underage girls' line was pretty darn hilarious, considering. Even more so because it's a Veteran choice, which means that (unless you modded/cheated/second handed/ect.) you wouldn't be able to select it unless you had already played the game once before, and thus be able to get the in-joke right off the bat. Well played, Obsidian.

anaphysik said...

At the same that I love how in-joke-prescient it is, it's still a RIDICULOUSLY dickish thing to say, especially without any proper prompting.