9) The Alpha Device (Xiotex Studios)
The arrival of The Alpha Device came during a year that many AAA game developers began experimenting with visual novels and interactive fiction. I am a proponent of these experiments and it can help not only this medium grow, but help gaming grow. However, it is important not just to experiment with the formulas of gaming, but to take stock of those experiments and see if they succeeded. The Alpha Device is a fail.
There are several problems with The Alpha Device. On a technical level, the game is poorly optimized: meaning you’ll be spending most of the game hovering around a poorly rendered and lit backdrop instead of the ominous alien mechanism and architecture the game wants the setting to be. While the full range and freedom of movement sounds like a good idea on paper, the actual movement can be clunky at best and literally nauseating at worst. But, beyond that, the story is simply not good.
While the story arc and overall theme is an interesting spin on a typical science fiction antagonistic force (nothing you haven’t seen if you’ve played, say, Mass Effect), the narrative mechanics don’t give time or space (heh) for any emotional tie-ins: just a cold, logical appreciation of what was happening. And as cold and logical as I can be, what makes Mass Effect effective with a similar plot thread isn’t the scope of the threat, but rather what the player stands to lose if they failed. That feeling of loss is just not there and it, along with it’s technical faults, put it here. Hopefully Xiatec can learn from this and apply those lessons to their future work.