Reviews - Updated on March 31, 2022

The sci-fi RPG The Protagonist was announced by 3Mind Games back in 2018, and two years ago I included it in the list of the most anticipated of the little-known role-playing games to the general public. And it was for that: the authors said that Mass Effect, XCOM and Divinity: Original Sin were sources of inspiration for them, they promised harsh tactical battles, as well as interactive dialogues with choices and consequences. And what did we get in the end?

angel of salvation

When Mass Effect, XCOM and Divinity: Original Sin are named as sources of inspiration, what are the first associations that arise? There will be space, tactical battles and moral choices. And formally, all this is in The Protagonist: EX-1. Another question: how is it implemented?

It all starts with the fact that our heroine with the call sign Angel as part of a group of operatives (mostly her subordinates) flies to carry out an important task to neutralize the alien threat. But, as usual, a catastrophe happened, and the girl woke up in a pool of blood and smoke. And in the headphones, she hears the voice of an unknown Pilot, who explains the situation and begins to direct her – Angel found herself on an alien space station that needs to be explored in order to find a way out, save the rest of her team members and eliminate the threat to the entire Earth.

The Protagonist EX-1: Overview

What is it next to our “angel” – I don’t even want to ask.

However, you can not look for your own and not save them. In some situations, partners join us in the story, while in others they offer a choice – to be distracted and try to find their own, or not to take risks and not run into a new fight. And even if we have found an ally, we decide whether to take the person with us into hell or leave him in a safer place.

On this occasion, and not only on this, conflicts periodically arise with the Radical – a harsh man who is the first to join the Angel. She even has to explain to him a couple of times with her fists and feet who is in charge here and how it is impossible to talk with girls, especially if they are higher in rank.

The Protagonist EX-1: Overview

Then other characters join them.

Fight, hack, collect!

However, we fight mainly with alien mechanisms and other creatures hosting the station. Moreover, we also often fight with our hands and feet – the authors are especially proud of the melee system, which allows us to add combos from blows with different parts of the body for the allotted points. And all these strokes are allowed to be pumped separately.

The Protagonist EX-1: Overview

Our heroine does not go into her pocket for a fist.

Combat in The Protagonist: EX-1 takes place in turn-based mode. There are indicators of initiative and accuracy (they, like other basic characteristics, are upgraded for attribute points with new levels), in their turn they are allowed to move and attack / use skills.

Other skills available for improvement are related to the skill of using different types of firearms (pistols, shotguns, machine guns) and melee (swords, daggers, blunt objects) weapons, healing wounded allies, hacking enemy drones and repairing one’s shields. An angel, for example, can take control or infect opponents with a virus right in battle, as well as inflict massive damage on them using hacker skills.

You don’t have to spend grenades on such tricks.

Outside of combat, she knows how to hack terminals to open doors, find notes or recipes for crafting – the heroine makes weapons, armor, and consumables using them. Often, not only the main recipe is required, but also additional technology. For example, having a basic preparation for a grenade, we can add to it the technology of electric damage (it will turn out to be shock) or an electromagnetic impulse, which allows you to disable equipment for a while.

The Protagonist EX-1: Overview

We pump all fighters manually.

So crafting and hacking skills are also important here. In the future, with the addition of new fighters to us, it becomes possible to manufacture implants. And in order for there to be more soldiers, you need to pump leadership.

We ourselves determine the specialization of new team members. But by default, the main medic is … a dog named Buddy – she torments enemies and heals / reanimates allies.

The Protagonist EX-1: Overview

Two in the space boat, not counting the dog.

And here we also drag the boxes

However, in The Protagonist: EX-1 we not only fight, but also solve puzzles. Sometimes it’s not enough to hack another terminal to open the doors – you still need to get to this terminal. And for this we use energy cubes that the Angel remotely moves and places on the panels in order to open something somewhere. There are slightly more complex options, when, for example, we place this cube in special portals, and they transfer them to another place, where we put them on the desired panel.

This is how it looks like.

There are also unstable cubes that can be exploded – either to inflict as much damage as possible on enemies in battle or to destroy a wall behind which we will find more crafting parts or a terminal with recipes for it.

Sometimes you need to split the team so that, for example, in one place, the Angel hacked into the terminal and opened the way for the second squad, and on the other side, it unlocked the door for our heroine. Or in specially provided places, a dog is separated from us, which we manage in another room with the same goals – to stand on the pressure panel and open the door to the others. In general, Buddy is the most useful character after Angel.

The Protagonist EX-1: Overview

Sometimes you have to ride on the platforms.

Quantity instead of quality

It would seem that everything is cool. Here you have space, and turn-based battles, and puzzles, and pumping, and craft, and a moral choice with a showdown between partners. And even a faithful dog as a field medic. But the point is how it is implemented. And here, bend your fingers.

There are few dialogues and situations of choice, they have a minimum of drama and sparks, and globally they have little effect – the authors seem to have added them to work out the mandatory program about “We also have non-linearity”. Puzzles, as you already understood, are monotonous and constantly repeated. And there are not as many interesting puzzles when you need to divide the squad as you would like.

In battles, the vaunted melee combo system is little used – the characters do not move too far and move quickly, so it is much more effective to give out firearms to everyone. And the barking Buddy throws grenades.

The Protagonist EX-1: Overview

Immediately after the battle, the fallen are resurrected without any penalties.

Yes, during the shooting, both we and the enemies often miss, but this happens in hand-to-hand combat, besides, there is always an option to pump accuracy. And in any case, the battles do not pose a particular challenge – there are few tactical tools, there are not even shelters (I generally keep quiet about the use of heights). Opponents also repeat for a long time, use the same tactics, and when it gets hot, the same Buddy effectively comes to the rescue.

The Protagonist EX-1: Overview

It is better to protect the dog in the first place.

There is a lot of crafting, but the mechanics itself is primitive – everything is made from the same resource. And the interface for both crafting and the game as a whole is too cumbersome. Well, in general, The Protagonist: EX-1 is monotonous and dull in terms of design – we spend all the way in the same scenery of an alien station. And it would be fine if the scenery were pretty, but the game is frankly outdated from a technical point of view – it seems that it was announced not in 2018, but in 2008.

The Protagonist EX-1: Overview

It is impossible to look at models and facial animation without tears.

The Protagonist: EX-1 gives the impression of a game that had potential and good ideas, but which the authors actually abandoned and decided to throw into the release as it is – monotonous, with a bunch of declared, but poorly working mechanics and technically outdated.

Pros: Lots of potentially interesting mechanics – there are puzzles, crafting, turn-based combat, and moral choice situations.

Cons: everything is implemented poorly and superficially; the game is monotonous and technically outdated.

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