Back in my senior year of high school, my English teacher called me up after class and showed me an assignment that I’d recently turned in. She said that my paper was well-written, but unfortunately, it had nothing to do with the prompt that I’d been assigned. She said that this left her feeling conflicted, because although the work I produced was high quality, how was she supposed to grade it when I didn’t follow the instructions that I’d been given?
This is similar to how I feel about Midnight Protocol. The game is awesome and delivers such a unique experience, but it’s so vastly different from what people expect from a typical video game, that I’m honestly unsure about my feelings for the title.
In Midnight Protocol you play as a master hacker who’s recently been freed from prison and is looking to get revenge on those who wronged you. You do this the only way you know how, by using your leet hacker skills to delve into the seedy underbelly of the digital world and track down a mysterious hacker known as Kraken.
In most games, hacking takes the form of a brief mini-game, and it’s usually illustrated by either shooting something, reaching the end of the stage in a set amount of time, or even just a quick time event. But in Midnight Protocol, you’re breaking into computer networks and using keyboard commands like /forward1, /trojan, and /sldown4 to accomplish your goals.
(typing /help shows you a list of commands, this is incredibly helpful)
All commands in the game are done exclusively through your keyboard (the game even tells you at the very beginning to not freak out because there’s no mouse cursor), and as someone who hasn’t taken a computer class in quite a long time, I was initially drowning in all the information I needed to know to even move my character forward one space.
(The story is told via emails between you and other characters..
However, my time with this game ended up being incredibly positive, because even though it took me a while to understand what the heck was going on, once you do get the hang of things, there’s an incredible amount of depth. And as I became more experienced, my fingers were zipping across the keyboard, inputting commands like I was a master hacker from one of those cheesy 90s movies. Make no mistake, I was still awful, but hey, at least I felt cool.
Midnight Protocol is entirely turn-based, and mercifully this means that I can spend however long I need to look up commands and plot out my moves accordingly. You want to be smart when you play because the further you go into the game, the more it expects from you, and you need to constantly stay on your toes. At the start of the game, you can move your character from node to node without any real trouble, but as the difficulty ramps up, you start encountering obstacles like firewalls, ICE programs, and viruses, and you start being hunted down by enemy A.I. which will actively pursue you during missions.
Each mission has different kinds of security measures you’ll have to deal with (some levels have lots of firewalls, some are on a strict timer, etc.), and you’re given something called a deck to help handle each new problem. In layman’s terms, you’re able to buy new abilities and power-ups on the black market, and you can choose up to five abilities to place into your deck before each mission. Certain missions can have very specific ways to beat them, so if you’re having trouble, you can change out programs to find a more effective deck, and it’s also just fun swapping out programs and learning what they do and how they work.
For example, the jackhammer card allows you to break through firewalls faster, the leech makes it easier to drain money from bank accounts, and the cloak is great if you’re terrible at the game and need a few extra turns to get stuff done (this was my favorite ability). Decks add a ton of variety to the game, and it allows you to tackle the same level in radically different ways which can add a lot of replay value..
Midnight Protocol feels like it’s designed for a very certain type of person. If you play games to relax after a long day of school or work, this is not for you. But if you enjoy the cerebral challenge and the feeling of mastering a game’s systems and mechanics, then you’ll have a great time with this title. Midnight Protocol expects a ton from the player, but those who put in the time to master the systems will be handsomely rewarded and will have an experience that is radically unlike anything else on the market.