ARTICLE: Looking Back at Dishonored

Written by NAPK1NS

Were at the end of this console generation, or getting close, and I’m looking back on the lows and highs of gaming’s past six years. There have been bummers, misses and strike-outs along the way. Gears of War hit me pretty hard: the graphics did nothing to pan the short campaign, bad net code, and disfigured multiplayer. On the flip side, massive hype engines still managed to be great a la BioShock, StarCraft II, MGS4 and others.

However, nothing pains me more than Arkane Studios with Dishonored. Now, their past track record in proportion to this game, makes it look like a masterpiece. And in a number of ways, it kind of is.

Only kind of. So many aspects are tuned to greatness while others were left undeveloped by the way side. Ill explain:

The Gameplay

We’re supposed to have a lot of choices, right? Like, who we want to kill, how we want to kill them if we choose to at all. The level design accomplishes this. Even with a plague and murderer running rampant, every building has an open window or vent you can conveniently creep through.

This feels nice, and leaves the decisions in players lap. Trouble is that the games other assets don’t support this level of freedom.

Lets say we want to ice some of these guards. To do that we can shoot them with bullets, arrows, we can stab them, rip them in half, possess their minds, or let them get eaten by rats.

And if we want to be stealthy you can tranq them or hold the choke button for four seconds.

You cant tease a player to opposing playstyles if one of them is blatantly more interactive. There needs to be more appealing reasons to go quiet besides a reduced rodent population. The end result is a game that alludes to gameplay diversity without following through.

Also, what is the point of a hub world if almost all of the upgrading systems happen from the menu? I can see some people liking this aspect of the game, but I hated riding dutch with old man Ahab. This is the most immersive part of the game since I felt about as bored as the wordless Corvo.

The Story

So, we play as this Corvo guy. There’s this bully government, and these guys knifed the queen, copped the heir and said some one-liners. After that, Matrix Jesus tells us that magic is real and, and you press a button to do it. And, after that, some rag taggers are hidden on the coastline and they give you reasons to kill people.

After you run through the game you’ll get an impression much like this one. You start asking questions and it all comes apart.

Its back to that choice thing again. I’m a hired man. I’m my own force. Who are these people in relation to me? Why is the government so evil what are they doing? The game forces you to ally with one of these two factions without any past knowledge of either one. We don’t discover the world with Corvo, we are thrown into it, and he knows all this stuff we don’t.

Oh yeah, and if you start digging, listening to audio tapes/reading/listening you learn this: the world is s***. There’s a plague.

That’s it. No branching vision of the world, it all just sucks. Too bad writers, the gamer figures that out in the first half-hour. We get it. These peripheral story bites can only work if they expand players understanding.

And if this takes place in an alternate reality, why the hell does there need to be a magic god? Why not have magic be part of the setting and you just happen to harness it best?

The only thing sneakier than Corvo is the ending, which shuts the whole thing down like an early-arrived parent come home to a house party. Absolute minimal closure, roll credits.

The Creativity

This generation has learned that atmosphere and world design compel sales. Borderlands knew it, as did the Elder Scrolls, BioShock, Dead Space, and all kinds of stuff. Basically, developers are catching onto something: Giving the impression that a game has an assured tone and world will make $$$.

So, here comes Dishonored. And, I understand this is highly subjective, but what the hell is happening with this art direction? Its like BioShock walked into an Irish pub to attend the Steampunk happy hour, but got hit in the face by Half-Life 2. This all took place in WWII era Poland.

What Im trying to say that the game feels creatively unfocused. It’s able to inspire a lot of intrigue with some of its environments. Overall, it mimics before it produces.

Making an image off a brand is hard. This game took the easy way out and imitated successful styles without making its own. You can tell they want this Dishonored thing to work out, the main characters name is blurted every 15 minutes. They want to have a world people know and a character they associate with it. But it’s not that easy.

But Really…

This game is good. But the fact that its good and not great make it really disappointing. The skeleton of its narrative is interesting, the missions have layers, but the experience didn’t go as far as it could have.