Dishonored: The Game that Frustrates and Rewards
The question of whether videogames are viable platforms for artistic expression is a difficult one, with proponents on either side claiming ignorance of the other. Art or not, games still have to be fun….and Dishonored walks that tightrope….most of the time. Dishonored is developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda, and is a tremendously dense and expressive game. Dishonored follows the story of Corvo Attano, bodyguard to the Empress of the 17th century fictionalized whaling-city, Dunwall You’re framed for her death and the kidnapping of her daughter by the nefarious political elite manipulating control, and you free yourself from torture find those fighting against tyranny – so begins the world of Dishonored.
To say that the art direction in Dishonored is simple is to say that the world is 9 thousand years old – just plan stupid and suspiciously Christian. Every shred of the environment has its own personality and resonance – the cobble stone is slightly askew, the clothing is flamboyant without losing function, and even the rats carry a “French Cartoon that wins 7 Oscars” sort of vibe. Character models are rich with a quasi-magical and even scientific feel – although after a while you do see the same hulking brute a few too many times. Underpinned by an exhaustive score by Dexter composer Daniel Litch that shifts and changes depending on your actions, the game creates an immersion that helps you forget the outside world
In terms of the narrative experience, Dishonored delivers but doesn’t break the mold – the twists and turns are presented in an interesting way but aren’t entirely unexpected. The world as living entity is more interesting than the people living within it. Communities suffer or flourish depending on your actions – listening to ambient conversation also pushes the plot along more effectively than the characters, to the point that I found myself stopping to listen to every passing guard I met. One issue is that Corvo doesn’t speak – he is, as Arkane puts it, a blank slate, which is misstep when surrounded by such strong voice talent. As well, Corvo may be silent, but the game acts as if he’s not. Your character answers important questions from NPC’s and functions as if audible words were coming from his mouth yet your TV is on mute. It’s a simple issue that time and again takes you out of the experience in the key moments.
Many games strive for an eclectic play style – Dishonored promises both visceral combat and exciting stealth action. Using powers like Blink and Possession you take control of the map and reach areas that few games let you explore. Yet the problem is that a pure combat or stealth playthrough is punishingly difficult – especially at the early levels – yet the game clearly rewards players that inflict minimal carnage through their Chaos system, which basically causes bleak desolation or slightly less bleak desolation based on your actions. Coupling that with the lack of any sort of map feature is staggering, but all that aside, Dishonored provided a moment in gaming that has yet to be matched.
In one of the earliest levels you have the objective to eliminate a High Overseer of a major religion in the game while also protecting the man he’s drinking with. The High Overseer is trying to poison his drinking buddy and you have the option to switch the drinks, mix or even spill them. Opting to spill, the High Overseer moved with his chum to a secret chamber to view a rare painting. Issue is – I had already swiped the treasure, which then changed the game and caused the High Overseer to react differently. The variables at play are staggering and truly an achievement in and of itself.
Don’t go into Dishonored expecting a revolution – it provides an exciting and, most importantly, fun experience while still maintaining its artistic integrity. If you can swallow a few issues time and again, it will leave you wanting to play again and again!
As well – you can be a fish, so that’s something- Click HERE to see our Interview with Harvey on the game!