Dishonoured, Gaming Storytelling
Dishonoured is a new stealth-and-stab-em-up from Arkane and Bethesda, that follows in the footsteps of amazing work by Thief, Deus Ex, and other such titans.
The core game follows Corvo and his quest of revenge and redemption against a dark world of Victorian breeding. To spoil as little plot as possible, you are protector of the Empress, falsely accused of her murder.
So far, I have cleared Dishonoured once, with High Chaos; akin to a morality system, yet not. I enjoyed the passage immensely; the stealth mechanic, troublesome at times worked well. Silent kills are the trade of the game, a deadly blade animated well.
The crossbow, the hidden trap, a gunfight in the street; Dishonoured does not restrict how you deal death, offering numerous paths.
Combined with the teleport power, this game excels at cathartic murder.
Or perhaps, redemption lies without a single drop of blood spilled. Thus, is Dishonoured; that no matter how you play, each situation may be soaked by blood, or left empty.
Utterly By the Numbers
To contrast the polished gleam of gameplay, Dishonoured’s story hits every mark and betrayal of countless stories you have read before. The grand twist of Bioshock? The taunting of SHODAN? The unravelled conspiracies of Deus Ex? The stalking of Cate Archer?
None of this can be found in Dunwall. Dishonoured is Corvo’s story; it is the betrayal you expect, executed as you expect. Small moments of remorse, self-pity; gems in an otherwise drab tale.
Arkane were even able to wring mediocrity from well-known voice talents; boring dialogue delivered badly, aching for a writer of skill.
Forumlaic and trite, if passable. RAGE, I hear, sinned far worse.
In spite of the drab tale, Dishonoured does weave a world of desperation, intrigue and hope elegantly; a world modelled on Victorian London, filled with industrial excesses, cruelty and suffering. A plague-ravaged city, old gods slipping through the cracks of the new, and magic half-believed, half-hoped for.
The old violated by the new; metal piercing stone, failing attempts to contain a ravaging plague. A fantasy world, an innocent place losing its innocence through desperation.
Dunwall is powerful and dark without a single death; the backdrop of the plague and the loss of innocence sets a foreboding tone.
For all of Dishonoured being Corvo’s story, it is Dunwall’s tale that is told. The fall, or hard-won redemption of an empire against revolutionary chaos.
I remain deeply intrigued by the world, hopeful that a better writer will do it justice.
A Glaring Change
I played the game, as mentioned as High Chaos. I slew with wild abandon, leaving trails of the dead in my wake. Throughout the game, Samuel, the boatman, was kind and courteous to me, offering help and advice.
When I reached the final level, he suddenly became brusque and offensive. There was none of the earlier camaraderie, no sense of brotherhood.
My unceremonious dumping was even further disrupted by his revealing my presence to the guards.
This made no sense in terms of the story told to that point; for all his help, he now betrays me? For all his risks, now I am thrown to the wolves?
This moment made no sense, and I believe broke the character.
Buy it. Ignore the insipid dialogue and trite characterisations; focus on the dark world and polished, delightful gameplay.
Stab. Sneak. Change the world.