Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Way, hey and up she rises
Early in the morning
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This is your standard spoiler warning. If you don't want Dishonored spoiled then you should probably move along.
I knew it was only a matter of time before you showed up again to take your revenge on me. Revenge is what you do best, after all, just like Corvo. I just hope I have the stomach for you this time around.
This is Ghost, thanks for joining!
In 2012 I made a blog post about Why the Modern FPS is Killing Gaming. In that discussion I called out Dishonored an an example of publishers wanting something done quickly and cheaply and how I was utterly disappointed in Dishonored as a whole; my hype for it being killed completely once I found out that it was just a bunch of episodic missions. I wasn't altogether fair with that criticism... at least not in that particular aspect as I was judging something based on purely what others were saying and not my own findings. That and I shouldn't fault a game for being different than the other Bethesda products I had played since I was comparing it to Skyrim... a problem that wasn't helped by the fact that the same character appears in both games.
So in 2013 I got the game... and my disappointment stayed with me. There were a lot of things about the game that just didn't make me want to continue with it so I boxed it up and put it on my gaming shelf to sit there beside Phantom Hourglass in the line of games that I don't want to play ever again but don't want to sell back to Gamestop out of the chance I might get a brain aneurism and decide I want to play something painful for some reason. Jump to 2015 and I was watching a Games Done Quick episode of Banjo-Kazooie for my review of that game and ran across Decidedsloth's Non-Lethal Ghost Speedrun of Dishonored. It honestly made me want to play the game once more since I had only gotten to the second mission in my one and only playthrough. I was determined to get to the end of the game this time no matter how irritating it might end up being.
So... is there hidden greatness in this game or will I remain completely disappointed like I had for those other two years? Let's take a look!
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While the main storyline is mostly the same old formulaic plot we've seen over and over, there are a fair amount of side missions and subplots that DO bring some interesting creativity to the mix. There's a sort of weird turf war between the leader of a street gang named Slackjaw and a blind semi-immortal witch named Granny Rags. In one segment you catch your weapons creator being a creepy pervert and scold him for it which was fairly amusing. There's humorous conversations between guards and other NPCs that can catch you off guard like this one conversation I heard between two guards where one was asked how old his sister was, and he responded with "blow off, choffer!" There's an old fashioned pistol duel at a masquerade... the list goes on. It's all the side content in the story that really makes this an interesting experience. The strangest of all is the Art Dealer who is tied up to and electrocution machine at a brothel because that's just his fetish apparently.
I'm not actually joking...this is a thing
Most of the characters you meet through the game aren't anything outstanding. The villains are fairly generic corrupt politicians while the loyalists are mostly generic noblemen and military men with an agenda. Even some of the more amusing characters like Emily and Slackjaw are still nothing extremely unique, just a semi-standard girl and mob boss. The only two who really stood out to me are Granny Rags and Samuel. Granny Rags comes off at first as just a rambling crazy old bat who's just a little weird, however she later turns out to be a threatening presence once the turf war between her and Slackjaw comes to a close. You just have to trust me on that one it's bizarre and creepy. Samuel is your boat driver who carts you to and from each mission. He's a wonderful character who is that kind older man who knows his place in the world and hopes for the best with a little bit of humor along the way. He's really great and he's probably my favorite character in the entire game! The rest are nice just not all that memorable to the point that half of them I don't even remember their names.
GameplayThe gameplay for the most part is pretty solid. Character movement was not delayed or clunky; climbing around on walls and barriers was also easy to master and simple enough to use. This game is in the first person so the camera was never an issue. Everything seemed pretty fluent. The only issue I had with generalized movement was once you unlocked the Agility perk and got the double jump ability. Sometimes for no reason whatsoever the double jump just refused to work. Actually it just flat refused to work in any aspect more often than not. I've never seen anyone really complain about this so maybe I'm just doing it wrong but it became quite annoying especially in some of the harder segments of the last mission.
Being stealthy is key to this game as being spotted instantly results in several burly men rushing towards you to fight to the death with very few opportunities to really lose them and hide for awhile. There are some added bonuses to doing things stealthily such as gear enhancements that make you silent, and sleep darts which knock people out instantly. You can sneak up on people and choke them into a state of unconsciousness as well. Once you have knocked someone out (or killed them) it's best to find a place to hide them because if another guard spots an unconscious or dead body they'll start looking around for you for quite some time. It's better to never have that happen. Thankfully you have some magic that helps with moving around stealthily such as Dark Vision which allows you to see through walls and see the scope of view enemies have. You also get an incredibly useful skill called Blink which teleports you to the place of your choosing instantly. Finally, you get Bend Time which, when fully upgraded, completely stops time so that you can get around tricky situations without being seen whatsoever.
The Moral Choice ProblemThat's right ladies and gentlemen, go ahead and wail in torment because this game has a morality path. Now I've played games with a morality path in the past and most of them have ranged from fairly good to absolutely awful; this game is on the lower end of the scale for morality paths. You see, in this game there are two different ending scenarios... well three technically but you have to actively choose the worst one of the three. The morality choices you make not only affect the ending but it also affects little things in the game like the number of enemies, the presence of terrible storms, the number of plague rats, and the personality of Emily which is a really nice touch that you don't see very often.
In order to get the good ending where the plague is stopped, Emily is on the throne, and the land enters a golden age of peace you must have low chaos in most of the missions in the game. How do you achieve low chaos? Well first off you have to not kill the civilians. That's not a problem whatsoever as civilians don't actually attack you once they spot you; they either run away screaming or just ignore you for the most part. Easy enough. You also have to deal with all of your assassination missions in a non-lethal manner. That's fine as well because there are ready-made ways of doing that for each and every one of them hidden in the mission somewhere that don't require a ton of extra time in all reality. I do have to question the "good morality" in not killing the targets however because some fates are far worse than death. Personally I think death would be a more kind and better option than being exiled to eventually become a zombie, having your tongue cut out and placed into a slave labor mine, or being held against your will for the rest of your life by a man who has the hots for you... I'll let your mind wander on that one for a moment. If those were the only calculations in the morality choice then I wouldn't have a problem but NOPE there's more!
You also have to avoid killing as many of the city guards and zombies as possible in this game... less than 20% of them can die at any given time through the game period. WHAT?! That's right, both the city guards and zombies who instantly attack you in gross the second they spot you have to be spared as well. Now let's take a look at this little problem. The only way to take out someone non-lethally is to use a sleep dart or choke them. Choking takes time and you can be spotted by random head movements while doing so making this occasionally fail. Sleep darts only work while you remain unnoticed and make the person drop where they are. If the person falls and makes noise they'll start looking for you. If someone turns their head and sees their unconscious coworker they will start to look for you and if they find you you can't use sleep darts or choke them to knock them unconscious the only way out is killing them which you want to actively avoid in order to get the good ending. Now it's true that you can purchase an upgrade that make your sleep darts effective during battle so if you're spotted you can still knock people unconscious but in many sections there are a large number of guards who come running to attack you so you'll have to use the majority of your sleep darts as you can only carry 10 of them with no way of increasing your sleep dart capacity.
Now obviously if you don't care about which ending you get and are willing to accept the bad ending where the plague continues to happen and Emily is only remembered as a failed Empress with a twisted sense of reality then you have no issues. Just slit throats wherever you wish and be gone about your business as usual. However if you want the good ending it's a real chore and it didn't need to be. There was one easy way to fix the whole issue of the morality choice and that was to simply eliminate the City Guard and Zombies from adding to the chaos calculation. That's it! I appreciate a game trying to think of the whole of humanity here but few if any games ever do this sort of thing.
Take Fallout 3, another Bethesda Game for example.
ConclusionBen "Yahtzee" Croshaw said it best. "I left Dishonored disappointed, not angry, disappointed. Like if someone I respected forgot which part of the body piss comes out of.... It's like someone took a box of Ferrero Rocher and randomly distributed them throughout a spherical mass of damp toilet paper. Not a painful experience, but it just makes sense to get Ferrero Rocher at a different sweets shop."
That's pretty much how I feel about Dishonored. There's a lot of creativity and ideas in this game between the setting, some of the characters, the powers and the designs. It's honestly something that under normal circumstances I would return to time and time again like Fallout 3 and Skyrim but how they implemented the morality choice just killed it for me and killed my enjoyment of the game. It's sad when there can be so much right with a game but then colossally mess up one aspect so bad that it destroys any enjoyment you might have had.
If you don't care about having the bad ending and are perfectly fine with having a bleak outlook of the human experience and future then you probably won't have as big of a problem with this game as I did. If you are like me and are striving for a good ending then I doubt I can recommend this as it becomes quite a tedious frustration.... not bad just a real disappointment of what could have been something absolutely wonderful.
This is Ghost, fading into the darkness.
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