And we're back! Again! With a Short Script of a game that came out last October! The game did take away the BAFTA for Best Game last week, so I am on top of things! Anyways, I've had great fun with Dishonored, as it's a game that places player agency front and centre. As a result, a hell of a lot has been written about its themes, mechanics, and approach to morality. I think you'll have gathered from this blog that I pay special attention to narrative, which I find lacking in Dishonored, but understandably so. Dishonored's story is really an easel, there to support a blank canvas which you can paint how you like (i.e. with blood or not).
While obvious care went into crafting a cast of characters and a series of events, Dishonored doesn't really care much about its story. The inciting incident was widely advertised before the game's launch, which made the betrayal of Hiram Burrows just a box that needed ticking. His character design screams 'Evil!' and he gloats to Corvo in a scene right after framing him for murder. There's not a shred of mystery or intrigue there, just a bad guy you're going after.
The reveal that the Loyalists, the people you're working with against Burrows, also betray Corvo is equally telegraphed within the game, which causes it to lose its impact as well (which is illustrated nicely here). Then all remaining plot points are just haphazard detours along the path of Corvo's second quest for revenge. Overall, it's not a bad story and its elements work together pretty well, there's just nothing there to elevate it to greatness. The universe is in fact far more interesting than the story that's played out in it. Dunwall doesn't feel like a living, breathing city, it feels like a dying, wheezing one.
The game's true strength lies in the way it empowers the player. Stealth games usually force the player into something I like to call 'anticipatience', which means clocking guard patrol routes and waiting for the opportune moment to strike. You're essentially adapting to the environment. Dishonored introduces a whole new approach to that tactic with its brilliant Blink mechanic, which allows you to reverse that dynamic and control the environment. Basically, ever since playing Dishonored, I've started seeing paths optimal for blinking in other games.
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