How often do we hear developers promise that their game is going to give unprecedented freedom to the player? That a particular game is going to be a revolutionary experience? And how often does the final product end up being nothing like what we were promised it would be?
With titles like Watch Dogs, Mighty No. 9, and No Man’s Sky being overhyped and sold on false promises, I wouldn’t blame you for harboring a sense of mistrust in certain developers. As consumers, we want a functioning product. As gamers, we want to lose ourselves in new worlds.
There are few things that irk me more than when these large companies make promises they can’t keep. I understand that a lot goes into developing a game; not every idea is going to make it into the final version. But what about the ideas promised and promoted that never make it into the final copy?
While it seems to be an unfortunate trend that more and more developers are following, it’s nice to remember the good ol’ days when a video game would actually follow through on the promises made about it. In particular, I’m thinking about one of my all-time favorites: Dishonored.
Dishonored takes place in one of the most dreary locations I’ve ever seen in a video game. You play as man named Corvo Attano, the right hand man to the queen of the empire. When you’re framed for her murder, it’s up to you to navigate the filthy, slimy, city of Dunwall and uncover the conspiracy around your framing. It’s a powerful tale of revenge, one full of mystery and murder.
One of the reasons I love the game so much is because of this setting.
Dunwall feels like a city that could actually exist in another time and place. Sure, there’s some high-tech science that seems a little farfetched (power is generated from condensed whale fat), but there’s an oddly realistic feel to the city of Dunwall. As a wanted murderer, the streets are full of soldiers patrolling the streets while looking for you. The majority of the city’s inhabitants are safe and snug behind the locked doors of their home, but there’s still the occasional civilian roaming the streets.
There are also businesses set up everywhere, and most places of interest can be entered to find valuable items to help you on your quest for revenge. Whether it’s a brewery, museum, or gentleman’s club, Dunwall has a very distinct (and grimy) culture. Furthermore, there’s hidden letters, notes, leaflets, and books to discover that further flesh out the society of Dunwall and the lore of the in-game universe at large. Learning about the science this world uses, or the way their government is run is fascinating. As someone who obsesses over lore, Dishonored satisfied me with how far it goes to make its world feel realized.
However, as truly great as the setting and lore is, the gameplay of Dishonored is what has made it so special in my eyes. Dishonored is one of the few games that makes crazy promises to the player and actually follows through. It’s both a brutal first-person shooter and a tense stealth oriented experience, with the player given the freedom to choose which style they want to play.
If you want to get right into the thick of the battle, you can grab your sword and pistol and do just that. Is somebody blocking your path? Cut them down. Is there an enemy attacking you from a distance? Pull out your gun and shoot back. There’s also grenades, a crossbow, and a plethora of supernatural abilities bestowed on the player to unleash maximum carnage.
But what if you prefer a sneakier approach to combat? Well, Dishonored caters to that playstyle too. You can creep through the shadows, sneak up behind your enemies, and kill them without ever making your presence known. The crossbow works excellently on a stealth play through, allowing you to dispatch foes from great distances without revealing yourself. Likewise, there’s a ton of abilities that benefit the stealth approach. Some of my favorites include the ability to turn invisible, slow time, and possess people.
What’s that? You don’t want to be forced into any one playstyle? Well, you’re in luck, because Dishonored lets you play however you want. You can barge into a room and grab everyone’s attention, turn around, cloak yourself, and then silently kill each guard as they pour out of a room in search of you. You can also sneak around and be free to use more combat oriented abilities if you get in a rough situation. The beauty of Dishonored is that it never punishes you for picking one style over another. In fact, the game practically begs you to experiment with all styles of play and fully test out every weapon and ability.
I’ve found so much replayability in Dishonored that I’ve beaten it close to 15 times.
Every single time I play, I find new things to do. Whether it’s combining different weapons and abilities to see how they work in conjunction with each other, or finding strange way to utilize the environment as a weapon, there’s always new things to discover and learn.
It’s also worth noting that there’s a morality system to the game. Without spoiling too much, depending on how much carnage you cause, you can change the severity of the world around you. If you sneak through killing a minimal amount of enemies, future levels will be a little more relaxed. However, if you rack up your body count to a high number, you’ll start seeing more enemies in patrols, tougher variants of them, and even unlock a darker ending to the campaign. While this might sound like a penalty at first, I assure you it isn’t. Playing loud and brutal is fun, and the added challenge of more and tougher enemies just inspires more possibilities in combat.
In case you haven’t caught on, I love Dishonored.
The world feels alive and rich with possibility, the multiple approaches to combat are incredible, and the freedom to bounce around between them and make your own playstyle is masterful. With Dishonored 2 releasing next week, I wanted to take the time to share my love of the first game with you, and hopefully inspire you to pick it up if you’ve never played it before. And if you do decide to play it, I hope you find as much enjoyment with it as I have.
– Zack Burrows