Getting right to the point this time…
Hmm… Now, what did I like about the Dishonored? It had a nice atmosphere. The world was introduced in a strong way. It might’ve been very original; at the very least, it wasn’t a place I’ve ever been before. The mix of steampunk(?) and magic seemed to set it apart from other games.
I also liked the boatman. He was a nice boatman. What he said to Corvo (Mr Skullmask) in the final level gave me the kind of satisfaction I was working towards. (Low Chaos, for those who’ve played it and are wondering.) But that might’ve been the only moment in the game that satisfied me the way I wish all games did.
The Part Where I Actually Compare the Games in the Title
I didn’t expect to get to comparing so quickly. Maybe my memory’s not hazy. Maybe I just found Dishonored boring. I’ll know for certain after I’ve written through my thoughts.
Concerning Connections with the Characters (And the World)
As I’ve said before, when I play a game, one of the things I look for are connections on an emotional level. I look for characters to relate with, to help, and to journey with. But they can’t just be words in a box at the bottom of the screen, they have to alter the game somehow. If my interactions with them are of no consequence, I find it hard to trick myself into valuing them as allies or enemies. I learned I liked these things from Far Cry 2 and The Walking Dead game. (More info about that can be found in Pt.2.)
In the game’s opening mission (apart from the tutorial mission), the game tempted me with how there seemed to be so many people to meet. “Finally, a game that gives me choices,” was what I thought. Coming from the disaster of a narrative (IMO) that was Far Cry 3, I craved it. From the beginning of the game, I knew what I was aiming for. I wanted to do good for the people. It wasn’t so much about revenge as it was about fixing the things. Coincidentally, the ones responsible for the mess also decided to mess with my (Corvo’s) life.
“Sure, I’ll take care of them.”
So I had a goal (to save the city), a method (as quietly as possible, as little blood spillt), and a preference (to explore the lives of the people involved). But time after time, the people I helped, saved, and did favors for either disagreed with me or were pretty much inconsequential. I don’t remember when it hit me that it didn’t seem to matter how I played the game or what I played for. Noone came up beside me, telling me how great a job I was doing at trying not to kill everyone I see. The world didn’t even seem to change in any way I could see. (Technically, it does but it’s not like I had anything to compare it to. Remember the title, lol.)
Thus, everything I did seemed kind of pointless. The characters were sort of like cardboard.
(Though one character *did* drop a speech on me about how I “was given so much power but still kept the wellbeing of the people in mind.” That was the first and last thing to make me feel like playing the good guy was worthwhile.)
The verdict? The characters and how the world reacted to my choices didn’t satisfy me. But that might only be because other games taught me to ask for more and that more was possible.
On the Subject of Fun
Far Cry 3 wasn’t a terrible game. As far as I could tell, the way it blended stealth and gunplay was sort of revolutionary. The world was packed with things to do. It was, in fact, designed to distract you at every turn. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfjbMc32GRM Proof.) Though this might’ve been a terrible decision (in terms of keeping your interest in the narrative), it certainly made the game amazingly fun. (The story kind of applied burn damage at 10% of my maximum health over 3 seconds, making it hard to come back to for another play. I already finished it on the hardest difficulty anyway, there’s nothing new left for me that I care to look for.)
Immediately after Far Cry, I played Dishonored. It was sitting on my desk still wrapped up in it’s plastic wrap for a couple days as I finished up the islands. (Haha. Finished.) This may have been a Bad Idea, as it kinda made Dishonored really boring for me. I guess (Assassin’s Creed also contributed to it.) Because of the trailer and the style of game it seemed to be (and because of the other 2 stealth-based games I’ve ever played), I had mistaken Dishonored to be an open-world game. I looked forward to taking down watchtowers and running across the city with the City Watch on my tail. I was disappointed.
Now, the stealth in this game wasn’t actually that bad. Unlike FC3, the game was designed to let you ghost every mission. There were whole routes commited to having you virtually absent from the area. It was a little annoying to have guards able to hear you from a mile away, just because you’re walking instead of walking while bent over a little bit but otherwise, the stealth was solid. I imagine that the combat was fun. (OMG. The word count is at 999. Well, now you know that I’m a little sleepy at this point.) I say that I imagine it because I haven’t played the “Loudest Man in Dunwall” route. (Know what? I’ll hold off on selling this game. I’ll try being the Loudest Man in Dunwall first.)
I sort of played the whole game with my screen tinted red because of this ability that let me see through walls. In FC3, any enemy that you’ve tagged with your camera can be tracked through walls. Not so in Dishonored. It kind of ruined the visual aspect of the game for me, since the world was unique and fun to look at. I sometimes worried that I was missing out on seeing the world in a colour other than red. But I worried about getting caught more.
I’m rambling now so I’m not sure if I’ve made it clear that the way I played Dishonored wasn’t very fun. But I see now that there’s a whole side to the game that I haven’t quite explored yet. I should play it before I judge.
I mentioned before though, that I already feel like I’ve done everything there is to do in Far Cry 3. That’s because at the end of that game, you have all of your skills maxed already. You can’t straight stealth or straight rambo the whole game. Some missions require you to be stealthy, most require you to be a mindless killing machine. (Actually, the formula seems to be Stealth until you get caught, Rambo until the mission is over.) Add to that the lack of difficulty and a soul-crushing narrative and to me, it all equates to less replay value than a stick of cheap deodorant. That analogy didn’t make that much sense, did it? Don’t worry, it’s not my job. (I could argue that some of the outposts/missions aren’t designed solidly enough to allow for a variety of approaches (IE, There might only be one way to do things.) therefore, another difficulty level might not even be that fun. But maybe I’m just not being creative enough. I don’t care enough to find out.)
Dishonored gets credit for not being like that. It might be because it doesn’t give you enough skill points at the end of the game to completely max out your character. Might also be because it gives you clear, viable options every time. The story isn’t so bad that it makes you run away. And what might be a negative (the story being a little shallow) could also be a positive. Since you’re not emotionally tied to any characters or ideals, you’re free to experiment with the way you play the game.
World-Building and Following Through
FC3 and Dishonored share a problem. It’s quite a frustrating problem. You see, they pull you in with fragments of fantastical worlds. You see these shards of paradise and think, “There must be something greater than this out there.” So you keep looking. You follow the trail of diamond bread crumbs to paradise… But soon you notice… That the diamonds are slowly turning into coal. But you keep looking for these clues. You crave the other world! But one day, you don’t even find coal. You find chunks of dirt and dust. And at the end is a pile of dried shit.
With FC3, I’m mostly refering to the Lost Letters side-quest kind of thing. It started so well that I encourage everybody in the whole world to find them. But it ended like… Like the truth is still out there somewhere and only half of the story has been told. Like someone stole the letters and made the second half of the story boring instead of a great adventure. But I can only imagine. (Know what? Why don’t I write up what I imagine the rest of the story to be one day?)
The way Dishonored follows FC3 isn’t much of a spoiler. It’s disappointing in what it doesn’t show. If you played the game like I did, reading every book, listening to every voice recording, you’ll know what I mean when I say that the world in this game seems a lot bigger than what you’re shown. You get fragments of calendars, pointing out many months but only talking about one. Explainations of feast days and other festivities, again, mentioned but never elaborated on. It’s hinted in pieces of texts that this world is something new and huge but you’re never given more than a bite.
One could argue that creating such an elaborate world would take too long and be too much trouble for what they were trying to do, and that’s reasonable. But I can’t help but feel like there was a potential for so much more. But it was a small game. A little too small.
I was planning to put this under a separate heading but it’s closely related so I’ll just put it here. This game was very short. Maybe if I wasn’t playing for 3 or 4 hours a day, I wouldn’t have finished it within a week. It might just have been short or maybe I was comparing it to what I thought it would be (First Person Assassin’s Creed).
Now that I think about it. Dishonored wasn’t such a terrible game. In a vacuum, it does fine.
Everything about it seems to highlight replayability. It’s short and mission-based. The story isn’t bad, and the lack of a reaction from the world makes it easy to be apathetic. It allows you to consistently make a variety of decisions but keeps you from being able to choose all of them in one go, which is fine because every mission can be completed in such a multitude of ways that specializing in a few skills can get you as far as someone more well-rounded. It might even get you further.
Dishonored might not be as great at some things than other games but it seems to be great at one thing. And if that’s what it was aiming to be, then it did great.
But who knows? Maybe I’ve just been playing terrible games all my life and I have nothing else to compare to.
(Final Note; The image I have for this post on the front page? That was on the inside of the jacket for the plastic container thing that the disc came in. So cool, how come more games don’t have visuals on the insides of their jackets like that?)