When I wasn’t rolling around drunk trying to get Ladyboys to sleep with me this weekend I was in Dishonored. Dishonored is in actuality a revenge story and less a return to honor. If Corvo loses his merit badge is entirely up to the player. The game centers around Chaos, a meter that fills each time you kill an enemy in the game. Higher chaos means more bloodshed while lower chaos implies more stealth and fewer rats. The plot is fairly simple: Corvo Attano is a bodyguard to the empress, the empress is killed and you’re framed for it. A prison escape ensues and while the game progresses we learn more about a whale oil run Victorian metropolis infected by a foreign born rat plague that leaves it victims Zombie like and the city desolate in it’s wake. Corvo is rescued by a group of “loyalists” eager to return the crown to it’s rightful heir. Moral decisions await you.
The game is brilliant for a manor of reasons. The plot is only slight above comic book level, in fact it could be an Xmen comic except it lacks as many super powers and surprisingly the protagonist is rather frail. The mechanics are original, but derived from similar stealth game play techniques found in Thief and Assassin’s Creed. Drop from heights to kill, choke hold from the back, and of course the magic shhh I am ducking down so you can’t see me or hear me. Bottles can be thrown to attract or distract attention. Additions to this usual crew of abilities include possessing animals and later humans, an X-ray vision ability, the ability to summon rats, and blink a short range teleport. The later is almost required by the game. These abilities aren’t what makes it brilliant, but their originality, especially possession, make the game play more endearing than most FPS games. What is brilliant is the way the game consistently frames violence and vengeance.
Corvo is given a lethal and non-lethal option of solving his assassination targets. In one level for instance a street gang offers to kidnap the aristocratic / lecherous owners of a stone mine and put them to work in their own mines, or you can lethally kill them in person or via steam bath. Most of the non-lethal options are interesting, and tie into the story well. Dishonored is a game that allows justice, not in the form of violence, but rather in retribution. The man who staged the empress’ death can be eliminated by airing his personal confessions on the air waves and more disturbingly his mistress can effectively be trafficked into the hands of a lecherous noble (I choose murder on that one). The game lets you navigate moral depth at your leisure and often makes the less violent approach the more entertaining. It also frequently drops empathy on you, the empress’ assassin turns out to be a reluctant killer, the head of the royal order you can allow to be poisoned or branded with a heretical mark. Granted this is a game where being a serial choker somehow puts you in the right, but it is also a game that lets you decide wether to sacrifice a man to a witch or fight her after (I went with witchcraft on this one). The binaries lead up to a much more emergent whole. Dishonored’s last moments anticipate the player’s moral compass really well. That’s what’s brilliant about the whole thing, in the end I wasn’t confronted by a murderous psychopath, but a man who did the right thing, but just went a little to far and was in paranoid company. I had planned to kill my final target, but his guilt ridden bleary eyed insanity convinced me otherwise. I let him live and a golden age prospered.
Btw the next dlc for the game came out today, but it’s not up on steam yet.