Sunday, August 24, 2014

late game discussion - Dishonored

Dishonored came out in October 2012, which feels like yesterday for me because I live under a rock when it comes to video games. Dishonore immediiately jumps to fourth on a list of the most recent games I own behind Last of Us, GTA:V and Assassin's Creed IV, All of which I received with my PS3 last Christmas because again, under a rock.

Back on topic, Dishonored.
The PS3 version from which I shall chronicle my experience was in a pre-owned bin of EB Games near where I live and set me back 30something AUD. Which is just about perfect for the game play I got out of it in my single play through.
You play as Corvo, he has a surname too but it doesn't come up so I wouldn't worry about it. He's a bodyguard of sorts attached to the Empress of Dunwall, the monarch of an industrial age city state marinating in equal parts steam punk styling and human suffering and flavored with a heavy pinch of unexplained and scarcely explored mysticism. You wouldn't plan a holiday there.
As Corvo returns to Dunwall from travels abroad on Imperial business things predictably go pear shaped and Corvo is on the hook for the Murder of the Empress and the abduction of Princess Emily ( voiced by Chloe "Hit-Girl" Grace Moretz, because why the hell not put your voice talent budget into a bit parts. This isn't even the worst example, but I'll get to that later). Corvo is painted as having slightly more than a professional protective relationship with in a brief and rather cheap optional objective in the opening mission. The role of Corvo as Emily's protector isn't developed particularly well and I got the impression that the audience is expected to care about the relationship between the two simply because it's a little girl in a video game, and we're told to.

The broader narrative plays out as one might expect it to with resistances fighting tyranny and oppression and Corvo goes from protector to assassin and murders his way through the city's upper classes in fun and interesting ways. The main narrative thread of the game, while a little pedestrian, is far from the worst I've ever experienced. The true strength of Dishonored is in the world it has built. Which is both a real strength and a great disappointment. There is a breadth and depth to the city of Dunwall that warrants far greater exploration. A lot of work has gone into crafting a deep and intriguing world of characters and history that just scrolls past the windows as you pilot your assassin through his hit list. At one point around 80% of the way through the campaign I remember thinking to myself that Dunwall would make an excellent location for an Elder scrolls style RPG.

As far as playing the game itself, the control set up is great. The bulk of what little gaming experience I have behind me is on the Xbox and I've frequently had issues translating to the dual shock controller, but no such issues arose in my time with Dishonored. This won't be an issue for most other people, because I am at best, a spaz with a gamepad in hand, but I'm going to put this down as a point in the games favor.

There was one particular mechanic I wanted to point out. In a traditional FPS, when you approach a ledge and jump you either clear the ledge and make it up onto the next level or you don't and that's it, you find a step or you look somewhere else. In Dishonored you jump, hold the jump button down and Corvo grabs the ledge and climbs up. I haven't seen this anywhere else, and it stopped me dead. I had a 'Peter Griffin at the stem cell clinic' moment. It's such a small touch, but I enjoyed it immensely as a step forward in FPS design. One that likely shows my familiarity with the genre and/or games in general.

Corvo's powers, bestowed upon him by a vague chap called 'the outsider' are, unsurprisingly, quite helpful. I had the most use out of the 'Blink' ability which let's you zap about, effectively extending your reach and allowing you to get to those hard to reach spots nice and quickly. The Shadow Kill power disintegrates the corpses of your victims, which comes in handy for avoiding rat swarms and patrolling guards. Time bend was useful for taking out multiple enemies in close proximity as well as facilitating an escape and breaking line of sight allowing you to scurry back into the shadows.

I had seen and heard some complaints about the visual styling of the game, which I can understand to an extent. During game play it's fine, but when you're in cut scenes of conversations with characters I really started to notice some irksome features of the aesthetic. For instance, most characters looked like they could crush a melon with their freaking enormous hands. Which is handy because it didn't look like they'd be able to pick up that melon with their spindly little arms and almost inconsequential shoulder, and then their heads are too small compared to their Torso's. I had an easier time suspending my disbelief that Rayman could exist, much less function, than I could watching the people of Dunwall's ever so slightly not right proportions. That aside, the design for the game is fairly solid and everything looks like it fits together in the world they've crafted.

As I mentioned towards the top of page, Chloe Grace Moretz of 'Kick ass' fame is one of a few bafflingly well known talents to lend their voices to the game. most notably:
John Slattery, Iron Man 2's Howard Stark, 30Rock's Steven Austin, Mad Men's Roger Sterling showed up to voice Admiral Havelock, the leader of the resistance.
Lena Headey, Dredd's Ma-Ma,300's Queen Gorgo and Cerci 'Brotherf***ing' Lannister voiced Callista Curnow. I think she was a maid or something, I genuinely never noticed.
Carrie Fisher does a spot of P.A. announcing in there too.
Worst of all Susan Sarandon, from everything ever made, voiced Granny Rags. An insane street dweller I came across twice in the game.
Moretz had all of a page worth of lines in my play-through. It baffles me no end why on earth they would bother getting names like this for what are essentially supporting and peripheral characters. Slattery to a lesser extent sure, but Susan Sarandon, really guys...

On the external interface side of things, there appears to be no method to track your progress or completion level, be it in game inventory or pause menu's or in the loading screens. You get a hit list of collectibles at the conclusion of each mission but unless you jot that stuff down on paper or something that's it. The absence of a 'new game plus' option is disappointing, and again, baffling consideering what year the game was released.

On the whole, despite my focus on the missing and confusing aspects of the game, I enjoyed my time with Dishonored.
I won't give it a score, because I think that's kind of dumb.
I will recommend you go grab a copy if you haven't played it yet.



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