Tuesday, August 20, 2013

In the darkness of Dishonored

I put some time in to Dishonored over the last couple of weeks.  While not an MMO (or even multi-player), it has the sort of compelling story-line I enjoy.  It is somewhat darker than I like, but the world had a gritty reality to it that hooked me.  In my opinion, the backdrop was more interesting than the actual story.  The story is an un-original "avenge the murdered Empress and save the young princess" cliche.  Which is too bad as the whole rest of the game is one of the most original I've played.  I actually put off buying this title for months because of the dull premise.  I'm glad Steam finally had it up for $10!

The backdrop is a sort of steampunk world based on whale oil.  The city of Dunwall is on a harbor where one can frequently see the whaling ships come in with their still living harvest held suspended over the deck.  Technology is a blend of what looks like whale oil diesel and Tesla-inspired electrical fields.  Dunwall is suffering a massive plague, flooding, and internal corruption.  There isn't much hope in this story.  The game starts with the Empress of Dunwall murdered in front of you and her daughter.  The rest of the game is bringing those responsible to justice and rescuing the princess and here is where Dishonored shows a bit of uniqueness.

While many games have different outcomes based on decisions, in Dishonored the story alters based on body count.  If you work your way through the game murdering anyone and everyone in your path to ultimately eliminate a major target, then the game plays along a path of "high chaos" and the already dark story gets darker.  There will be more rats, more plague victims, and NPC's mutter darker phrases in your presence.  Alternatively, you can choose to knock opponents out or avoid them completely to achieve a "low chaos" victory.  The epilogue for each is different while the quests on the way are exactly the same.  The variation is subtle, but well done.  It isn't a radical story shift in either case.  In the end the bad guys are dealt with and the princess restored.  Still, I was left wondering what happened to Dunwall.  The epilogue hand waves over it, but I wanted more.  I wanted to see such a dark place become brighter.  I wanted to see more positive impact of my actions instead of merely avoiding the worst outcomes.  Justice never quite seems to be served.  Any story that can make me wish for such things has in my definition become worthy of recommendation.  It's a good journey with some interesting questions.

No comments: