The following post contains heavy spoilers for the game Dishonored.
Also harsh language.
So I just finished playing through Dishonored by Ubisoft and I feel like punching a kitten.
Right in the face. I’m mad enough to even want a two step wind up and POW!
It’s one of those situations where I seriously feel like throwing the damned thing across the room and would if it wasn’t for the fact that my computer would go with it.
So let’s get the good stuff out of the way first.
Dishonored tells the story of Corvo Attano, bodyguard (possibly lover?) of an empress and protector of Emily, the daughter of said empress.
At the start of the game, the empress is assassinated and Emily is kidnapped. Accused of the murder, you’re taken to prison whereupon you’re broken out by a loyalist faction who wants your help to find the lost Emily and help her take her rightful place on the throne.
The game takes place in an alternate Victorian England setting, a city called Dunwall. Their primary source of power is a type of whale oil, plague-infested rats roam the streets, and the man actually responsible for the assassination, the (former) Spymaster rules with the totalitarian fist of absolute authority.
There are two main gripes I have with this game, one related to the story and one related to the characters.
As the royal protector, you’re given an interesting toolkit to tackle your issues.
While the game primarily lauds itself as a stealth game, they provide you with many tools to deal with combat situations as they arise. So as you wander around the shadows of Dunwall, you’re packing guns, crossbows, razor wire mines, and swords.
On top of that, you’re aided by the “Outsider” who gives you a slew of supernatural abilities ranging from a short range teleport (which breaks the game), rat summoning, and possession.
Despite all these tools though, the problem is the game never gives you a situation where you NEED to use any of it.
For example, I COULD summon some rats, attach a razor mine to the back of one of them, possess it and run it up to a guard to set it off…or I can take a quarter of the time, blink behind the guard and introduce his neck to my knife.
I COULD use the various empty bottles littered through the game to throw and make a noise so that the guards will investigate it while I sneak by…or I can just blink past the guard’s vision range.
I COULD summon my plague rats after killing a guard to dispose of the body for me…or I can let the alert trigger and then blink 3-4 times in a row to lose all pursuit.
The game gives you a heck of a lot of tools to work with, but no reason to use ANY of it.
You pick up the blink ability right from the get-go and after you get that, it pretty much settled into a pattern of getting a new tool/ability, trying it once and then going right back to blinking about the place, using my default knife.
You can go through the entire game using just the teleport and your knife.
And here’s the other thing.
The game offers you a huge variety of ways to kill people…then judges you for not using the stealthy, non-lethal approach.
Here’s the thing, the story STARTS alright. Sure, it’s a bit of a generic revenge story but as long as its aware of that and doesn’t try to puff itself up to be more than it is, there’s nothing wrong with that…right?
The issue I had with it has less to do with the story and more to do with the characters and how the ending was handled.
So basically, you’re given a “chaos rating” throughout your missions, depending on whether or not you killed a lot of people or just choked them out and left them in dark corners.
If you have a low chaos rating by the end of the game, young Emily ascends to the throne and you’re all Mr. Benevolent Advisor/Father Figure and her reign is celebrated as a golden age! These two argumentative geniuses figure out how to cure the plague and everything is happy!
If you have a high chaos rating, Emily still ascends the throne but her reign is troubled. The cure for the plague is never discovered (despite the two genius guys being all alive and friendly just the same) and her reign is fraught with strife.
If you end up with a high chaos rating, the other characters in the story will judge you.
Right to your face, they’ll judge you.
There’s this character named Martin. He’s your boatman. Throughout the game, he takes you to the places you need to go, gives you a bit of context as you go and he manages to save your life when the loyalists themselves turn on you near the end.
…and despite this, if you have a high chaos rating, by the last mission, this bastard will tell you that you’re worse than all of the people that betrayed you. He’ll tell you that he thinks it’s almost as if you’d gone out of your way to be brutal.
Ummm…fucking excuse me? It’s like, “Bitch! I watched the woman I love get stabbed right in front of me! I’ve been in prison for six months getting beaten, cut at and stabbed with red hot pokers while they tried to get a false confession out of me! I finally escape to discover that I’m framed for her murder and I’m the most reviled man in the kingdom! But there’s still hope…a bunch of loyalist rebels are out to help me save Emily and put her ass on the throne where it belongs…oh, no. Wait. THEY betray me too? Leave me for dead so that they can control Emily like a puppet with me safely out of the picture? Call me crazy, but you know what? I’m going to feel just the slightest bit…stabby. I’m going to feel something that may or may not resemble murderous fucking rage.”
Holy hell, all that and Mr. High and Mighty Samuel feels the urge to judge me for the choices I’ve made?
The way I see it, it’s a goddamned fucking MIRACLE that I didn’t just go on a rampage through the city, killing everyone that was left.
I think it’s a bit of a misstep to give the player a moral choice…and then punish them for taking the wrong one. Not only punish them, but make a point of telling you that you’re an evil, sadistic bastard to boot.
Especially, ESPECIALLY, if the choices you make are more in line with what the character might actually do instead of becoming some sort of super saint that wouldn’t even be slightly tempted to introduce a batch of backstabbing sons of bitches to the business end of a retractable blade.