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Five Things I've Learned From "Dishonored"
This game scares the crap out of me. In fact, it is so scary that I still haven't finished it yet because I've had to take breaks from it. Long breaks. Like, week-long breaks.
You know me: the hysterical prone-to-anxiety-attacks type of gamer who gets super into what's going on inside of a game and winds up losing her mind somewhere within the story line and never really gets it back. (I played "Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare" for a whole five minutes before I had to turn it off.) But hey, I suffer from a terrible startle reflex and an inability to swallow a chill pill when there's some really heavy stuff going on in a game that I'm playing. "Dishonored" is dark, disturbing, and deeply thought-provoking at times, which makes me extra anxious.
I find "Dishonored" terrifying, and for many reasons. If you haven't already played this game, I am going to warn you that this article WILL contain spoilers and that I WILL spill about various things that have happened to me so far. So if you don't want to know, then don't read. This is a game that I believe everyone should experience for themselves, from the total noob to the most elite professional. Between the graphics and the combat, I think that gamers from all walks of life will be pleasantly intrigued by all that "Dishonored" has to offer.
For those of you still here, let's move on to discussing what I've learned by playing "Dishonored"...
I’ve learned that our choices always matter, to someone, somewhere. And sooner or later, in ways we cannot always fathom, the consequences come back to us.— Daud, from "Dishonored"
I Am Expendable
I have been killed in so many ways, and I stopped being surprised about it a while ago. I have just kind of accepted that Corvo (the "dishonored" one) is expendable and highly prone to dying, at least in my hands. There is an unlimited number of methods through which he can meet his untimely end, including being stabbed, eaten by carnivorous rats, and electrocuted. None of these methods are more preferable than the other and typically occur without much warning, which is one thing about this game that was truly traumatizing.
I have to give it to Bethesda- it is a truly believable bloodbath in there. If I didn't know any better, I would think that Corvo and I were playing a game together in which the primary purpose is to repeatedly kill him with flair. The number of ways in which he- the main character- can greet the light seem to be genuinely unlimited and, even though this reality is terrifying, I appreciate the variety offered up by the game's developers. It truly is a unique experience and it makes you cling to that shred of hope that convinces you that maybe- just maybe- this will be the time where you make it past that fully-powered wall of light without being turned into an ash pile.
Once you die that very first time, you'll begin to understand that Corvo does not have a particularly high threshold for physical damage but that in order to fully embrace the "Dishonored" experience, you have to take risks. This approach will ultimately lead to a) more enjoyable discoveries, and b) more deaths. It will also introduce you the pure carnage and chaos that Corvo can leave in his wake, but we'll discuss that in the next part of the article.
Stealth vs. Chaos
You have the choice of whether or not to be stealthy in combat situations, or just up front with it. Each choice has its own pros and cons. The game will tell you via helpful hint that approaching the majority of situations with stealth will lead to better consequences. This is especially true if you have the bone charm equipped that turns enemies killed by stealth assassination into dust. Less corpses means less rats; less rats equals cleaner streets to sneak through. These decisions require you to think and evaluate your surroundings through assessment. That is what kept getting me into trouble.
I have struggled with the concept of remaining stealthy as far back as "Assassin's Creed". Simply put, I just can't do it, and I would prefer to go all in anyway. It's just a matter of preference. But in "Dishonored", a lack of stealth and a preliminary analysis of the surrounding environment will get you killed in a matter of minutes. For example, when attempting to kidnap Sokolov, I plastered springform grenades onto three separate surfaces and went out to get the seven guys that were waiting for me around the corner. Efficient? Yes. Tactful? No. I set off five alarms during the course of that one mission and the remaining guards eventually caught up to me. Gradually, I learned that it's often just easier to be quiet and achieve the objective with as little noise as possible.
If I had taken a second and observed my environment from top to bottom, I would have noticed the pipe that hugs that ceiling and leads from the entrance of the room to the complete other side. Had I taken this route, I would have avoided essentially every enemy in the room, thus setting off less alarms and being forced to hide less bodies. "Dishonored" encourages you to think your options over thoroughly, and there is a strong case to be made for the more stealthy approach to the various situations in which you will find yourself. Planning is everything; execution is only the frosting.
It is in my opinion that the "Low Chaos" route is the best, so stealth is the most viable approach. Your game play experience is shaped by how you interact with the world; therefore, if you run through and slaughter everyone who stands in your path (like I did during my first play-through), then your experience will be a dark one. If you take the time to remain stealthy and search out alternative methods to achieving your goals (like I did during my second play-through), you might be pleased with the developments happening around you.
A word to the wise- it is excruciatingly different to be stealthy all the time. Invest in some sleep darts and learn to be patient!
As the accompanying video from Bethesda Softworks UK demonstrates, there are a ton of ways to assassinate your targets in "Dishonored". You can stab them, shoot them, burn them, steam them, and fry them using their own technology.
Another feature of the combat system of this game is to take your targets out non-lethally. Remember what I said about the benefits of stealth? Here is where that tactic comes in handy. Non-lethal methods of elimination mean less corpses, less mess, and less plague-carrying rats. Granted, choking someone into unconsciousness isn't as fun as watching them turn to ash as they step through a wall of light that has been turned on. But neither approach is appropriate all the time, and your tactics should change depending on the circumstances. If you choose to make a frontal assault, plan on having an enormous arsenal at your disposal. If you decide to remain stealthy, you had better find a quiet, out-of-sight place to start stacking the bodies.
Overall, I am still struggling with the creativity part of my kills and, in fact, I am actively trying to reduce the number of enemies that I eliminate lethally. It simply results in a more positive game-playing experience.
Adventuring vs. Not Adventuring
I am not a risk-taker and I enjoy my comfort zones. "Dishonored" thrusts its players out of these areas of familiarity and watches them squirm. I am fairly convinced that this game is a secret tool for teaching people how to quash their impulsive tendencies and, if it's not, it should be.
Part of this game revolves around the discovery of runes and bone charms, both of which aid you in gaining additional powers that make life a little easier. In order to find these trinkets, you must equip the heart, which is literally a beating heart that has been turned into a kind of compass. Following the heart leads you in many different places, most of which are not safe.
I have had to be creative when equipping the heart because the runes and bone charms can be located in a variety of places. I am often torn between seeking one out and letting it go, because "Dishonored" has somewhat killed my adventuring mood by punishing it repeatedly. Other than seeking out the charms and runes, there really isn't too much breathing room for the reckless adventurer. Sure, you can drop into abandoned buildings and take things. But as far as the open world philosophy of wandering around aimlessly, such behavior will get you killed in this game. In my opinion, it's simply better to have a plan before you go out into the world.
But if you don't adventure, you'll miss quite a few things. Books, notes, and other objects can usually be found lying around in places that most people would simply walk by. These things can be quite useful (e.g. blueprints for Piero) and will serve you well in the future. Whatever you might do, the decision is yours, and the struggle is real.
What is the common theme in all three of my "Five Things" gaming blogs?
Civilians Are Collateral
Yes, I said it. There have been situations in which I've had to waste civilians. This completely flies in the face of everything I learned in "Far Cry 3" and I'm still not okay with it. I learned this particular tidbit through an interesting experience with a maid and I daresay that I will play things a little safer in the future.
Something to remember- if you leave a civilian that is a witness to your crimes alive, he or she will tell on you. It is always advisable to do what is necessary in private and away from prying eyes; however, this isn't always possible. In these situations, you will have to contend with the likelihood that if you leave the witness alive, you will be told on. And this will obviously increase your chances of being killed.
Unfortunately, you will be forced to make these decisions on countless occasions. So many games require that you respect the innocence of non-involved civilians and therefore, it feels foreign to have to eliminate them. A side note- weepers do not count as civilians and will attack you on sight. However, if random people are in your direct vicinity as you commit a violent act, that person will scream for help. You have the option of silencing the civilian non-lethally with a chokehold, but this isn't always efficient, especially when you want to make a quick run for it. But a dead civilian is a dead civilian and will contribute to both your body count and your chaos meter. And never forget that a dead body attracts rats.
Also, keep in mind that killing weepers AND civilians increases your chaos rating. Choose wisely what to do what them, because the more you kill, the scarier your world becomes.
"Dishonored" is an intriguing experience, and I truly enjoyed the game play. It is a bit difficult at times but this contributes to the dark atmosphere of everything going on. The game itself has encouraged me to really stop and evaluate my options, and will often deliver swift and brutal consequences when I failed to do so. It has also demonstrated that there are a variety of ways to complete a single task. You are never without alternatives, as this presents unique opportunities throughout the game. The music and the environment also contribute to the dark atmosphere, bringing Corvo's dystopian world to life right before your eyes.
Also, there are different endings depending on how you play the game. Some of these endings are better than others. It's up to you to figure it out.