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Monday, December 02, 2013

Late to the Game: Dishonored

 

I've been playing a game that's very different from my usual MO -- a stealth game. My usual style is a run-and-gun, but I've had enough of that lately. Especially after playing Doom 3. Agh, those endless corridors. All the same. So many Imps.

Off the bat, Dishonored reminded me of Bioshock. The graphics are gritty and realistic. The story is shown through audio and text diaries (but punctuated by the occasional first-person cutscene a la Half-Life). There's health and magic, and they're both replenished through vials of "elixir". You've got magic powers in one hand and regular weapons in the other. There are safes with combinations, caches behind locked doors, edible food in garbage cans, attributes and powers to buy and upgrade. Even a third-act twist and an ending based on your moral choices.

Wait, is this the Sander Cohen party?  Crap, I told you that GPS didn't work!
What's not like Bioshock is that it's very vertical. Which makes sense -- Bioshock takes place in an undersea environment. Not much room to make tall towers and city blocks. You aren't meant to jump up to awnings and skulk along open apartments on the roof. In Dishonored, can do dropping assassinations, teleport to a nearby open window, and duck under a bridge or platform to avoid detection.


It's also mission-based. At the end of each "level", the game runs down a score based on how many people you killed, how many you let live, optional tasks to complete, if you were detected, and so on. The game claims this has an impact on how dark the ending is, but who knows how that works -- I've already been burned by binary Bioshock... before.

Right now I'm not concerned about scores when I play. I'm doing a mix of killing and knock outs. One time I was trying to choke out an innocent maid who had been talking to her guard husband. I was going to kill him, and let her live, but I accidentally pressed the wrong button and then said 'sorry' to the computer. Oops, oh well. Can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.


Surprisingly, I actually like the stealth aspect. I like to pretend I'm a vampire, stalking victims as I teleport from ledge to ledge, like fading through mist. I like to jump on people, and I pretend that the blood coming out as I stab them in the neck is what I'm drinking. It doesn't hurt that the health meter looks like a vial of red fluid. Very Legacy of Kain.


In fact, I'm rather surprised this isn't the direction they went with it. All the magic seem quite vampire-y: possession, x-ray vision, adrenaline (blood lust), animal control, a clockwork heart that acts as a guide. And the environment is quite medieval. I've been using it for inspiration for some of my fantasy writing.

I do find myself exploiting the quick save/quick load function probably a bit more than the game testers expected. If I get in a situation where I accidentally trigger an alert, or more than three guys start rushing me, I will probably reload. And, like other stealth games, the gameplay starts getting repetitive as things get harder--as you (meaning me) keep screwing up more and more. Sometimes it feels like you're not making progress. Also, the storyline doesn't feel terribly thought out. The notes and books do, but they didn't make much for the main character.

But overall, a satisfying game, I recommend it.

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