Friday, October 26, 2012

Week 5: Dishonorable Discharge

     When I saw the Game Informer feature about Dishonored, I expected a unique experience with an engaging story and a near disgustingly detailed world, full of bleak and dreary back alleys, sprawling environments and abilities to aid in stealth as well as assassination.

The image of the tallboy intrigued me in terms of the challenge it may pose in the game, as well as the fear it may strike a player given the purported environment of the game.

I was excited for this game, so much so that I pre-ordered it, which for me is fairly rare. In my many years as a gamer, I have pre-ordered four games: Red Dead Redemption, Batman: Arkham City, Dishonored and BioShock Infinite.

Red Dead Redemption and Arkham City are masterpieces of gaming, between their visuals, their stories and their characters.

After four hours, or rather two playthroughs of four hours spanning four hours apiece, I would consider Dishonored a long ways away from a masterpiece in any sense of the word.

I won't say the game is devoid of fun, because it isn't. The swordplay is satisfying, the powers offer a variety of possibilities for the experimental types, and the game does let you approach it through pure stealth.

The swordplay is, however, very limited, the story and characters leave a lot to be desired, the level design is unimpressive, there is no pacing, and the attention to detail, or lack thereof, is distracting.

Maybe I'm overstating things a bit since I am just part of the way through the game, but given the short length of the game, I hold only the slightest hope that it will improve.

The story is uninteresting from the very beginning. As Corvo Atano, Lord Protector, you have a reputation that is never elaborated or given any weight.

Within five minutes of playing, your empress is killed, her daughter kidnapped, and you are thrown in prison for the crime.

If Corvo is so respected, why is he not given the benefit of the doubt, or the right to plead his case? Why go through the trouble of feigning an existing reputation if you're going to simply sh*t on it before we get a feel for it?

There is absolutely no basis for Corvo's reputation, which makes the apparent fall from grace that much thinner. We are informed of his importance by characters making vague reference to his reputation.

We never see Corvo triumphing in any way, or valiantly serving his empress before we see her cut down. And why should I care if she is dead, or her daughter is taken? Because it is implied that she trusts Corvo? Because Emily plays hide and seek for 12 seconds?

I could not care less about the characters. I didn't care when the empress was murdered, don't particularly care that the girl was taken, don't care about the self-important, and remarkably wooden, political figures who facilitated the Corvo's escape from prison, nor do I can't about their intentions to restore Emily to the thrown, using Corvo as a surgical strike to compliment their politicking.

Dishonored offers no reasons to care about Corvo, his plight, or the fate of the city of Dunwall.

The characters make it difficult to care about what they're asking of Corvo because there is no sense of urgency or emotion to it. They are very direct with their orders, and show little or no care themselves as to the fate of Emily or Dunwall.

     If they don't care, WHY THE F*CK SHOULD I?!??!?

Before I get carried away, I guess I should give my impression of the gameplay.

At first glance, the combat is very much like that of BioShock. A power in one hand and a weapon in the other. The key difference being the powers in Dishonored aren't so direct. You can't just electrocute an enemy and be done with it.

I do appreciate the subtlety of the powers, particular the possession ability. It is unique in the sense that you can inhabit the body of a rat, or a human if you upgrade the skill, and do as you wish with them. You can possess someone, leap out a window, then jump out of the body and watch them fall to the ground and die.

In terms of creativity, I have to give that approach a thumbs up.

The rats in the game offer an interesting wrinkle to things. You can dispose of bodies in a horde of rats, call on rats to take out a guard, attach a trap to a rat, possess a guard to walk into it...

So many possibilities.

But the creativity and intrigue from one aspect of a game does not make it a great game. A fun experience, but not a great game.

I'll save some of the other points for next week when I've had a chance to really get into the game. As of right now, I'm enjoying it, though I am disappointed in it. I expected  a lot of the game, and was encouraged by the early reviews.

Shame on me for getting my hopes up...

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