I am a weird person.
This may come as a shock to many of my loyal readers. I mean I may write stories about such things like a half human, half bat hybrid going to a job interview or about a pet goblin who stuck his fingers in the wrong jar of peanut butter, but I otherwise I have come across as nothing but a perfectly mentally stable 26 year old who likes video games and dick jokes.
So yes, it may be surprising, but I am in fact, quite weird. For example, I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with self serve soda fountains. I have flat out refused to go to certain dining establishments because they lack a self serve soda fountain, even if nothing is wrong with their food and they’re an otherwise great place. And if I do go to a place with a self serve soda fountain, carry out is not an option. I am fucking eating my food there, no matter what the situation is, because I am going to get my god damn use out of that self serve soda fountain. I could argue I’m merely being thrifty and cost efficient, but I can certainly see the other side of the debate that labels me as weird.
Another weird quirk is that I am sexually attracted to giant women. Like, 100 foot tall giant women. Attack of the 50 Foot Woman was literally a sexual awakening for me. I could go into more detail about this lovely fetish, but I honestly think that could be a blog post in itself, so I’ll keep the more tantalizing details to myself for now. Suffice to say, it’s a pretty fucking weird fetish.
Another example of my weird brain and its weird needs is when it comes to series of fiction. If a new installment of a series I follow comes out-whether it’s a movie, book, TV show, or video game-I MUST experience every previous installment of it up to that point so I can experience the series fully, even if that involves so many hours in front of a screen or page that my eyes start to bleed, I wet myself, and I begin to have grand mal seizures. When Game of Thrones comes out, I need to watch every episode leading up to the new season. When the Harry Potter books and movies were a thing, it was the same. Every book and every movie must be watched in order, or it wouldn’t feel complete.
This goes for existing series that are already finished. Going back to Harry Potter. I can’t just be like, “I’m in the mood for Goblet of Fire. I think I’m going to watch it.” It’s more, “I’m in the mood for Goblet of Fire. Time to set aside 20 hours to watch the first three movies leading up to it, and then to watch the rest of the series after because of course that’s what I need to do.” As a side note, I have barely rewatched or reread the Harry Potter series since then for this reason exactly.
If I come into a series midstream, without taking the time to reacquaint myself with everything before, I literally feel hollow and empty, like there’s no point to experiencing the lone installment I’m in the mood for. And I do decide to, let’s say, watch Return of the King without watching the first two again, then I can’t shake the gnawing feeling of guilt, like I’m doing something so dirty and unnatural that every priest in a ten mile radius can sense.
What is the point I’m trying to make here? Dishonored 2 has just recently come out, and I’m interested in playing it in the near future. So what does this mean? Time to replay Dishonored!
Yes, I’m sure I could have just started this post with that sentence instead of putting you through that quasi therapist session, but like I said, I’m weird.
So back to Dishonored. I actually have not played this game since it’s 2012 release, so it was actually a treat to return to it. I enjoyed it a lot back when I first played it, and I’ve found myself enjoying it again this time. Enjoying it a lot, actually. In fact, I’ll go ahead and say it. Dishonored is THE forgotten classic of last console generation.
For those who made the mistake of missing out on Dishonored last year, it is a first person stealth action adventure game set in the steampunk Victorian style dystopian city of Dunwall, a dismal place plagued by a tyrant rule and, well, plague. The game puts you in the creepy ass mask of Corvo Attano, a royal bodyguard who is wrongfully accused of murdering the Empress. It’s not all bad, though. The city is taken over by a power hungry beauraucrat who rules over it with an iron fist admist a rat borne plague that is killing thousands and turning even more into zombie like Weepers. Okay, maybe it is pretty bad. But Corvo gets super powers, so yay!
As often happens after becoming empowered with supernatural abilities by an occult figure and after being framed for the murder of your beloved Empress, you are busted out of prison and recruited by a resistance force to clean house high profile target after high profile targe in the totalitarian government that rules over Dunwall. These missions form the bulk of the game.
The beauty of Dishonored is the freedom the game gives you. The game is not technically open world, but the mission areas themselves are extremely nonlinear and allow you to explore the area and approach the mission anyway you want.
Now lots of games have a promise like this. Leading up to release, they’ll say things like “VAST OPEN ENVIRONMENTS” and “LOTS OF MISSION CHOICE” and “WE PROMISE IT’S FUN, HONEST, PLEASE LISTEN”. But time and time again, the game fails to deliver, funneling down its desired path, where choice is merely an illusion and where the best approach to a mission or level is super obvious, requiring zero thought.
Dishonored is not one of those games.
Dishonored gives you a ton of cool powers, like the ability to teleport or stop time or possess a rat, fish, or even human being for your own gains. The powers are all fun to use, but the brilliant thing about Dishonored is that it actually gives you opportunities to use them! How many games have you played where the game offers you a power or weapon, but it either rarely gives you a chance to use it effectively OR you end up becoming so complacent with an already super useful power/weapon that you never dig into your back of tricks to pull it out?
I’m thinking something like Metal Gear Solid V, which had dozens of weapons, and one of four different sidekicks you could take out on missions. The problem was, in my 60+ hours with MGS V, I think I may have used four different weapons and only one of the sidekicks for about 95% of my missions. The weapons and sidekick (D-Dog, natch) I used were just so useful in every situation that there was no need to experiment and try other loadouts. The game didn’t do a good job of forcing me to adapt and to try everything at my disposal.
Another example would be the God of War games. Now let me be clear, the GoW series is one of my favorite series of all time, and I love the original trilogy probably more than I’ll love my future children.
But I’ll be the first to admit that the games’ combat got a little bit repetitive by the end game because there was no reason to ever switch over from the chain blades you had from the very beginning. The game would give you other neat looking weapons and it would parse out magic spells, sometimes literally ripped from the gods themselves, in an effort to get you to diversify your combat techniques, and it never worked. Nothing was as fun as the chain blades and, more importantly, the games didn’t offer up any enemies or situations that required thoughtful, strategic weapon experimentation.
These are just two examples (well, four if you count each game in the GoW trilogy), but I’m sure I could go on. The point is, Dishonored does not commit this cardinal sin. Dishonored’s levels and missions are built so that each power can be used in an interesting, useful way. There are ponds with fish that you can possess to swim through a grate into a building that is otherwise not accessible. Likewise, there are holes in walls that only a possessed rat could find its way through. There are rooftops and ledges that only cunning use of the teleportation ‘Blink’ power can reach. Areas crawling with enemy soldiers can be countered with stopping time and running right the fuck past them (though you unfortunately can’t stop to give them wedgies in this state). Dishonored has immensely clever level design in this regard, and you can see the care the developers had in trying to make sure no power was left untapped.
To make this even more satisfying, the powers are actually fun to use. It’s always neat to explore the upper nooks and crannies of the levels with Blink, and pushing a group of soldiers off the top of a bridge with the Whirlwind attack is more satisfying and funny that anyone would be willing to admit. One of my favorite powers is possession, where I get to see the world from the point of view of a rat as it scurries around the legs of a housemaid as she cleans and almost steps on me because remember that weird giantess fetish I have?
Things get ESPECIALLY cool when you combine the powers in clever ways. Summoning a swarm of rats and then possessing one of them so you can sneak through the ensuing chaos always makes me feel like a genius. Or how about when you stop time, teleport over to a group of soldiers, and plant a springrazor mine literally on one of their chests so that it explodes the lot of them when time restarts. It’s one thing that the levels and missions are tailor made for each and every power, but the fact that they’re actually fun to play with makes it even better. After all, it’s always good when a video game is, yanno, fun to play.
The fact that game allows you this kind of freedom, that it allows you to be this creative in your playstyle is truly special. Whether you want to use these powers to aid you in a stealthing your way undetected through a mission or whether you want them to turn you into an unstoppable force of destruction is, again, entirely up to you. And unlike other games of this nature, where they offer a stealth or combat approach, Dishonored truly allows you to slip through like a ghost or to barge through like a hurricane.
Not to keep beating up on MGS V, but allow me to compare the two. MGS V was a game that proclaimed to an open world game of pure, unbridled freedom, where you truly could go through any mission either stealthily or bloodthirstily. But honestly, the game was so stubborn in its MGS roots that going through with anything other than a stealth approach was a huge pain in the ass and, more often than not, suicide. Seemingly endless amounts of guards would pour out of some infinite guard faucet just off camera and they would seek you down with supernatural efficiency, no matter where the fuck you went off to hide to collect yourself. The game proclaimed to be, “Stealth or action, whatever you feel like doing!’ but really it was “Stealth or action, whatever you feel like doing, unless you don’t want to have a miserable time, then go stealth, always.”
While Dishonored certainly pokes and prods you to complete the game in a stealthy manner, for the purposes of a more positive ending, it never dissuades those with a bit of bloodlust from savagely murdering every living thing with a pulse. The game also allows you to mix up your strategies and combine both methods for a stealth action-y approach, once again adding the already impressive amount of freedom and choice. And those powers I raved about earlier? The game even lets you unlock these in literally any fucking order you want. So many games keep certain powers locked until you reach certain levels or pass a certain story mission. Not this game. Every power is available right from the start, ready to be unlocked with the proper amount of Runes (a type of collectible peppered throughout the world). It’s a refreshing liberty not often afforded to us in games.
But if I had to pick my favorite thing about Dishonored, it actually isn’t the insane amounts of freedom and choice nor the fun, varied powers at your disposal. The thing I love about this game is the immersive atmosphere of its game world. I am a HUGE sucker for well realized worlds, games that have settings that are intricately detailed, with thought put into every inch and loads of environmental storytelling to show for it. Dishonored passes this test in spades. Its game world of Dunwall is one of the most immersive, atmospheric game worlds in recent memory, right up there with Rapture and Columbia of the Bioshock games and the Ishimura of Dead Space. You truly feel like you are exploring a desperate, hopeless city breathing its last breath. Forceful propaganda is emblazoned on buildings, right next to the bloody scrawling of someone decrying that there is no escape from the plague. Posters advertising health tonics and taverns and bordellos line walls, adding even further to the world building. Continue to walk around and you’ll find the world is absolutely teeming with books and documents to read, making this deep world even deeper. You’ll read not only bits of history of Dunwall, but also works of fiction from its world, making it seem even more real and authentic, like it’s place you could actually visit if it weren’t for the insane, ruthless dictator and deadly rat plague.
I honestly can’t say enough just how much thought went into making Dunwall feel like its own place and it’s without a doubt one of the big reasons why I truly think this game is a forgotten classic.
It doesn’t need to be forgotten, though. Even if you put away your PS3 or 360, the game is available as a remaster for the PS4 and Xbone. With the great reviews Dishonored 2 is getting, why not get the full experience and buy this one first? If you’re looking for a game that allows you to do whatever the fuck you want in a richly detailed and painstakingly built world, it’s tough to do much better than this game that far too many people have neglected for far too long.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to possess a few rats so I can hang out next to some gigantic seeming maids. Don’t judge me.