Monday, October 15, 2012

Driving the point home

Having read different reports on the length of Dishonored I got the feeling that there were two very different games present. On one side the game would allow the player to make a bee line from the start of the level to the end with little exploration. On the other, each area is filled to the brim with places to find and bits of junk to collect, allowing fastidious (or OCD) players to spend much, much time in them. To put it in fewer words, this is a stealth game heavy on finding alternate paths to the goal but the player is allowed to play the game wrong. It is a game that encourages non-lethal options to resolve all conflicts but gives the player far more tools to kill people than to knock them out. And if the player takes advantage of the tools he is given and plays the game wrong the only reward is a (more) depressing ending.

I wonder if Dishonored was supposed to be a test of the player's restraint. The game does not hide the fact that killing lots and lots of people is not the best solution. The game gets more difficult, with more rats and plague infected weepers scattered around, and NPC's react more poorly to Corvo as his murders increase. Then it hands out abilities that make killing people and hiding the evidence deliciously easy. In my play through once I gained the skill that turns corpses to ashes it was over. I was shooting fools in the head from across the map when no one was looking, leaving behind nothing but their swords and unspent ammo. I failed their test; being shown something cool and then told not to use it does not sit well with me.

The latter levels do make the switch from discouraging the violent approach to actually punishing it, but by then the die was cast. There was even an area with infinitely spawning enemies and still I kept killing them. A plot twist that I will not go into because the game only came out last week cemented my Corvo's homicidal nature. Killing people had gotten me into this mess and by god killing more people will get me out.

Spoilers incoming!

At the end of Corvo's prison escape he is aided by a boatman who works for the loyalists. This is also the person who saves Corvo by giving him a smaller than needed dose of poison when the loyalists order his murder. This same boatman picks Corvo up and gives him a lift to the final area. He then chastises Corvo, says he is no better than the loyalists and that he is ashamed of the what he has become.

'Get off my boat. I don't approve of your methods, so I am going to let them know that you are comi-'

I shot him.

It was reflexive. There was no thought involved. My Corvo had been killing people without thought since the game began. I had been killing people since the game began. The boatman announcing my arrival was just one more betrayal, so I killed him, too. Dishonored had made its point: killing is easy. The more you kill, the easier it gets. It becomes the only solution.

This is not an endorsement of the game. I did not enjoy much of the second half; the stealth didn't work as well as I would have liked and the combat (which there was a lot of for me) was little more than counter enemy attack, one hit kill. I also think that the abilities should have been more balanced between killing/not killing to give me a better chance at passing the game's test. Still, there was a moment of shame when I killed the man who saved me twice. My quest for efficiency had turned Corvo into a monster and I was not proud of what I had done. I get the message, I just wish the messenger was better.

1 comment:

  1. Heh - I just hit that part on my high chaos playthrough and did the exact same thing. Samuel didn't even finish the sentence.