Monday, December 3, 2012

dishonored - first look

Disclaimer: This post contains spoilers to the game named Dishonored. Proceed only if you have either finished the game or if you gave up halfway through the game because you hated it and now you just want to see the ending of the game.

Lord Protector, that was how everyone used to call you. Months have passed since the day you took sail on the mission to seek help for a plague that is consuming your empire, promising the Empress, the one person that you swore to protect and the one person that matters to you most, that you will try your utmost to bring back good news. Now, you are finally home at last, tired, but happy, and looking forward to the days where you can serve once again as the Lord Protector for your beloved Empress.

Unfortunately, only moments after stepping of the ship and being reunited her, tragedy struck. As the one person who is supposed to protect the Empress no matter what, you could only watch in horror as assassins run her through with a sword, while you're being dangled helplessly in the air by some sort of dark magic they're using. Not only were you unable to stop them, Princess Emily, the only heir to the throne, was also taken away and worst of all, you are framed for the murder of the Empress.

Six months in prison, you have spent, awaiting your execution but just when all hope seems lost, you were mysteriously set free by a group of unknown people. Breaking free, you now vow revenge against all those who plotted against the Empress, amidst the plague that is ravaging the city and the constant power struggle between those who are in power.


a man in mask, you now are


For a game that is so hyped up, I must admit that the game was disappointing at best. Coming from the people who brought us Fallout 3 and Skyrim, I expected so much more in terms of open ended gameplay and story but less than 15 main missions to offer, with is subsequent missions getting shorter and shorter in away, I can't help but to feel that the game was rushed as if the developers were trying to hit a deadline or something. I mean for the last mission itself, where you would expect sort of like a showdown with a final big boss, all I ended up with was a drunk guy who didn't even manage to land a blow on me.

The game started out superbly though. I played the first mission twice because on my first attempt, I realized that if I killed the guards in the prison while breaking out, the broadcast tower will announce that several brave officers have died in the line of duty while trying to stop me instead of a mere announcement of me breaking out should I chose to spare all the officers during the first mission, which I liked a lot because of how dynamic the game is.

However, for a game that tries to sell itself as a game where you can do anything with an open ended finale, it tries to tell you what to do too much. I hated how the game continually stresses through in game messages and loading screen messages that if you continue to kill too many people, the final ending will be dark and not good. The statistics at the end of the game too tries to reinforce that. There's an achievement at the end of every level that measures whether you kill anyone during your playthrough. It's as if the game is challenging you to adopt the less bloody approach and trying to scare you into it. I mean for their previous games like Skyrim or Fallout 3, Bethesda has never tried to say things like, "Oh, it's good to keep everyone alive because your ending will be much better that way".

To add on to that, the game also sort of makes it harder for you should you choose to go on a bloody rampage because that would seem to be the "easier" way as the developers see it. There would be more hostile zombies (called weepers in game) and rats that would attack you later in game as compared to neutral survivors or empty streets should you choose the non-lethal mode. Also, I disliked the fact that your arsenal of weapons is unbalanced against the stealth style. There's tons of ways that you can dismember your enemies, from grenades, guns, swords to even some sort of trap that cuts the enemy all apart but then it comes to taking down your enemy the non-lethal way, you can only either sneak up to them from behind and knock them unconscious or just sleep dart them. It can get kinda boring very quick to be honest when you can only do two things and I think the game could have added more variety to the stealth weaponry to make it more interesting instead.


killing: now frowned upon in the game

In terms of gameplay, while loads of people laud Dishonored in being unique, I don't know if it's just me or if it's real, but I somehow find that the game itself is like a cross between the Batman Arkham series, Skyrim, Assassins Creed and even Hitman. The dark vision for example, reminded me of the detective vision from Batman, the sneak is reminiscence of sneaking in Skyrim, the crossbow, gun and air assassination gives me the deja vu of Assassins Creed while the dynamics of the enemy, how sensitive they are to noise for example (even with a stealth 2 boots) is like the AI from Hitman.

I'm not complaining though, because it's like getting the best out of everything, it's just that as compared to the majority out there, I'm like one of the minority who doesn't think that the game is fresh. Heck, even the Outsider's realm looked something like the Ra's al Ghul's test or Scarecrow's hallucination in the Batman Arkham series.


this...


looked like this...


With that being said, I did find the game enjoyable here and there. I particularly liked the blink and possession skill. Combining both of them, the enemy never had the slightest clue that I was around, especially when I was pretending to me a rat walking around.

I also liked how the game really tests you to come out with solutions to avoid the security and reach your objective. It takes time and thinking power, sometimes I had to sit on a ledge with the dark vision on deliberating on the route that I need to take but when you're able to completely surprise your target, there's sort of like an achievement there. Caution though, because the game isn't exactly newbie friendly and the player often has to find a way in him/herself. It adds to the realism, but when you're lost, there's no tutorial or map page you can bring out to guide you.

The small interactions and sub-plots embedded throughout the game also keeps the game interesting. During your missions, you will sometimes meet up with people that you need to save or safes that you need to break. It gives you the impression that the world is much larger than it is and adds to the realism of the entire game. The city is not just you and your target, but also others who bring an additional flavor to the city you're in.


i especially liked solving puzzles like this


The levels were also varied and detailed. From the posh mansion of the Boyles to the medieval brothel, each setting have their own unique taste and requires a different set of tactics to infiltrate. The feel you get from each place is also different too. I almost did not want to leave the brothel, to be honest, because of all the things you can see in there. *ahem*

On the contrary, there was one level that scared me so much that I had to take off my earphones because I was too terrified of all the wailing of the weepers and the dark music playing behind. There was once where I literally screamed when I knock off something and the sound caused dozens of weepers to be suddenly chasing me. Like L4D, you can say. It's almost like I'm playing a horror game during that level. I don't know about you, but the weepers have a strange way of sapping every ounce of courage out from me when they appear.


weeper: almost made me shit in my pants

It's just a shame that the game ended too abruptly, at least for me I think. Somehow I feel that a lot of details were missing and not sufficiently addressed. There was the assassins for example. Who is Daud and who are they anyway? Why did they have powers similar to me? What are their motivations? And out of all places, why did they chose to camp out at flooded district, one of the scariest place ever?

The final few missions felt rushed, if you ask me, as not many details and side missions were included as compared to the first few. Everything just sort of conveniently fell into place somehow, like how the arc pylon that can decimate the entire map along with the cure of the plague was discovered during the second last mission, and the twist of how Havelock so quickly rose into power was not properly addressed.

Still, I managed to get the Disney like happy ending so I'm not gonna complain.

All in all, I felt that Dishonored could have been so much more if more effort were put into it. It feels short and underdeveloped at best, thanks to the short amount of gameplay hours the game has to offer. Still it's a bold attempt and it has some saving grace here and there, so it's not all horrible. However, with games like Far Cry 3 and Assassins Creed 3 being released so near to it, I am not sure if Dishonored can fare out better against the two heavyweights. Honestly, if you ask me, I would choose AC3 over Dishonored because at least when I kill a guard in AC3, the game doesn't judge me and go doom predicting. But that's me. I'm sure there's tons of others who beg to disagree.


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