March 13, 2014

Out of MP: Dishonored

warning: may contain spoilers

I tried on numerous occasions to play Dishonored on the Xbox360, and burnt out every time. I constantly had to talk myself into it, like it was an unnecessary chore. I think it's safe to say I'm out of MP...

I think I'm going to try a new format for these. I'm going to attempt to divide my thoughts into pros and cons, so that you can clearly see what I disliked about the game, but also understand that I see the good things, too. Forgive me if these thoughts are a little all over the place... First, I'll share what little information I managed to gather from my many short bouts with Dishonored.

The story is centered around the silent Corvo, the Empress' most trusted guard. He's sent to neighboring empires to seek help in the growing plague problem, which is being spread rampantly by rats. Our story begins as Corvo is returning home, where he is clearly liked and respected by all, especially the Empress' young daughter Emily. Shortly after delivering his journey's news to the lady-in-charge, the trio are attacked by an unknown enemy, who possess incredible abilities including teleportation. They murder the Empress and kidnap her daughter, and when the Empress' court arrives, only Corvo is left, with blood on his hands. He is immediately charged, and begins a long tenure of prison cells and interrogation rooms. Finally, the day comes when Corvo is to be executed, but in a strange turn of events, he is helped to escape. These mysterious rescuers invite Corvo to join them as an assassin, under the notion that together, they will rescue Emily and help her to the throne, overthrowing the mastermind Spymaster, who has taken over. Shortly after, Corvo is met by the Outsider, who brands Corvo with his insignia, granting Corvo the ability to use powers, such as the teleporting "blink" ability seen earlier. The bulk of the game consists of Corvo being sent on various missions to eliminate key people in the Spymaster's rise to power, and rescuing Emily.
Combat and general gameplay go hand in hand, and sometimes remind me of Bioshock or Metal Gear Solid (for different reasons). This works both for and against the game for me; I enjoy the familiarity and happy memories, but I'd also give up this game in a heartbeat to replay either of those. There are two major tactics for handling Dishonored: stealth or mass murder. It's obvious the game wants to encourage the former, as there are innumerable stealth capabilities including the ability to look through keyholes, lean and peek around objects, climb obstacles, hide in various places (such as trash bins), as well as various means of incapacitating enemies, like choking them out, or "drop assassinations", which - while totally badass - aren't terribly effective in my experience.
Your screen typically features your health meter; your mana meter, which regenerates; your equipped ammo or power; and an indication of your body position, if you're crouching, for example. You can also clearly see which weapon(s) you have equipped in your hands, and the screen will damped red as you're attacked.
If you choose to handle things in stealth, thus maintaining a low chaos meter and probably working toward the happiest ending, you'll want to be aware of your enemies noticing you. This can be monitored by the little bolts surrounding their heads. When all 6 bolts are lit up, you've been found.
At the end of each mission you are met with the mission end screen, which grades you on your success.

PROS
Dishonored came highly recommend to me. A lot of my friends praised it for being a game so big and circumstantial, that you never really play the same game twice. This motivated me to check it out.
There is quite a lot of decision making, including what must be the biggest game options board I've ever seen in my life (no seriously, there are about 40 game options), a large world to check out, and a number of ways to handle situations that are tied to the game's "chaos meter", which ultimately dictates which ending you get.
The characters are interesting, mysterious, and from what I gather, pretty diverse. Additionally, the premise of the game is very intriguing! The story is initially concise, but as I said, there are multiple decisions to be made at every corner, so there's really no telling how it could turn out. The initial narrative of a disease being spread by rats gives the game a "real world" authenticity and speaks to my inner historian.
There is definitely immersion in the Dishonored world. People will acknowledge you as you pass by! But there is always a little arrow to keep you on track during missions, which also indicates a person or object of interest and its distance from you.
Furthermore, the game is rather well-lit, and sharp, which is pretty odd for a stealth game, but I like that!
There are a plethora of weapons and magic powers to be used, and you have two hands, which means two weapons can be equipped at any time. Fun to play around with.

CONS
This is a very personal thing, but I hate first-person games. I don't know if it's just that I didn't play them enough in my younger years, or that I just can't handle not having peripherals, but the first-person point of view irritates me, even in a great game. I constantly get stuck and can't deduce why, or run into walls. I'm sure some people are laughing at me right about now, but as I said, I don't typically choose first-person, so these skills are not ones in which I am well-practiced, and thus am deterred.
It's immediately clear that the Xbox 360 is not the right platform for Dishonored. It simply can't handle the graphics, and the details take forever to load.
I'm not sure how I feel about the left and right trigger controlling attacks. I recognize that this makes sense, but it feels so unnatural to me. In fact, I never really warmed to the entire controller map, and since my play attempts were far in between, I could seldom remember it.
With endless capabilities comes endless tutorials, and this is really overwhelming when you're still trying to grasp what's going on. This is one of the chief reasons I gave up on Dishonored, I feel it's poorly paced. It's all just thrown at you right away, and it's up to you to sort it out on the fly, and that really doesn't work for me.
I tend to spend a lot of time exploring in games, and it annoyed me that you have to be pointed very specifically to pick up items and I didn't notice any real indication of what can be picked up. I had no idea about coins until I picked one up by accident. It's pretty frustrating when general exploring is a difficult thing to master.
Your menu is large and cluttered. The game offers ways to make it a little easier to surf, like allowing you to hide objectives if you're not immediately interested, but I feel like this shouldn't even be necessary. The rest of your menu details clues, mission items, notes (books or audiographs), powers and your inventory including keys, gadgets, ammo and resources… it just feels poorly designed. Separately, you can also bring up your power wheel, where you equip weapons and powers, and can program quick-access to your D-Pad.

Overall, the poor pacing of gameplay mechanics, the first-person point-of-view, and the general compressed complexity of Dishonored was just too much for me. There was little to look forward to, in spite of everything I've heard; I just got very bored with it every time. The game is so heavy on stealthy gameplay tactics and too light on everything else. I can't even decide if it would be fun to watch someone else play Dishonored, since you wouldn't get to make any of the decisions and half the fun is using powers and junk. Exploring in this game got old fast as well. I don't know, guys. I just didn't fall in love with Dishonored. Did it take a while to grow on you?

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