Matters of Honour
By Geoff Bee on January 22, 2014
Here’s a game I’ve been meaning to play for a while – Dishonored. It’s yet another game where my interest has been mainly stoked by Miracle of Sound, who produced an excellent song called “Distant Honour” – atmospheric, emotional, memorable, it’s one of my favourites. Seriously, go listen to it. Anyway I decided to give the game a go to see if it could live up to the song. And it came up in the Steam sale recently so hey, why not?
Well I finally managed to make time to play it. After the entire Assassin’s Creed series (apart from Liberation – don’t think I’m too bothered about that one!) I was in the right frame of mind for more sneaking and stealth. To be honest I had no real idea what this game was about, apart from the fact it had a man in a mask whose job was to insert sharp pointy objects into people without them noticing. Oh and of course something about being dishonored.
My very first thoughts on starting a new game were that somehow I’d wandered into Bioshock Infinite instead. Oh sure there was no floating city, but the general look of the game right down to the soldiers’ uniforms and slightly disproportionate character models made me wonder if Elizabeth was going to appear and start throwing things at me. Actually both Bioshock Infinite and this game use the Unreal engine so maybe the fact that they look similar is not such a surprise. And in any case Dishonored was released about five months beforehand.
So I am informed that the Empress wishes to see me and on my way I encounter a little girl dressed in white who wants me to play with her. Turns out she wants to play hide-and-seek which I suppose is little-girl speak for “This is the basic stealth tutorial”. Stealth is apparently achieved by crouching and moving behind an object – say a tree – and leaning your head out. I immediately become nostalgic for the days of Deus Ex Human Revolution and Mass Effect where you could press a button to definitively take cover.
Anyway I meet with the Empress and of course hilarity ensues as she’s murdered by shadowy assassins who instantly teleport away with the little girl leaving me to be found with the body and of course thrown into prison with execution featuring heavily in my not-too-distant future. This of course leads to the combat tutorial as I break out of my cell, find a sword and immediately start making mincemeat of the guards. Again I’m struck by the steampunky aesthetic to the environments. Then I’m struck by a guard behind me who I couldn’t see as I was facing the wrong way. Curse you first-person POV!
There’s climbing involved too as I reach some convenient sewers (hello Elder Scrolls Oblivion!) and actually I don’t find it that easy. It sounds straightforward enough, just move up to the wall and press jump to climb, but I find it hard to see what I’m doing. Maybe if there was an animation showing me climbing up it might have helped. I obtain a small crossbow for range and am told I can drop onto guards and assassinate them instantly. Like, you know, assassins from other games.
I eventually escape and fall in with a group of revolutionaries who are upset with the current regime since the death of the Empress beloved by all. Then I’m taken to a dream world to meet a rather plain looking fellow who gives me magic. Which to me seems somewhat out of place in this world. Anyway I make it through the teleport tutorial and am given a beating heart as a magic item detector. Which is nice of him I guess. Then I’m given my first proper mission, to assassinate some high ranking dignitary. And a mask, sadly without any sort of big “this is your destiny” type scene like in certain other games.
I really wanted to like this game but it feels too much like a mish-mash of other games I’ve played and enjoyed (specifically Bioshock and Assassin’s Creed). I also have real problems with first-person melee combat as I prefer to see what’s happening all around me rather than just what’s in front. And I can’t get on with the stealth at all. I have asked myself why I like Bioshock and even Deus Ex HR, as they are primarily first person, and I think the answer there is that they are just more compelling games. If it was in third person I think I’d enjoy it more but for now I think I’ll leave it at one side.