Tuesday, August 27, 2013

August of Games: Day 27 - Dishonored

I haven't often said this this month, but Dishonored's soundtrack is pretty disappointing. It's very much an ambience soundtrack with very little melody, and even the ambient stuff is pretty boring. This is from the trailer, for god's sake. However, this is a great song still. Interesting in-world, fun to listen to as music, sets the right mood, just good. If the soundtrack could have upheld this standard we would have been set. Sorry Daniel Licht, it just didn't work this time.

Developer: Arkane Studios (published by Bethesda)
Genre (Setting): Gritty Dystopian Fantasy
Genre (Gameplay): First-Person Stealth
What is this game: In this game you play a guy who was framed for assassinating the Empress. You bust out of prison and, teamed up with a group of loyalists to the old regime, hunt down the conspirators responsible for the frame job and rescue the kidnapped daughter of the Empress. There's a whole bunch of dudes who need killing. There's some plot twists, but not tons like some other games.
Setting-wise, this is a fantasy city where refined whale oil is the primary power source and the world has been ravaged by a plague that basically turns you into a zombie. Things are gritty and grim, reminiscent of what a city would feel like during the Black Plague, but with more architectural development. Kinda like if the Black Plague had struck in the middle of the Renaissance, rather than before it.
The city is dominated by a powerful and restrictive religion that bans worship of The Outsider, a mysterious individual who grants people magic. You happen to recieve a little of that magic.
Using your magic and your knife, along with a couple other gadgets (like sleep darts or a pistol), you creep through all the levels of the game. You can be totally non-lethal! It's certainly easier than being non-lethal in Deus Ex Human Revolution. But anyway, you can choose to take out even the main targets nonlethally, though it requires a great deal more effort usually. Your most iconic magic is a short-range teleport that lets you move between cover, get up on buildings, or disappear from the sight of guards. You can upgrade your magics as the game goes on.
What's great about it: Let's get this out in the air, because I wasn't sure about this early on: this may have a visual similarity to the aesthetic used in (and share a publisher with) The Elder Scrolls, but this is the polar opposite of Skyrim. TES has a lot of problems, but here's a couple of my big ones and why Dishonored breaks them down.
First, TES is not a narrative game. It is a sandbox game. Skyrim especially was built so you could do whatever at any time and there was no sense of urgency or importance to either the plot or the side stories. It was complete freedom to the point where it sacrificed the cohesiveness of its story. Dishonored doesn't QUITE have the same freedom, locking you into your objectives (with occasional side objective, given that the city is very large and you are free to sneak through many regions of it), but giving you the choice of how to go about things. The story keeps moving forward, and I was sucked into the plot.
Second, there's no grind. Advancement comes through two types of collectibles, which means you go out and do side sneaking stuff that you wouldn't have experienced otherwise.
Third, the environments you explore are varied! Not just in layout, but in appearance as well, which in general was something Skyrim sorely lacked (though I am told this was better in Morrowind and Oblivion). The city, the flooded district, the bridge, they all have distinct looks but share elements that tie them together. On the whole, the visual design of this game is off the charts cool. The setting is very well thought out, and the look of everything is not only thematic, but it's just plain awesome
Gameplay is also FUN! I'm a stealthy sort of gamer, even though I'm usually not good at it, but I feel comfortable replaying levels several times to actually get good at it, which is very, very rare.
There's a lot of angles to come at things, and they expand if you take certain powers. I never even touched Possession or Rat Swarm or Windblast, and those could have opened new opportunities as well. Of course, Blink is important, and the base level is free. Dark Vision, however, is equally, if not MORE, important than Blink. Take it as fast as you can. Also, there's a couple of Bone Charms that are randomized in what benefit they give, so if you get lucky and get either of the "Weapons-Out doesn't slow you down" or "Strangle Faster" ones early you're really lucky.
In general, you experience this game as a story. It's a narrative-driven experience at every corner, which felt really good. I didn't feel railroaded, and I didn't feel unfocused. I really like this game. I'm actually considering recording myself playing it (not that my computer could handle recording AND playing it :/ ). Play this one.
It also has side-story DLC featuring a character who is important to the main game but usually not present, which is a bold decision that seems to have worked. I haven't played 'em though.
And all this from an underdog studio known for cancelled games and providing assistance to other developers rather than making their own stuff. This was their first solo effort since 2006. All eyes should be on what these guys do next, because they've set quite a bar.
How do I get it: 360, PS3, Steam. I don't know its console price, but I'd guess around $40 at this point. Steam has it for $30.

End Recording,

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