Dishonored: Definitive Edition

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Having played the original Dishonored in a stealthy pacifist manner, I opted to go for a more violent path this time around. The first thing I noticed was that this was not as much fun as it usually amounted to one intense fight where all the guards in the level were summoned to my location, then roaming the empty corridors to complete objectives and pick up loot. The second thing I noticed was that this was a lot easier and a lot quicker than sneaking.

When we talk about Ludonarrative dissonance the most common example is the extraordinary amounts of violence perpetuated by protagonists that we are meant to empathize with, but at least with stealth games a more commonly problematic one is the disruption between the fantasy and execution. The game sells you the idea of being a master spy or assassin, but in actual fact the player will frequently struggle with avoiding the gaze of random passers-by – something that should be trivial to the protagonist. Mark of the Ninja designer Nels Anderson did a GDC talk about this, mentioning how that game focused more on the fantasy and made avoiding detection trivial. In doing so, it becomes more about planning your approach – returning to Dishonored, these moments are when I feel it is at its best, and not when a stray guard randomly walks past a window halfway across the level and spots you being up to no good, forcing a restart.

Which brings up the question whether this is even a valid complaint – Dishonored does, after all, tell you any solution is good. In fact, unlike most other stealth games it recognizes when you opt for a more chaotic and straightforward approach and penalizes you for it with difficulty hikes later, so it is certainly not the worst offender. The original Mirror’s Edge, for instance, had a narrative that actively discouraged you from fighting and killing but gameplay mechanics that made attempting to avoid firearms frustrating and tedious. But I would argue that the reinforced enemies in a high-chaos playthrough of Dishonored do not add much to the difficulty, whereas the narrative chides you for being violent and the presented statistics aim to show you how good you were at sneaking regardless of the approach you take – it is at least interesting that the game allows you to coast through it rather than force you to deal with its unforgiving stealth systems, though I feel that it is simultaneously encouraging me to play a certain way and penalizing me for doing so. The expansions – Brigmore Witches in particular – take this even further with large open spaces with little cover, enemies that do not count as kills or detections, enemies that can teleport and an ability set that offer fewer opportunities for stealth.

That said, I mentioned in my reflection of the original Dishonored that it is an old-school approach to stealth gaming and I knew what I was getting into. Frustrations aside the gameplay is still tense and fun, the art is still beautiful and the narrative in the expansions – again, Brigmore Witches in particular – is a step up from the base game.

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Posted on Nov 29/15 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »