Finding the Fun in Dishonored
What first drew me to Dishonored was it’s unique art style and it’s outlandish powers. Ever since my childhood, filled with comic books and science fiction and fantasy media, I had dreamed of having supernatural powers. The ability to teleport(blink) and transport your mind telepathically into another body(possession) immediately brought back my fascination with reading the X-men. Also, the fact that the game, about an assassin, could be beaten non-violently was intriguing.
When first playing Dishonored my feelings morphed from awe to vanquished. As I attempted to explore the city of Dunwall I was ambushed at every corner. I soon learned to tread lightly and quietly and usually not on the ground at all. The second emotion that I recognized was a sense of the overwhelmed. This city felt enormous and danger seemed inevitable, the combat, though fun, usually proved to be inadequate to deal with the situation. Was this intentional on the side of the designers? Did others players feel this way? I wasn’t sure.
What first came to mind when let loose in the city of Dunwall were two analogous cities: City 17 from Half-Life 2 and Rapture from BioShock. Level design distinctly reminded me of Half-Life 2. Half-Life 2 excelled at making rather linear, almost corridor driven level design seem completely open world. Would Dunwall be the same? And the rich mythos of Rapture, elegantly spread and hidden throughout an abandoned city. Rapture felt lived in, bottles and refuse everywhere. Posters, abandoned buildings, protestors signs, children’s dolls. All of these things added realism to Rapture’s far-fetched science-fiction world. Was Dunwall inspired by Rapture and City 17 and subsequently BioShock and Half-Life 2 and could it live up to these two masterpieces or would it fall to the waste side as a cheap knock-off?
Upon further research, I realized why Dishonored reminded me of Half-Life 2 and Bioshock, because key personnel from the teams that created Half-Life 2 and Bioshock 2 worked on Dishonored. Duh! So cheap knock-off was definitely out of the question. But would Dunwall be able to distinguish itself from these two cities so clearly ingrained in my brain? Another Duh! While there is a resemblance of the level design, water fx, and character movement between Half-Life 2 and Dishonored and the way the player learns about the world in BioShock, Dishonored and Dunwall become distinct entities in their own and any remembrances from the other two games quickly faded into the background.
Now back to that overwhelmed feeling. That feeling of heightened anxiety combined with the length the chapters took to complete made me put Dishonored a side for a while. Maybe too much freedom in game was a bad thing. So Dishonored was a beauty but was it going to be fun? My first thoughts were, more work than fun. The holidays came and I found myself with some free time and a pinch of guilt knowing how excited I was for Dishonored but had yet to complete it. I picked it back up. It took me completing the second mission, High Overseer Campbell, to really come to enjoy it. And after I poisoned the glass of a corrupt religious Overseer, saved his intended victim and escaped in the night without a trace [almost] I was hooked. I had found the fun in Dishonored.