Arkane Studios, 2012
no need for
they’re all dead
Dishonored draws immediate comparisons to the Thief series, but doesn't quite earn the pedigree. The problem with throwbacks is that they often dredge up vestigial gameplay quirks without managing to solve them in light of more recent game design. Mark of the Ninja, a standout among its stealth contemporaries, sees fit to exhume and discard most of its roots; what results is a much-needed course correction on how stealth games approach the ebb and flow of tension. Dishonored's solution? A "lean" button.
Early 3D stealth-action games (e.g. Thief and the original Splinter Cell) were burdened with trial-and-error dynamics resulting from smaller maps and scripted gating. Patient players who observed their surroundings could get by if they were not bothered by the glacial pace of such an approach, but the impulse to quick-load once spotted by a guard remained, especially in first-person stealth games.
Not that Arkane doesn't address these issues; it's just that their approach is often self-defeating for my desired style of play. Protagonist Corvo is gifted with gameplay amenities such as Blink (a short, line-of-sight teleport) and Time Freeze. He is also much more lethal than the stealth protagonists that came before him--a skilled player can dispatch several guards with ease, while such odds would mean certain death for the Thief series' Garrett.
While it is absurdly easy for the player to shoot and stab their way across Dunwall, the narrative encourages sneakiness. Fatalities in Dishonored produce Chaos, a meta-resource that is tallied after mission completion and is the byproduct of the game's rudimentary moral calculus. While the player can easily survive a run-in with a guard if they are spotted, the only real choice they are left with--despite the slew of abilities available to them--is whether or not to quick load the last save and try again.
In the end, the game's stubborn insistence on almost entirely diegetic stealth feedback negates any advantage the player might have had with Blink. One wonders why they didn't follow through and write quick loading into the lore with a Foresight ability the way Prince of Persia or Braid do. At least then a game where the goal is to be stealthy--but getting caught is of little consequence--would respect my time.
14 hours played