A couple of friends recommended Dishonored when I said I wanted to play a story-driven RPG that was less scary than Bioshock. Dishonored is indeed less scary, but still incredibly stressful—I would spend hours staring intently at my screen, trying to sneak through maps without enemies noticing me.
In Dishonored, you’re an assassin framed for murdering the empress, trying to overthrow the government amid a rat plague and clear your name. It’s a stealth/action game, with lots of flexibility as to how to progress through missions (e.g. you can choose to kill people in your way, or you can sneak around them so they never notice you). There are some supernatural abilities that make it fun. I think this is the first dark-gritty-violent story RPG I’ve played.
- The setting of an ongoing rat plague was quite timely for 2020
- I thought the ‘chaos’ system was interesting, where the more people you murder, the more ‘chaotic’ the world becomes. In the beginning, I was killing everyone because it was easier, and this had consequences like lots of rats (the rats, uh, eat people) and plague-stricken people wandering about. Partway through, I decided to refrain from killing and devoted my time to sneaking around and saving obsessively.
- I’m not a game scholar or anything so I don’t have sophisticated thoughts, but this just reminded me of this article on The Last of Us 2 about violence in games—if an AAA game decided to match its moral lesson of violence = bad to its gameplay, “What would [the character] even do? Literally, what would a AAA game even allow for her to do? AAA game design is built and marketed around killing.”
- if you choose the low-chaos, non-murderous gameplay in Dishonored, you get the better ending. but it can feel more boring because there’s no combat. I didn’t choose low chaos because I’m morally against violence in games, but because I didn’t like the in-game effects of playing high chaos and I was bad at the combat.
- I’m still going to go back and replay my peaceful levels with violence though.
- there are lots of sophisticated and creative ways to kill people in Dishonored, and only two ways to handle them nonlethally.
- The worldbuilding was very cool. Lots of notes that added to the lore, like characters recording their final words as they died of the plague; fictional stories and notes about the economy of whale oil; posters and graffiti on walls about the plague and death.
- I continue to have a hoarding problem with my items, and rarely ever used my healing items or precious limited sleep ammo (‘I need to save this for when I really need it’) despite carrying around the maximum amount I could hold.
All in all: do I recommend it? Yes. I started playing it and was obsessed for like a week while I zoomed through all the missions. I feel like I never want to play it again because of how stressful and hard it was but also I want to hyperfixate on something like it again. I’m going to eventually play the DLCs and Dishonored 2.
Here are some screenshots: