Saturday, 16 March 2013

21st Century Gaming: Dishonored (part 2)

I mentioned last time that the game draws from a variety of other games in terms of it's general aesthetic and mechanics. But which games?
Metal walls enclose areas

Oddly enough, it wasn't Thief that I thought of first, it was Half Life. The opening boat ride is vaguely reminiscent of the tram ride in the first game, and the initial exploration and exposition is similar to the initial areas of the second game. Dishonored is a game that wants you to look around, and see the effort they've put into the world. Upon entering the Hound Pits, the pub that is your base of operations, you also get time to look around at your leisure.

The Wall of Light, futuristic security in an industrial era

The familiarity between this and Half Life 2 doesn't end there though. Both share in having metallic structures, barriers between areas that enclose a captive population. Both have mixtures of architecture, with futuristic electrical devices (such as the Walls of Light) attached to older stone and brick. I also found a subtle resemblance between the masked Overseers and Half Life 2's Combine soldiers, both in their military uniforms with dehumanising face masks.

An Overseer

Next up on the list: Bioshock. Here, we see a shared use of magical abilities (plasmids and tonics in Bioshock, Powers and Charms in Dishonored). These are handled in different ways, but amount to the same thing. One is a list of active abilities, upgraded over time. The other is a list of passive abilities, of which a certain number can be used at any given time. The active abilities (Plasmids and Powers) are much more inventively used in Dishonored, with a variety of game-changing uses (I like Blink in particular, which allows you to teleport a short distance). The passive abilities (Tonics and Bone Charms) are relatively similar in both games, providing small bonuses which can be tailored to your play style by changing which ones are in use at any time.

The Power list

The use of audio-logs, notes and environmental clues can most recently be traced to the likes of Bioshock and Deus Ex (not to mention System Shock), but a lot of other games have used this to breathe a bit of life into the world, and increase immersion in the game world. The earliest example I can recall is the original Alone in the Dark (1992), which had various books and notes to read. Some of these notes being crucial to the completion of the game.

The stealth aspect of the game is most similar to Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The game doesn't rely on light levels in the same way as Thief, but rather more on line-of-sight. Also, while the original Thief also allowed you to either kill guards or knock them unconscious, generally speaking the less lethal approach was by far the most appropriate. In DX:HR, the player is given a choice to kill or render unconscious almost any opposing characters in their path, with little consequence for either choice (From memory, I think killing causes more noise, which is generally to be avoided). With Dishonored, it is killing the guards and other characters you meet on your missions is initially the easier choice. However, as you progress through the game, your may find this choice coming back to bite you. Rendering a guard unconscious is a slightly more difficult task though, taking a bit more time. Avoiding guards altogether is perhaps a better choice yet, but an even more difficult one.

One of the things I enjoyed so much about DX:HR (and indeed what I have played of the first Deus Ex) is the variety of ways you are able to accomplish your tasks. Dishonored follows on from this, allowing for direct and indirect routes, varying amounts of stealth and combat and so on. There are often multiple ways to find keys and secrets, and side quests you can take advantage of or just ignore. I've been told that it's easily possible to complete the game in less than ten hours, but for a first playthrough the exploration will expand the game's length many times.

Coldridge Prison

Next time: A look at the various equipment and magical skills available in the game.

No comments:

Post a Comment