Dishonored EP1: A Capital Offense!

 By Shamus Feb 27, 2013 208 comments


Link (YouTube)

I want to stress that this is not going to be a season of rage and bile. I like a lot of things about Dishonored, and even its shortcomings are kind of understandable. The problem is that its problems are all front loaded. Most of the problems with the game happen in the introduction. The pacing, character introductions, worldbuilding, level design, and mechanics are all handled sideways and backwards. The game is trying to cram way too much stuff into this opening, and as a result it’s like watching a movie on fast-forward. This was incredibly frustrating to talk about. The opening is so hurried and the problems are so dense that we didn’t even get to cover all of the problems.

As a result, these first few episodes are going to be very negative. Again, this isn’t a horrible game, it just makes a really awkward first impression.

Since I brought up the Thief series, here are my posts on Thief 3 from way back in 2006.


A Hundred!A Hundred!8208 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?


  1. Chris says:

    Seconding the “We don’t mean for this to be a mean season” thing.

    I mean, there’s a lot to like here! Emergent gameplay based off of beloved titles like Thief and Deus Ex, a pedigree of established designers that have experience with those titles in particular, a gorgeous artstyle, a universe that’s at least superficially interesting, and an emphasis on player choice! We don’t get many games like that – this is probably the first since Human Revolution!

    And yet.

    This intro sequence (and indeed, the first part of the game) does a terrific job of showing some of the game’s weakest points once you’re familiar enough with the game to see them. And I think that’s why we’re so full of bile this week. The story isn’t a trainwreck by any means, but given the power of its gameplay and its imagery it could have been so much more, and most of our frustration comes from that place: a place not of anger or hate but of disappointment that this pretty good game could have been an absolutely phenomenal one.

    I remain confident that once we’re in parts of the game that are less hamfisted, scripted, and awkward – when the game’s at its most gorgeous and we have the most player choice in front of us – we’ll see an uptick in opinion. For today, though, we have to talk about a rushed introduction and a hurried exposition dump that leaves us emotionally disconnected from any of the super important events that we should care about.

    • Stephen says:

      You guys do tend to have a hard time with beginning a season (getting used to the cast, establishing the game & the show, etc) and Dishonored’s front-rush probably isn’t helping. I’m sure you’ll be back on the upswing soon enough.

    • Aldowyn says:

      That first main paragraph sounds a LOT like Errant Signal. Definitely reading that in your voice. Just saying.

      Random note: Too bad you don’t see much more than the surface of that superficially interesting universe…

    • Jace911 says:

      It’s hardly the first time Spoiler Warning has covered a game with those same sins; as I recall the crew had the same complaints with Human Revolution when they started that season. It could have been amazing, but because of a number of smaller issues that piled on top of each other (Megan MacGuffin, the boss fights, “push button, receive bacon ending”) it ended up just being “eh, pretty good”.

      That was more or less how I felt about Dishonored: I loved the environments, the art style, the gameplay (Oh sweet monke godzilla christmas the gameplay) yet the narrative was about as engaging and evocative as a sheet of cardboard. I tried my damndest to at least care about Emily, this little girl whose mother has been assassinated and whose father-figure and likely actual father is slowly becoming more and more absorbed with revenge, but the voice acting and flat writing never failed to slap me out of what little verisimilitude I had conjured for myself.

      Which brings me to another complaint: Corvo. Had they not decided to make him a silent protagonist, they would have had an amazing hook on which to hang his personal story. I was expecting the story to focus on him and his pursuit of vengeance, how he slides deeper and deeper into that pit before being forced to choose between carrying his campaign of terror out to the bitter end or turning away from it for Emily’s sake. Instead they tried to make Gordon Freeman, not realizing that the reason Valve’s titular protagonist was so successful was because of how bare-bones his own narrative was and how alive the other characters were. Here we have a story that tries to be complex with a protagonist you never really get connected to and characters who sound like they’re ordering a late meal at a McDonalds instead of plotting treason.

    • Wedge says:

      It is interesting that you brought up Megan in DX:HR, because that actually highlights why it’s so bad that Corvo’s a silent protagonist. Jensen is an actual character with actual dialogue, so I was able to get at least SOME sense of his relationship with Megan before she becomes a macguffin. Corvo, on the other hand, isn’t so much a character as a walking camera, so it’s hard to get any sense for his relationship with the Empress and her daughter.

  2. Grampy_Bone says:

    Whoo hoo! Another game I played just in time for Spoiler Warning. I originally got this game, played the first two levels, and then left it. When I saw you guys were going to cover it I decided to give it another shot. I actually really enjoyed it once I got into the story and the main gameplay missions.

    But yes, two things the beginning desperately needs:
    1. Some kind of tutorial mission pre-assassination to introduce you to the Empress and Emily,

    and 2. A better representation of the passage of time while you are in jail. Seriously, that was supposed to be six months?!?

    • Aldowyn says:

      No, he turned it into a total Orwellian dystopia overnight. /sarcasm

      • Grampy_Bone says:

        How are you supposed to know this is any different? You never experience the city before the Regency. They never even say, “You’ve been here for six months, the City has changed…”

        • Indy says:

          That’s a good point. The city, as far as we know, has not changed. The only observable difference is at the Tower later on when there’s a whole bunch of security installations. And to be fair, we become the main cause for that change.

          • Aldowyn says:

            :/ It looks and feels totally different, unless I’m missing something. Look at the intro. It’s actually LIGHT out, Corvo just came back from doing something overseas, I think there’s a mention of the plague just starting among the commoners, and probably some mention of how good a ruler the Empress is. I’m pretty sure you could tell it’s pretty different, if you pay attention – although you do at least have to pay SOME attention.

            • Indy says:

              There’s light on the bridge level, too, and I think it’s also bright in the brothel level. Nothing exactly standoutish. And I meant it from more of an in-world experience. We don’t see Dunwall before prison so we can’t see the full implications of the change. For all we know, the Empress is a dreadful ruler in a series of dreadful rulers. The Lord Regent might have cleaned the place up a great deal while cracking down harder.

              • This is true. Also, I’m on board with the cast when I say that a mission or two before the betrayal would’ve been a good thing.

                You can have Corvo carry out the trip to the final kingdom to request aid from, and then make the intro another mission on its own. They would need to be missions in small, more linear areas, but I think it’d be a good idea.

                • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

                  I didn’t realize I was in jail for 6 months. I thought they wanted Corvo out of the way fast.

                  The image I had was that everything was in place for the coup, and the intent was to have it happen when Corvo was away.

                  Then he came home early because the Empress asked him to come home.

                  Presumably because everything was going so badly.

                  If only they had dome something to show the relationship and reveal that Corvo was a confidant of the Empress…

                  All that aside, the part where Corvo cradles her head as she dies was very affecting.

              • Mike S. says:

                One problem is that while we’re told that the Empress is a good ruler and that if we play our cards right Emily can be, what we see of Dunwall suggests that its problems are a lot more deeply rooted and systemic than a plague and a coup. The Empress was presumably ruling through (or trying to work around) the same decadent and corrupt nobility and the same arrogant and ambitious military, her economy depended on taking down and rendering majestic magical creatures on whom the world implicitly depends, and a chaos god was handing out powers to random loose cannons to keep things interesting.

                It’s kind of hard to imagine a non-decayed Dunwall given the people you have to work with. There’s a real dearth of responsible aristocrats waiting to step up, or committees of commoners prepared to demand a charter and broader representation. All we see are exploiters and victims. Corvo turning some of the former into the latter is fine for a revenge story, but it’s hard to see how acting with restraint (if restraint you call it in some cases) actually leads to making things better.

                With the exception of the scientists, who really do seem to become better people if Corvo takes the right actions, with repercussions that could make Dunwall a better place. But it seems as if the low-chaos path really needed to create more opportunities like that elsewhere in society for the larger implications to be plausible.

                (Unless it did, and I’m just misremembering.)

                • False Prophet says:

                  I kind of assumed these things too. The plague, which was really beyond anyone’s control, had either necessitated or justified the totalitarian measures in the first place, all the bleeding hearts in positions of authority were either dead, driven away, or eventually became callous and cruel, and the Empress and Emily were probably the only kind-hearted people left because they were so isolated from all the suffering.

                  I didn’t get any sense that months had passed in the prison cell at all. If that’s what the game wanted to convey, we really needed a Black Mesa Commute to show us how things were pre-coup.

  3. Vect says:

    You know, I think I might have an idea for the ultimate way for Josh to troll the group, though it would need him to record a Console game.

    Play “Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance” and say call it “Kai Leng: The Game”.

    (On a separate note, it’s actually a really fun game)

  4. Kavonde says:

    Hooray! The Adventures of Corvo Cuftbert begin!

  5. I’m curious: Are there any interesting characters in Dishonored? Anyone likable or human or flawed in some way? Anyone memorable or engaging moments? Any interesting game mechanics besides “slit throat or choke”? Are there any unique or eye-catching environments, or is it all just slimy dockside buildings? Any heartstrings tugged?

    I haven’t played it, and it really bugs me that I’ve never had any interest to do so. And not just for the reasons Shamus mentioned(the usual lack of FPS “Thief-ey” games). But also for the simple fact that a AAA developer made a new IP. I complain so much about the stagnation of creativity in this medium, and then this comes out. And I can’t help but feel ungrateful, because this had to have been a bit of a risk to publish.

    All of the previews and video reviews I’ve seen just make it seem so drab. Nothing about it really gets its’ hooks in me. I hope watching Spoiler Warning will shed a light on some of its’ qualities.

    • Grampy_Bone says:

      There are interesting characters in the game, but you have to sort of dig to find out about them. Many of the loyalists have audio diaries they update after each mission, listening to them gives you some insight into their personalities and how they are changing over the game. Then there is The Heart, this artifact you can point at someone and it will tell you little secrets about them. Kind of neat.

      • Indy says:

        Characters I like in Dishonoured: Samuel, Piero, Sokolov, Martin and Daud. The Heart is responsible for the first four, though. An endearing trait about Sokolov is that the Overseer would visit him if he wasn’t so boring. That made me like him a great deal.

        • Karthik says:

          “the Overseer would visit him if he wasn’t so boring.”

          Huh? Oh, you must mean The Outsider. Though I do believe your statement too. He is a boring fella.

        • Sleeping Dragon says:

          Actually “the heart” was probably my favourite character in the game, if you’re willing to interpret her as a character. I think she was written very well on the one hand having all that intimate insight into places and everybody’s lives providing some optional exposition, on the other hand she was not an “objective database” of facts but would sometimes pass judgement, pity someone or reveal some of her experiences while she was alive. For me she was probably one of the, if not just the, most compelling ways of setting the tone of the world. I was actually hoping there would be more to her, but then again I was actually thinking would eventually at least brush against some powerful background to how the world works on the supernatural/metaphysical level (see Thief).

    • Jace911 says:

      Its characters and story are by far the weakest aspect of it. Chris has gone a lot more in depth with this at Errant Signal, but there’s a grand total of one really interesting character in the game (Daud, the assassin who killed the Empress) and you only find about this depth if you read their diary.

      On the other hand, if you want to play as a teleporting magic ninja Skeletor running around lavishly crafted environments inside of a very fleshed-out world, then it’s a fantastic game. Despite its flaws I heartily enjoyed it.

    • hborrgg says:

      It really depends on what you consider “likable” or “human.”

    • X2-Eliah says:

      If you need characters to hook you on a game, Dish is probably not for you. It’s a sneak-em-up, not a character drama.

    • Aldowyn says:

      Probably my favorite character is Sokolov (I think that’s the right scientist, it’s been a few months. The other one is cool too though). But you (obviously) have no idea who that is, so I guess we’ll see. Also the boatman, who they mentioned.

      The ending is certainly memorable, as are several of the missions. There’s some interesting powers you can get (notably possession and slow/stop time), including some interesting combinations.

      IMO it’s certainly worth playing at some point, it does a lot of things that although they aren’t totally original, are at least refreshing now and used in different ways and combinations than we’ve seen in the past.

    • There is one particular mission in the exact middle of the game involving a party in a wealthy family’s house. I’d say more, but I feel that this may already be too spoiler-y.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Oh yes,plenty of interesting characters.Theres daud,and then….errrr,then there….ehhh,there iss….ummm….Lets see,theres daud,and ummm….eerrrrr….I mean theres loads of memorable characters in dishonored,like the assassin daud,and….many others.

      • I remember the guy who gives you the non-lethal option in the party mission, but for entirely the wrong reasons.

        • guy says:

          Gah, that guy. So very creepy. I seriously did not get the subtext until after breaking from my “Everyone who is a target, infected, or armed dies” policy in that mission. I regretted it.

          I kind of liked the scientist duo, actually.

      • MetalSeagull says:

        well, there’s Granny Rags. She has more backstory than she appears to early on. But she would have been more interesting with a lighter story-telling hand early on. She flat out asks you to commit wholesale murder at your first meeting.

      • Alexander The 1st says:

        I personally found Callista to be interesting, if for no other reason than When she tells you about her hidden apartment when something bad happens, I was hoping her to be the mission guide.

        I mean, between Samuel and Callista, I was thinking Callista would be the one to help you.

        I feel like everyone here associates “interesting” or “memorable” with “off-cliche” though.

        Cause when it comes to Daud, I was just…bored. “No sire, no matter how much you try to get me to fight you, I’m just going to leave you alone. Stop trying to force a rivalry in combat. I just want to get away from all these weepers and you and get to fighting the people who, you know, I’m supposed to be fighting. You’re just the Thane of this game.”

        Maybe if he had showed up at earlier points of the game, or if, for example, I had known his name before the party mission and had seen his name on the guest roster, then I could have cared.

      • Oh yes,plenty of interesting characters.Theres daud,and then….errrr,then there….ehhh,there iss….ummm….Lets see,theres daud,and ummm….eerrrrr….I mean theres loads of memorable characters in dishonored,like the assassin daud,and….many others.

        “…and then there’s Daud!”

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      Based on the ads, I thought it was some type of new vampire saga.

      I liked Sokolov. I liked branding the Overseer ’cause that guy was such an immense jerk that exposing his corruption with the heretic brand seemed poetic.

      I stopped playing during the quest to kill the regent. Just lost interest. I don’t know if anything more impressive comes later.

  6. Cupcaeks says:

    It’s interesting that so many people found the lethal style of play more enjoyable. I’d actually intended my first playthrough to be non-lethal, low chaos, but my first accidental swordfight was so fun that I ended up going through the rest of the game with a high-profile, highly confrontational style. Part of it was that a lot of the powers seemed geared towards combat/assassination, but a huge part of it for me was how fluid Corvo’s movements felt. It’s hard to tell from just watching a video, but the character control and movement in this game just feels good in a way that I wouldn’t expect from the first-person perspective. I’m not quite sure what it is, but I have a much better sense of spatial awareness in this game than in say, Mirror’s Edge.

    As far as stealth goes, I didn’t find it boring at all. Part of it might come down to my play style: I basically played it like Thief, trying to pickpocket and snag as much loot as I could lay eyes on. It can be a bit easy given the powers you can get later on, but I found it just as engaging as Thief, if not quite as nuanced. If I recall correctly, there’s a developer interview that says there was actually a light gem mechanic at one point, but it was removed to make the experience more ‘realistic’. I can kind of get that, and shadows do still work to a limited extent (crouching in a shadow from a certain distance still provides cover, where crouching anywhere else from that same distance will not), but it’s a little disappointing that hiding in the dark isn’t always a viable tactic. Alas, Thief 4 this certainly is not. I think a more apt comparison would be to games like Dark Messiah, Deus Ex, and Bioshock, where stealth is just a viable alternative to combat rather than a focus in itself.

    • Interesting that you say that, because I find that a lot of the powers you get could be equally geared for lethal or non-lethal play.

      Blink is universally useful.
      Dark Vision could be used to sneak or plan your lethal approach.
      Possession could be used to sneak through an obstacle or get closer to a target.
      Bend Time can give you a breather or help you bypass a tricky stealth sequence.
      Windblast only knocks people out until you get to level two.
      As for the passives, only Agility is useful for Stealth. Extra speed and jump height are useful.
      As for Vitality, Blood Thirsty, Shadow Kill, and Devouring Swarm. Those are for lethal play (yet I’ve actually never used them).

      I think that the weapons and equipment, I think THAT’S where they whole thing falls apart. Aside from sleep darts, every weapon in the game is intended for lethal play. If you’re Low Chaos, you’ll be avoiding all of that like the plague.

      • Wedge says:

        One of the things that bothered me the most, and that really sealed for me that the designers didn’t really focus on the non-lethal aspect of the game, is even more basic than that. It’s the fact that you *always* have your sword in one hand. I tried to do a non-lethal playthrough (which I ended up missing by 2 kills, but that’s a different rant) which meant I spent the entire game holding a sword in my right hand that I *never used* except to break wooden planks and kill the occasional rat swarm. I would have liked to be able to use that hand for other stuff–for example, let me put the sleep darts in that hand and use the left hand for spells.

        I haven’t had a chance to do a high-chaos playthrough of the game yet, so I feel a little ripped off by the fact that the lethal combat mechanics are so much more interesting and fleshed out than the non-lethal/stealth mechanics. After having the game billed as a spiritual successor to Thief, I really approached the game wanting some satisfying stealth gameplay, and while it was certainly enjoyable, it was a little unsatisfying to feel like I was playing the game wrong because I didn’t want to go around murdering people and creating havoc.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Yes having fully customizable hands is great.Skyrim really did it well:Two spells,two weapons,a weapon and a spell,a two handed weapon,a weapon and a shield.Its a shame though that you couldnt pack two shields.

        • I agree with this, actually. I spent my whole first playthough as a non-lethal, and I NEVER used this sword that was always in my hand.

          This is particularly egregious in Lady Boyle’s Last Party. In that mission, you’re supposed to blend in with the party-goers to find and take out the target. If you want to ready your powers, this sword comes out the gives you away completely. Same with the Heart, but that’s understandable. It’s dumb.

          • StashAugustine says:

            I hadn’t realized you could holster weapons at that point. Awkward.

            • Wedge says:

              I had this same problem, in both Dishonored and Fallout 3. The problem, I think, is consoles–on the PC, I expect “draw/holster weapon” to be a separate keybind, but because those are also console games, you holster by holding down some key that does something else normally. I often use the keymap screen as a control reference, because even if they give me “training” popups early on, those don’t do me any good if I forget what I’m supposed to press halfway through the game.

      • Cupcaeks says:

        Yes, I forgot to mention the gear. Some things like grenades and incendiary bolts can double up as noisemakers/distractions, but it was pretty clear that’s not what their primary purpose was. Even the upgrades to equipment seem to push for a more lethal style of play. Upgrading bolt capacity, for example, does NOT allow you to carry more sleep darts, just more of the lethal kind. I would’ve liked to see more equipment geared towards incapacitation rather than outright death. Flash bombs as alternatives to grenades for example, or a way of setting up non-lethal traps as an alternative to the springrazor. Maybe the powers were supposed to make up for this, but I still feel that those were geared more towards combat/killing, though that might come down to my own play style. I never found Bend Time terribly useful for stealth when I had Blink, for example, but it was great as a combat equalizer against groups. Windblast never seemed like a good choice when a sleep dart or takedown would suffice in most situations, and the ‘better’ version of it being lethal just adds to my perception that it was meant as a combat power. That left me Blink, Dark Vision, Possession, and Agility as non-lethal powers, and while they were certainly enough, it does seem that most of the mechanics in this game were meant to support lethal play.

        • I wish they had added gas mines/grenades in addition to the flashbangs you suggested.

          And perhaps a more expensive version of the re-wire tool that only disabled traps as opposed to reversing their polarity and killing guards.

          • IFS says:

            For most of the traps it is possible to simply find and yank out the whale oil tanks to make them shut down. Or even throw enough stuff through the barrier that it breaks down, but that tends to work best with bodies so not exactly nonlethal.

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        Chris mentions not tensing up when playing Dishonored. When I played low-chaos, I tensed up -but not because the fight was hard. It was because if I got spotted I was going to have to kill the guy, and then I’d have to kill like 5 other guys.

        It got annoying.

  7. hborrgg says:

    On the subject of giving the silent protagonist more character. Something I felt maybe should have been done during the torture scene was actually give the player a chance to respond.
    The guy demands that you sign a confession, so the wheel comes up with the option to either agree or refuse. If the player agrees to sign the confession then Corvo mumbles a bit and is unable to actually say anything so the torture continues (clarifying that yes you actually are playing a character). For those who are already sort of thinking like Corvo and choose refusal the subsequent branding actually means something because they were totally asking for it.

    Also, I was never quite able to figure this out. Does the pistol you use only shoot a single bullet, or is it like a shotgun?

  8. Aldowyn says:

    One thing the intro DOES do right is the relationship with Emily. It’s not FORCED, but you can – if you want – play hide and seek with her and get to know HER, and that choice is pretty central to the point of the game.

    Did you guys hear about the discussion newdarkcloud and I had on twitter a while back with one of the guys that made Dishonored? It was pretty eye-opening to some of the decisions they made, especially regarding the chaos system…

    Honestly, the story is WAY more about Emily than the Empress, I’d say. Regardless of the name or the advertisements :/

    … Hmm. Y’know, a game where the story is defined by the relationship between two characters where one of the characters NEVER SAYS ANYTHING is … somewhat odd.

    P.S. Dang it Josh what program do you use to make those titles? >.>

    • Cupcaeks says:

      Yeah, I don’t think the silent protagonist thing did them any favors. Then again, it never really worked for me in Half-Life either. It would have been nice to hear Corvo’s thoughts on what he encounters ala Garrett, but I suppose they do make up for that in other ways (Namely with the Heart. So much characterization comes from that thing, for the city as much as its inhabitants). Still, it’s no substitute for having some interaction between Emily and Corvo, beyond “And then Corvo listened to what Emily had to say.”

      As far as the title Dishonored goes, I think it makes much more sense if you apply it to the city of Dunwall itself, in addition to just Corvo. It’s a lot more apparent if you listen to what the Heart has to say about all of the areas you visit. Lines like “What have they done to me?” and the ones about what the city was like before the plague really drive that point home.

    • Indy says:

      That would be this conversation. And for added clarity to the situation, newdarkcloud’s article on the matter. Both are interesting and recommended reads.

      This game is about Emily even if the story doesn’t quite focus on her. The death of the Empress is a situation both Corvo and Emily both share, however Corvo is the only one who can get a sense of closure with the message from the intro in a hidden room later on. Poor Emily.

      • That was an absolute delight of a conversation. Harvey Smith responded very well for my criticism.

        I would agree with that. Really, the whole thing is Corvo subconsciously telling telling Emily how she should best live her life and assume her role as the Empress.

  9. In Thief sneaking was fun because it had giant sprawling levels with emergent paths to the objective, and in Dishonored levels are, while not entirely linear, still engineered to get you from point A to point B.

    Thus you always *know* that you have to either sneak past this particular guard, or take him out, and the latter is much more fun and engaging.

    In Thief there’s almost never such an obvious binary choice, never a linear sequence of obstacles to overcome. So sneaking isn’t just a way of getting to the objective, it’s *the game*.

    • Nordicus says:

      Hence why I’m much more ready to call Dishonored “Unofficial Dark Messiah of Might&Magic 2″ rather than “Unofficial Thief 4″

      (I know very few have actually called it the unofficial Thief 4, but the implication is ever present no matter who you talk to)

      Thief (1, at least, haven’t played the rest) was constantly reminding you how preferrable stealth, especially of non-lethal kind, was to combat.

      Enemies were hard to fight starting from first level, you could simply not kill zombies without explosives or holy water, non-lethal stealth items were far more plentiful and varied than any that’d help you in combat, higher difficulty levels would cause you to fail the level if you killed someone.

      In Dark Messiah on the other hand, stealth lets you skip many a fight, but it is generally simpler to cut someone’s throat open than just skipping the enemy, and when you get caught, most you get is a few orcs shouting “STRANGER, GO NO FURTHER!” and then you start killing them in downright Cuftbertian ways

      Kick them off cliffs, throw flaming boxes, kill with swinging chandeliers, cause them to slip on a spot of ice on the ground, etc.

      • Indy says:

        Unfortunate, then, that it misses the most important aspect of Dark Messiah: the boot.

      • Dragomok says:

        Yes, I didn’t quite like how Arkane handled the stealth, putting aside you have to at one moment kill an undead cyclops in single combat – good thing there was a bug that caused it to retreat whenever you backtracked to the bridge. In the final level, I managed – in mostly illuminated, huge chamber – to stealthily off one of the final boss’ two guards, by a skin of my teeth got to the big bad (since the second lackey somehow noticed the corpse) and performed a highly succesful sneak attack…

        …only to find out there’s no way out of the boss fight and I have to fight freaking skeletal “dragons” in direct combat. When I took a look at the guide it turned out it was boss’ second stage, so my approach wasn’t fully useless, but still.
        And yeah, yeah, I know he’s necromancer – but that somehow didn’t stop me from killing him by conventional means in the end.

        Also, am I the only one who kept using Rope Bow instead of normal one after realising that this one has infinite supply of arrows? (Normal arrows were somewhat scarce in the beginning and, despite having a freaking inventory system, you were limited to having them in a single slot with only 99 as a hard limit; trying to pick up more while at the limit would result in new arrows vanishing in a thin air, without a single warning.)

      • Oleyo says:

        Cuftbertian. That is a truly delightful word.

  10. X2-Eliah says:

    Josh WHY DON’T YOU LEAN WHEN SNEAKING AAAAAAAARHHDHGFJSKLFsFJKL.

    Also. This gamestart was the perfect chance to talk about the game’s setting a bit more, perhaps jumping off of the whaling ships seen on the boatride, as the whole whaling thing was a heavy marketing thing to say ‘look guys the setting is totally interesting and stuff!’ (which it kinda is, on the surface). And while the setting was ‘felt’ through architecture and the overall look of the game, for me it seemed a bit… well, shallow. (Then again, I’m used to Elder Scrolls level of a setting with thousand-year-histories etc.) Also, the “books” in dishonoured were a bit abysmal, extremely brief and scarce..

    Also, yeah, the game caters much more to letal playthrough than a non-lethal. With nonlethal, you have… single chokedown animation, and single crossbow sleep dart animation. With lethal, you have a bunch of cool magical abilities (rat swarm, possession[somewhat], bodies-disappear-on-death, wind gust), multiple weapons (pistol w/ upgrades, crossbow dart, exploding crossbow dart, grenades, traps), multiple melee takedowns (from behind, from the front/side, while in combat, from above), not to mention YOU ALWAYS HAVE YOUR SWORD OUT IN YOUR HAND EVEN WHEN DOING A FULL NO-KILLS PLAYTHROUGH. Gnngngnhhg so frustrating.

    Well, on the other hand you have the game’s sort-of-not-really-but-kinda-is morality system pushing for nonlethal, while the game’s mechanics heavily encourage lethal. Having done one generally non-lethal and one completely-no-kills playthrough, I can say that nonlethal does get samey after a while. If this game was, say, 30 hour length with no additional mechanics, it would be boring near the end.

    Edit: OH YEAH ALSO: Shamus, did you really suggest a forced escort mission to *endear* us to a character? Because that.. that would not work. The Empress is not really a fighter to be at your side, she’d be the NPC damsel to guard. Now, I don’t think I have to even spell out your own dislike of escort missions and how you’ve said you’ve reacted to npcs you had to protect (common theme: “hahaha when can I kill them?”). A tutorial escort mission, with attackers and all, would only serve to get the player to actively dislike the Empress and wish for her passing. At least now you don’t have a reason to outright hate her guts.

    • VitezKolya says:

      I would say that possession is a non-lethal spell. I used it a lot for moving guards to hidden locations for a knockout.

      • IFS says:

        The time slow/stop power is also good for nonlethal, fully upgraded you can just run past people unnoticed and choke out people who were aware of you before you stopped time.

        On the other hand most of the sidequests are also geared towards a low chaos run (excluding the nonlethal options for targets, which aren’t really sidequests) which also means that nonlethal players miss out on a few runes and bone charms offered from such quests.

        • X2-Eliah says:

          Hm. Timestop is equally good for killing scenarios (as showcased in many gameplay trailers). Possession I lumped with lethal because whenever I tried it, it generally raised alarms on people and spoiled sneaking quite a bit for me. I guess both of these skills are ambiguous enough to serve equally for either playstyle..

          • StashAugustine says:

            Possession breaks the game into quivering pieces on a nonlethal playthrough. Guard finds you? Possess him, no one figures out where you went, find a broom closet real fast and choke him unconscious. No one figures this out if you do it fast enough.

    • Indy says:

      I never leaned while sneaking because I eventually got Dark Vision which entirely removed the need.

    • X2-Eliah says:

      Eh, out of editing time.
      Anyway, Since I already touched on the lethal/nonlethal dichotomy. I sort of wrote a post about the whole low chaos vs high chaos thing, and how there’s really not all that much gameplay diversity. Might as well link it now and get it over with.
      http://x2eliah.com/2012/10/22/dishonored-good-for-up-to-two-playthroughs-of-fun/

      (offtopic: Idk if at this point I’m not not a spammer anymore.)

    • False Prophet says:

      I interpreted Shamus as meaning “escort” in the standard, not video-game, sense. I.e. that you would have a short combat where you fought off a couple of would-be assassins while the Empress was standing behind you, out of their reach. Then Corvo would “escort”, or accompany her to a safer place (maybe with some expository or characterizing dialogue?), only for the successful assassination to take place.

  11. Yeah, the revenge thing was never a great motivator.
    However, I was actually very motivated – not by revenge, but rather for political reasons. I didn’t want people like that in charge of the city and wanted to rid the place of their poison.
    I think in terms of narrative, it gets better after you reach the halfway point – I found it rather predictable and boring that the obviously evil dude introduced the plague to take over, but when the halfway point twist happened and you were able to see the characters you were interacting with slowly degrade mentally and become obsessed with power, as well as the character Daud, I was quite impressed. It was rather unexpected from a game that had already taken the cheesy, predictable “revenge” plotline.

    • Aldowyn says:

      Well you can choose whether it’s about revenge or actually doing what’s right. That’s the point of the high-chaos low chaos.

      Now, why all the low-chaos choices for the targets SUCK so much, I honestly don’t know.

      • I want to say that the designers were going for a Good =/= Nice moral, but they themselves never thought of it as Good/Evil. They were going under the notion that violently removing key political figures from the world would be chaotic, and that is correct.

        However, the way the ending frames it still makes it seem good/evil, at least superficially. It’s a difficult thing to pass judgement on.

    • Mike S. says:

      @Andrew I think that the halfway point twist may have been telegraphed a little too broadly. Partly, I think, because the wedge has to be there no matter which way you’re playing Corvo. If Corvo were definitely heroic or definitely out for revenge, then it would be easy enough to have people who start with good intentions but wind up with incompatible goals. Or who start with bad intentions but (wrongly) think that they can satisfy Corvo enough that he’ll leave them be.

  12. Duneyrr says:

    It seems like more and more modern writers don’t seem to know how to kill characters.

    A meaningful character death can stick with you for the rest of your life.

    There is a manga by Adachi Mitsuru first published in 1981 called ‘Touch’. I borrowed it from a classmate 8 years ago, but I can still clearly remember page 128 of volume 7.

    30 year old spoilers ahead:
    The series had 3 main characters. Two male twins, Tatsuya and Kazuya and their childhood friend and girl-next-door, Minami.
    The younger twin Kazuya is the star pitcher of his high-school baseball team. He works hard and practices constantly to help his team get to the national championship tournament (the ‘Koushien’, a big deal in Japan). He is in love with Minami and the story told seems to be about his struggle to become the best, win against all odds and get the girl!
    The older twin Tatsuya is naturally athletic, but extremely lazy. He chooses to stay out of the way of his brother because he honestly wants his hard working twin to get the glory and the girl, even though he is in love with Minami himself.
    The story moves in this direction for over a year of serialization before Katsuya abruptly gets hit by a car on his way to an important game and DIES. Suddenly, it becomes so obvious! The story was NEVER about him, it was ALWAYS about Tatsuya. The story is all about the seemingly selfish, lazy, no good twin, trying to fill the shoes of someone who worked hard and earned the respect of his peers all while second guessing his ever present love for Minami and grieving for the loss of his beloved brother. But it’s not just spelled out in the beginning, the READER respected Kazuya because they had just spent a year and a half and read over a thousand pages detailing his struggles in an attempt to reach his goals. THAT is a death that means something to an audience.

    How does this relate to anything? Like Shamus said, if there was a mission between the introduction of the characters and the death of the Empress, we would have had time to gain RESPECT for her. The writers seemed to think that just talking about ‘saving everyone’ and seeming to be a morally upstanding person is good enough, but it’s not. We have to at least see enough of the character to know her struggles and her goals for her death to have the kind of impact it needs to drive the game.

    • X2-Eliah says:

      Yeeeeah if you want to set up something at the start of the game to set the entire game’s premise, you probably can’t afford the several days of gameplay needed to cover SEVEN VOLUMES OF 130+ PAGES.

    • Raygereio says:

      It seems like more and more modern writers don’t seem to know how to kill characters.

      I’d say the issue is more that there are a lot of hack writers who don’t understand the concept of “Show, don’t tell”.
      Telling the audience stuff is all fine and well when you’re establishing the setting and individual scenes.
      But when you want the audience to have an emotional connection, you can’t just simply demand it: they need to be shown why they should care.

      Mind you, another possbillity is that writers do understand it. But realise that they can afford to be lazy. After all, only a critical audience will have problems with bad writing.
      Your average person (generally the majority) when told something by the writer will just blindly accept it.

      • Tom says:

        “Show, don’t tell” is good advice for film directors, but it’s not sufficient for really good games. Advice for game designers should be “Let player do, don’t show” – otherwise you get crap design like the water-pipe Vertibird Viewing Area in Fallout 3, or Corvo getting glued to the ceiling and then unavoidably knocked-out while Plot Happens so that he can’t actually be *involved* with it. It’s ironic that the torturers taunt him about having come back too early and gotten involved in the assassination, when getting involved with events is exactly what the player *doesn’t* get to do during that sequence, thanks to the magic of hard-scripting. Really, would it have been too hard to write a game where it is theoretically possible, if very unlikely, that you can actually save the empress from the initial assassination? Or escape from the guards when they try to capture you after branding you a traitor, as opposed to getting imprisoned and then instantly escaping anyway? If nothing else, they could have at least *pretended* the player had some agency – I can think of at least one way of relatively subtly hard-scripting the empress’ death during normal gameplay without cutting away to her death cinematic that practically beats you over the head with the message that you should just let go of the controls and watch now, because you won’t actually be playing the game for the next several minutes.

        • StashAugustine says:

          “Really, would it have been too hard to write a game where it is theoretically possible, if very unlikely, that you can actually save the empress from the initial assassination?”
          Yes, because then you’d be writing a completely different story for the entire rest of the game based on an outcome only a very tiny percentage of players will see or even know about.

          • Tom says:

            Not necessarily. The walking dead certainly found a way to have that kind of big story fork but still keep the design workload under control, and it’s done well.

            • Raygereio says:

              That’s because in the Walking Dead having either character A or B alive while the other is dead doesn’t matter at all. Sure, A and B may each have some minor effect on what happens, but they aren’t driving forces of the story.
              The Empress’ death is a major driving force of the narative in Dishonered. Hell, it’s the force. Preventing her death would create an entirely new story.

              To answer your question:

              Really, would it have been too hard to write a game where it is theoretically possible, if very unlikely, that you can actually save the empress from the initial assassination?

              Yeah, it kinda would have been. It’s not impossible to do, but having multiple branching storylines isn’t what Dishonered is trying to do.
              If your response is something along the lines of “Well, it could have tried to do that anyway”, you’d be a bit silly. You might as well complain why Dishonered isn’t trying to be an RTS. A developer does not have infinite resources to throw around and can’t do everything.
              Mind you, I’m not saying having multiple branching storylines is bad a thing. If you’re saying that it would have been cool, then I’d agree with you. I’m actually wishing AI experts would get into the videogame industry and make me a game that can react to my actiaons and decisions and can adapt the story on the fly accordingly.

              Also, the concept of “show, don’t tell” works just as well in videogames as it does in any form of narrative. The phrase has a meaning beyond what it says in the dictionary for “show”. You can achieve this through gameplay, but also through cutscenes.

              • Supahewok says:

                Actually, it seems kinda possible to me. Granted, I haven’t played the game, but I’ve read quite a few spoilers. If you save the Empress, she goes into hiding, Corvo is captured covering her escape, her death is made up and Corvo is still framed. The Empress ends up with the Loyalists and sometimes sends you messages while you do the same stuff as you would do.

                Maybe she dies somewhere along the way or something. Like I said, I haven’t played the game, so I don’t know how long this would hold up in the long run. However, what I just outlined would require a minimum of additional voice work and the plot would still move in the same direction.

                • guy says:

                  Afraid not, the fact that she’s really dead is pretty important to the plot and the whole thing could be trivially resolved if she were still alive and free.

              • Syal says:

                ‘Initial’ being the key word there; you save her life, and then they poison her in the night or something. Maybe she shrugs you off or something so people still have a reason to think you killed her.

                Or give a non-standard game over with a ‘you prevented the game from happening’ message.

  13. Protocol95 says:

    Towards the beginning when talking about the relationship between Adam and Megan, did Chris call her Rachel or did I mishear the context of what he was saying? I think Chris might’ve done the exact same thing back in Alan Wake.

    And did the guards really leave all the guns, swords and other useful tools for escaping just lying in those open cabinet?

  14. Ygor says:

    Great first episode! It actually stated all the things that didn’t work for me in the introduction, yet I find that the game offers a sneaking play style, where you don’t knock down/kill anyone. It was much more interesting to do that, more than just simply choke everyone out, or kill everything in your way.

  15. Grudgeal says:

    As I said in the preview thread, not being able to take that hole card audio log from the interrogation room annoyed me. Not being able to take audio logs, period, really annoyed me as some of them would have been interesting to replay, like you can with all audio logs in its spiritual predecessors like System Shock. But especially the one that, you know, could have given you important ammunition against your accusers from the get-go.

    Anyway, yay, I feel validated. Or possibly someone else made the same point and I didn’t notice.

    • Jace911 says:

      It’s made especially more grating later in the game when you have the option to broadcast a completely different incriminating audio log to the entire city.

    • Indy says:

      You can replay the audio logs in the notes section, I believe, or failing that get a transcription. You can’t use this for any story incidents like Jace’s comment, though.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      Yeah, I spent like a good minute wondering if I’m doing something wrong because I can’t pick that up. They should have either let you take the recording and made a large chunk of the game about being able to broadcast it publicly. As a matter of fact this would make for a very good set up to have things spiral from there: the new rulers are worried that too many people may believe in the recording so they try to suppress the whole thing, but with every measure they introduce they sow more discontent which makes them introduce further measures. Later in the game the city would be at the boiling point when even people who don’t really care that much about the rulers personally as long as they can get by would have enough, which would play right into the resistance plans… Bah, now I actually want to play this game.

      Alternatively, remove the recording (why do villains feel this need to record evidence against themselves was often beyond me) or, if you really want to keep it, have one of the villains take it and only make it available in the endgame in place of the one actually used. Establish one of the villains as this egomaniac who has some sort of secret hideout or room where he keeps stuff like mementos of his victories to gloat over…

      • Grudgeal says:

        That would mean establishing the villains at all, something this game did… Rather less than proficiently. As the episode pointed out, I didn’t remember any of the villains from their cameos in the intro sequence, apart from wondering which one of them was that “I am totally not evil!” evil bald guy who totally did it.

        I didn’t even recognize/remember the evil gas mask assassins when they re-appear later, at least until I read that one note that told me their leader was the one who shanked the empress. At which point I realised that when the game couldn’t make me feel anything beyond mild irritation (for being a roadblock on my way to shanking someone I actually felt slightly involved in shanking) for the guy who killed your love interest in front of your eyes, something’s gone not-right here.

        • I had the same problem. I didn’t remember what the assassins looked like, so I was thrown for a loop for a brief moment.

          • James says:

            I did recognise the assassins when they came back, but that was because their gas masks were quite distinctive. There actually the masks whalers normally use apparently, another example of good setting detail with no character (You never really learn what their deal is other than being magic swords for hire).

            But now that you mention it, I really didn’t recall any of the people I met during that first segment. It’s already been said but the story really needed more build up, but as a developer the idea of going through a segment of the game where you don’t have the powers advertised is petrifying. Rather than bad writing I think it’s the pressure to get the player stuck in and interested as soon as possible that hampers the story, so in a lot of games you feel like you’re starting at scene 2 rather than 1.

            I have noticed that the opening build up, which has always been quite short in games, has gotten even shorter as the years have go on. Build ups are all about informing the player about what’s what in the world, but that’s only interesting the first time- you can’t tell me the start of Fable 1 when you’re a child doesn’t feel like a waste of time on a second play through. Everyone complains when that happens so dev’s cut it out.

            • X2-Eliah says:

              Opening build-up is cut short because of the following types of people:
              1) those tht demand to be entertained fully within first 10 minutes,
              2) those that make/rely on “reviews” based on some selfimportant YouTube snob playing through first 20 minutes of the game and passing the Holy Judgement upon it.

              That forces developers.. or publishers.. to cut short any sort of background info, ramp-up or slow-paced exposition, and jump straight onto the shootey/stabbey/drivey bits in a cavalcade of fully-opened-up gameplay, just so that their game isn’t given the unholy brand of ‘boring’ or ‘slowpaced’ or ‘simple gameplay’ on the first 20 minutes.

              Also, yes, that sort of thing disgusts me, how’d you guess?

              • That actually, in my mind, supports the idea of having a mission or two before the big betrayal. That way, we get a good balance of introductory exposition and gameplay that introduces us to the world, mechanics, and characters. This would immerse us even more deeply into the setting.

                • False Prophet says:

                  I would prefer that too. But if developers/publishers really believe they’ll alienate potential customers by not having an action-sequence right off the bat, why not use in media res?

                  Start with the escape from Coldridge Prison. Then have a flashback or two to better fleshed out character moments for the Empress, Emily, and Corvo, and then have the betrayal. It’s not as good as a nice, gradual build-up of an intro, but at least it serves almost the same purpose without adding development time or resources.

                  • Tzeneth says:

                    The in media res strategy might have been really interesting if they did the flashbacks in the right places. Could actually add them before missions if your character had had interactions with the target to give meaning and show us who the heck they are or pretended to be in normal company.

                  • Syal says:

                    Now I’m left wondering if a game could be effective starting in media res and NOT having any flashbacks to clarify things; you have the public story that you killed the Empress, and you have your character’s story that he tells to everyone that it was a conspiracy to frame him and the player is left in the dark as to whether their character is lying.

  16. AJax says:

    Chris unintentionally called Megan from Human Revolution Rachel. Heh.

  17. Neko says:

    15:58 – Shamus mentions Thief five times in ten seconds. Are you trying to kill us with alcohol poisoning?!!

  18. anon says:

    Shamus,
    In one of the posts you linked about Thief you talk about The Shalebridge Cradle and how its is terrifying.

    In that article you mention that “You couldn’t make an entire game out of this experience.” and that “You can’t keep the scare-o-meter cranked to 11 for an entire game, and you shouldn’t try.”.

    Then I though about Amnesia: The Dark Descent, which is The Shalebridge Cradle cranked to 11.

  19. anaphysik says:

    So, I haven’t played Dishonored, but it seems downright BAFFLING that the method of framing Corvo /wouldn’t/ be to have your own supernatural assassin get a brand new Possession power and use that to physically make Corvo kill the empress, in front of people. Make it a new and shiny and one-of-a-kind thing (which Corvo later gets to be the second to learn, because /trickster god/, DUH).

    Certainly makes more sense than ‘cutscene powers which don’t actually exist.’

    • Indy says:

      The ‘holding people’ power does exist. The assassin’s keep using it when we run into them later. Corvo just doesn’t ever get access to it and I can kind of understand why.

    • Pete says:

      The Plan didnt account for Corvo being there, and framing him was an on-the-spot improvisation. Even disregarding that, its not like Daud is the kind of fella that shares all his abilities to whoever asks, and even disregarding THAT, you cant actually fight in a possesed body, far as I remember.

      • IFS says:

        Which is a bit of a shame really, it would be quite interesting if you could possess a tallboy and rain fiery destruction on its former allies. Maybe in a sequel they could make that the third upgrade to the power? Let you fight in a possessed body (if a bit clumsily).

  20. Mr Compassionate says:

    Welcome to Dunwall Prison or “Gee I wonder if the guy who made Half Life 2 did the art for this game?”

    Also notice how you get tortured and imprisoned for so short an amount of time you don’t get to the point of yearning for the freedom of the outside world. Being imprisoned feels paradoxically more free than walking about the palace. Then we have to be told our own character’s personality through monologue and audio logs. Everybody speaks like robots about things you arnt made to care for or see.

    On the other hand the animations are really smooth and the aesthetics are great plus mechanically everything is aces. Everybody gets mixed feelings about this game and this opening is a perfect example of why.

  21. Mr Compassionate says:

    Welcome to Dunwall Prison or “Gee I wonder if the guy who made Half Life 2 did the art for this game?”

    Also notice how you get tortured and imprisoned for so short an amount of time you don’t get to the point of yearning for the freedom of the outside world. Being imprisoned feels paradoxically more free than walking about the palace. Then we have to be told our own character’s personality through monologue and audio logs. Everybody speaks like robots about things you arnt made to care for or see.

    On the other hand the animations are really smooth and the aesthetics are great plus mechanically everything is aces. Even in this short time they show some fairly potent worldbuilding. Everybody gets mixed feelings about this game and this opening is a perfect example of why.

  22. Sleeping Dragon says:

    I foresee a lot of trolling this season, the only thing saving the game is that the devs did make a murderous bastard a valid playstyle but I still think a number of NPCs will be pretty surprised at their random and unjustified deaths…

  23. Ledel says:

    I haven’t played Dishonored, but from watching I see how the opening is played as if it’s in fast forward. “Oh, you’re back-The queen loves you-The queen is dead-You’re in jail-You’re free in the world.” It all moves too fast to set any theme or tone.

    I feel like the opening could have played out a lot better if it had started you in the prison, and it revealed it’s current opening between cuts of you being in your cell/being tortured. It wouldn’t need to add much, maybe a scene or two of you standing beside the queen while she talks to one of the NPCs if you need to establish another character.

    You could even have the daughter pull at Corvo’s sleeve and say something like, “This is boring. Let’s go play Hide-and-Seek!” while the queen is reading your letter. Then after you play with the girl (Stealth tutorial), you hear a scream and rush to find the queen has been killed. You fight off some of the attackers, and the girl gets kidnapped in the chaos. Then you get arrested.

  24. Ilseroth says:

    Ahoy, normally I generally don’t comment but the intro to this game was really… eh.

    My primary issue is the scene in the prison where you are being interrogated. The “enemy” you are facing could have been a key plot point. You could have spent half the game wondering what was going on, why this happened, who had planned the killing of your “beloved” empress.

    Instead the people behind it tell you they did it, right in front of you, and on several recordings through the game. I literally broke out laughing in this scene my first time through the game. Why? I couldn’t help but imagine both of them with giant top hats and large curly mustaches that they twirled with their fingers.

    So what cold have been a driving force behind the narrative literally crushes the story before you even get off the start line.

    These are your enemies, they are bad guys, you should take them down.

    And they pull the same stuff with the rescue; they immediately tell you they are there to help you, tell you exactly where the bad guys are and why you should hate them.

    • James says:

      It was certainly not a nuanced choice to have such a clear distinction between good guys/bad guys in a wonderfully sickly grey setting. The logs seem more like a bad habit than anything else, a sinful temptation to cheaply solve the monologue problem.

      Interestingly some of the villains, I think mostly the one who becomes the Lord Protector, actually had a good reason why he wanted to kill the empress. Well, maybe not a nice reason, but a reason all the same. In the first few seconds we’re shown the Empress is this loving monarch who wants to save as many people as possible, so she refuses to cut off the slums. However while it’s a nice thought, when the slums are a major source of a horrible plague, it’s kinda dumb not to seal it off. If you give the game a bit of leeway you could easily create a situation where the empress would represent empathy while the Lord Protector represented pragmatism, and why for the sake of the country and the city he’d have to get rid of her.

      Unfortunately this is an action stealth game, not a period piece, as far as the gameplay is concerned the why doesn’t really matter- all you need is a list of names and an assurance it’s ok if they die. There are grey details in there, but the fact that you have to dig them up or fill in the holes yourself makes a lot of them seem like there not there at all.

  25. Wraith says:

    Personally, I LOVE the art style and aesthetics of this game. It really does help sell the setting – Victorian-esque, Industrial Revolution, militarism, decadence and decay; Chris commented on it briefly in his video.

    I agree that this intro is really wonky. The whole “You get disabled by a power that doesn’t ever come up again” is pretty unforgivable as a storytelling misstep. And the whole “they stumble upon you with the dead Empress and immediate assume you murdered her” really leaves a lot of holes. For one, the Empress’s affection for Corvo and vice versa seems very well-known among the elite and commoners alike; thus he has no motive to murder her. For two, and probably more damning, they don’t ask where Emily is. Yeah, Campbell and Burrows are corrupt and in on the conspiracy, but are the guards really in on it (I know they left their post suspiciously and stuff but still, it’s a fair question)? Freaking Captain Curnow was literally right there a second ago – why did he both leave for no reason (with the obviously corrupt guards) and not come back when the SOUNDS OF FIGHTING WERE HEARD? He’s well-established as a straitlaced, dutiful and loyal officer. These questions lead to the following – why don’t they question where Emily is (the guards I mean, and Curnow would too if he was there as he logically should be)? So Corvo straight up stabs the Empress, firing multiple shots in the process, and manages to spirit Emily away without any outside help in the span of a couple minutes? Implausible at best, but they claim he acted alone, and without outside henchmen it’s straight-up impossible; but if he had outside henchmen, there’s the possibility that Corvo isn’t guilty at all, and was the defender (as is the truth, of course).

    Thus, a beginner mission (as the crew suggested) where you escort the Empress and Emily to safety while under attack by empowered assassins, only to be betrayed by Burrows and Campbell upon reaching the destination, would not only be a better way to introduce the characters and make us care about them, but it would also make MORE NARRATIVE SENSE; you would, say, be in an isolated safe-house away from the public and those guards/officials not corrupted by Burrows, therefore making it infinitely more plausible that they can cover up the crime and fabricate a plausible cover story.

    • Wraith says:

      Also, IMO the brightness is waaaaay too low at the moment. The opening sequence in the locks actually hurt my eyes with how dark the outer regions of FOV were, and it’s hard to see stuff in general (especially when I watch during the day and light causes a glare on my monitor).

    • As for your comment about the power. It does make a return. While Corvo himself never gets the power, the assassins we meet later in the game do still have that ability and use it quite liberally. There’s even and in lore story reason for it.

      Apparently Daud has the ability to give a lesser version of his Outsider powers (including “Tethering” as we call the power they use on Corvo, a teleport similar to Blink, and an immunity to poisons and disease). The actual powers originate with Daud, who obtained them from The Outsider.

  26. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Some empress died!

  27. some random dood says:

    Nothing whatsoever to do with this, but I couldn’t find the old thread that included the Neverwinter Nights 2/Mask of the Betrayer stuff so this will just have to go here (sorry)…
    Just finished reading through a “Let’s Play” that ran through the two games that turned out very interesting. I think it was by an English major as he picked out themes I’d missed and referred to novels/legends I hadn’t even heard about before. He treated the NWN2 thing as just the prelude (!!! a sixty-hour prelude!!!) to the real story – Mask of the Betrayer. I recommend giving it a read (warning – it’s pretty long!)
    Mask of the Betrayer
    And for completeness, this is the NWN2 “prelude” Let’s Play
    NWN2
    Previously, I’d complained about how MotB ended. After reading the “Let’s Play” I saw where Obsidian had put the effort – and some of the restrictions that they had been working under (the ending I would have liked in my playthrough was probably not allowable due to contractual reasons to follow the Faerun canon). It’s definitely worth checking out the possible endings from the actions taken within the story even if you skip the majority of the series.

  28. McNutcase says:

    The first time Josh got a Game Over, I had to rewind because I couldn’t figure out what happened. And then I STILL couldn’t figure it out, and was speculating that this game would drive Josh absolutely insane, because so far as I could tell, the only thing he did “wrong” was bunnyhopping, and I cannot IMAGINE how tense Josh would get in a first-person game with NO BUNNYHOPPING rules. I hadn’t even considered the fact that he’d just planted his feet on some guy’s face (the invisibility of said feet being standard, since apparently nobody can catch up to the revolutionary Visible Boot Technology that existed in Tribes 2)…

    At least Corvo can jump at will. That really got to me in Sleeping Dogs after a while – yes, Wei Shen can parkour the heck out of Hong Kong, but he cannot JUMP unless the developers have decided that this is a place where he’s allowed to jump.

  29. Nick-B says:

    We haven’t had a Thief game for 9 years? I agreed with that statement for a bit, then I remembered Deus Ex. Can’t we sort of argue that Deus Ex HR is a sort of Thief game? If not, Shamus, what to YOU qualifies as a thief game? Does it have to be a FPS? Does it have to encourage sneaking? non lethal versus lethal kills? Does it have to have multiple paths through a single level? Currency scattered throughout levels for use in shops to improve equipment? Moral choices (whether tracked via a actual karma bar or just your own sense of morality, it still gives out moral choices and doles out rewards one way or another)?

    Thief had all these… But so did Deus Ex. Both had a linear story. Neither had an open explorable world (actually, Deus Ex had more of one than Thief).

    • Shamus says:

      The FEEL of Deus Ex and Thief are pretty different, even if there’s a lot of overlap in their mechanics.

      The strength of Thief for me was its strong focus on stealth gameplay. Dishonored and Human Revolution are both more expedient if you LOLMURDER your way through, and stealth is offered as an option if you want to roleplay a sane person. In Thief, stealth is the most expedient way, and murdering your way through is HARD. Also, Thief has a strong focus on using shadows, even going so far as to make shadow a clear mechanic with the visibility gem. You have tools to deal with both sound and light (moss arrows for loud floors and water arrows for inconvenient torches) that act as stealth resources. These let the levels diverge a bit more, since you can use them to make loud, bright spaces passable. Thief 1 & 2 were also far more open than any of the games that followed, although I’m sure that’s an economic / technology limitation rather than a design choice.

      The point being, Thief 1 & 2 were pretty different from the other games, even if they have sneaking, knockouts, and hiding bodies.

      • hborrgg says:

        Hard enemies in dishonored = tallboys. When I started my kill everything playthrough of dishonored with the highest difficulty setting (because, ya know, lol) I made it to Boyle’s party before, erm, getting very bogged down.

        Although, that’s one of the things that has really bothered me with Dishonored, Crysis 2 and a number of other games that have stealth mechanics. They only have one difficulty slider that increases how tough enemies are as well as how easily they are able to spot you. This means that if you bump the combat up to the point that stealth actually would be the more expedient option, then stealth is suddenly no longer possible because all the enemies have spidy senses.

      • Nick-B says:

        Then you can’t really claim that this game is more a thief game than Deus Ex was, as this game encourages you to lol-murder your way through it just as much as DE did too. In fact, DE seems to encourage nonlethal stealth ways more, in the small rebukes your friends give you for going aggressive in the first missions and the bonus XP for ghosting, lockpicking, and no kills.

        The actions taken by the player in this video contradict yourself, as he kills more enemies than he preserves, and blundered into way too many foes, and opted to just blast his way through anyway, hardly taking a scratch. This is hardly Thief-like behavior, and the apparent JOY that Dishonored seems to have in combat with it’s blocks, counter-attacks, slick neck slices from behind while stealth chokes are slow and easily messed up (by letting go of a simple unchanging button a microsecond TOO early). That despite your will, your character will never put away his sword for the entirety of the game, even if you never intend to bloody it (not counting sheathing it, I mean swapping it for, say, a fist).

        That’s not to say that either IS an acceptable Thief descendant. To be truly accepted, combat needs to be 100% discouraged, not by encouraging stealth with treats, but by punishing combat with thorns. Make combat difficult. Make enemies have more health, armor. Give yourself a puny dagger (Thief 3), give them guns. Have a kill leave bloodstains that cause aggressive search AI that is difficult to clean up (rare water arrows) and causes very nosy very GOOD guards to search for you and make you have to sit in a good hiding spot for a LONG time (metal gear solid 2-3 minutes long).

        Make discovery yield more guards for a while, but also let it die down eventually back to default. Don’t force a player to decide to reload an area to lean heavily on that quickload button. Replace the dead guard, everyone resets to their patrol path. Then, you get to try again.

        • Shamus says:

          “Then you can’t really claim that this game is more a thief game than Deus Ex was,”

          Which is fine, since I wasn’t trying to meticulously sort all non-thief games onto some kind of Thief-validity spectrum.

          “The actions taken by the player in this video contradict yourself,”

          What? You make no sense. I have no idea what you’re arguing with here.

          • Nick-B says:

            Sorry, I thought in the video you claimed that this was a Thief game, in the statement about how it had been 8ish 9ish years since a thief game. I took the stance that you were arguing that this was the first thief since Thief 3, and I was taking the stance that DE:HR was more deserving of the “first Thief since Thief” title than Dishonored was.

            When you said “In Thief, stealth is the most expedient way, and murdering your way through is HARD.” All I could remember was the actions in the video, in which he LOLMURDERED everyone in his path. :D

            Carry on! *waves hand, looking around not-at-all-awkwardly*

    • Jnosh says:

      With games that allow both lethal&non-stealthy and non-lethal&stealthy as equal choices play I always end up running into the same problem: I would like to play it stealthy but I keep having to force myself to do so because the other modus operandi just makes so much more sense (in game that is; the division between that logic and “real world” logic is what creates the problem in the first place, I believe).

      Games like Dishonored or Deus Ex always seem to be “favoring” lethal play.
      The only incentive to play non-lethal is (a) logic & your own will and (b) a potentially “good” ending while on the other hand the lethal play style necessitates having a large amount of mechanics devoted to it and enemies that can be fought just as easy (and mostly easier) than being avoided.

      WIth either play style I can begin by sneaking around until I’m discovered. But at this point I can either go and kill everyone with my POWERS OF AWESOME or reload the last save… Guess which is more fun? (I normally end up going rambo so I die quickly and the game reloads automatically but just as often I just end up massacring everybody and have to reload manually anyway…)

      I keep doing the stealthy and non-leathal style of play because I like playing like that and find it more interesting and at least remotely plausible but every time I fail the game tells me: “Come with me to slaughterland where killing guys is easy, quick, fun and without consequence! Yay!!”. And so I end up up having to deal with part of my brain wanting to take the easy, efficient and mindless-fun hopping through game while shooting dudes route while the other wants to take the more interesting and sensible route of not doing that.

      And even the stealth gameplay itself is “broken” in many ways. It’s far too easy to just knock everybody out and stash their bodies in a corner and then loot your way through the now empty level. It’s fun in a way but it’s completely absurd. (My favorite is 3-4 guards patrolling in single-file formation in Dishonored; blink->choke->grab->blink->stash body->repeat). And again I have to virtually lobotomize myself to enjoy sneaking around in a way that makes any kind of sense.

      I really wonder if I am just that kind of crazy person or does anyone else run into the same problem?

      I really think you need to force/heavily incentivize people to do stealth in order for it to make sense for anyone else other than those masochists that like punishing themselves just to play the game in a way that better resembles the one they would actually rather be playing. The big question of course, is if any other people would enjoy playing such a game but we might see when Thief 4 comes out…

      Oh and Eidos Montreal, just in case you’re listening: Please, please make guards notice the absence of their colleague Bob that was patrolling no 10m away just 10s ago and other things like this. I would really like to stop getting away with ridiculous stuff like that that should never work and I think we can do quite a bit of that without the game becoming too difficult. And it’s friggin 2013, if your AI can use cover and alarms and stuff I don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to do something as simple as this :D.

  30. Elm says:

    Am I the only one who finds how he holds that sword really annoying? It looks… off… like his wrist is broken or he has his left arm on the right side of his body…

  31. Re: Chris’ point about being actually “dishonored” by falling to the lowest class.

    One kind of evil thing the devs could have done to make a common player habit work for this idea: Give the player a house at the beginning of the game and let you “decorate” or fill it somehow to your tastes/specs. Then have it get trashed.

    Throughout the game, some of the “loot” you can find would be things stolen from your home that you could re-acquire. If your home is somehow boarded up or considered off-limits (the authorities declared it property of the crown or whatever), the game could offer you ways to spend resources to get it back and/or find those responsible for doing the actual damage.

    It wouldn’t work on those who don’t like to “play house,” but imagine if one of the Elder Scrolls or Fallout games allowed someone to break into your place and make off with some of your swag.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      Thinking back to my last Morrowind game, if someone stole just a fraction of the loot I had stuffed in Brother Nads’ Corpse of Holding, they would have enough stuff to outfit a couple dozen guys in heavily enchanted gear that made them a force to be reckoned with and bankroll the training to make them an unstoppable force of nature. Or they could just loot enough sujamma to kill a herd of netches.

      Difficult to make it feel real, though. If you know an early house is going to get trashed, you don’t feel like it’s safe and fully yours, it isn’t a home. I suppose it could be randomised, i.e. even in a linear plot which NPC gets pissed off at you enough to wreck your pad is based on dice rolls, or it could be a thing that could happen in a Dorf Fort adventure mode, but if you feel like that could happen, again, your house doesn’t feel like a secure home and you’ll do things like keep everything vital on you or make stashes hidden away where nobody is likely to look or other contingencies that basically make a house a luxury you’re prepared to do without.

      Basically, if your house getting messed with is certain, it’s a not a home and you’re not going to get too attached. If it’s likely and the mechanics explain this, you’ll prepare for it happening and it won’t sting if the dice say it gets messed with. If it’s certain or likely and they don’t, you’re going to be angry at the devs, not the villains.

      I suppose the main problem is that it’s hard to avoid mechanical spoilers while giving players enough knowledge to feel like they weren’t blind-sided by someone who has complete control of the simulation.

  32. Re: Torture scene. Even while playing Fable (which had terrible problems BTW, Golden Riter award and all that) I had become attached enough to my character for the torture scene to be truly infuriating. It seems this lack of investment in Dishonored would have been alleviated by an introductory “all is normal” mission (as would so many other problems). Of course, there has to be a way to skip it if you want, or it would drag on subsequent play-throughs.

    When josh said “…talking to Shamus…” (4:28) the emphasis was a bit odd. It suggested “Talking touché mus” as if there were some sort of reparteé going on.
    If Shamus makes a pun the comeback “Et touché mus!” seems appropriate on so many levels.

  33. methermeneus says:

    My first thought was that the theme music was muzak, but I didn’t want to say anything because that might be a little unfair… Then, I saw it’s called “Local Forcast.” Did you make that choice because the game practically starts on an elevator? (Well, okay, technically a funicular.)

    This is going to be fun. Due to suddenly being employed with far too many hours per week, I haven’t had a chance to keep up much with gaming in general, so I haven’t heard much about Dishonored beyond that it’s a little disappointing given its potential. It’ll be fun to get my first and only impressions from Spoiler Warning, and it looks like this season’ll be a bit more fun than ME3 and Walking Dead (which, sorry to say, I couldn’t really get into). I think those seasons were probably not as fun for people who hadn’t played the games.

  34. guy says:

    True story: When I played through this game, I seriously thought that the assassins had cloaking devices, and spent most of the game wanting to get a cloaking device. It was kind of embarrassing when I figured out what was really happening with them.

  35. Irridium says:

    Shame about the intro. I did enjoy this game. Need to give it another go, hell I still need to beat it. I was totally planning on doing it then the Steam christmas sale happened and I bought lots of stuff and, well… yeah. This gives me a reason to finally get to beating it.

    Oh, and on the topic of stealth games, I feel as though I should point out that the best stealth game of the past few years is $5 on Steam right now. No, not one of the best, the best.

    • Brandon says:

      Mark of the Ninja did a lot of things right, for a 2D stealth platformer. A lot of fun to play, only beat it recently. Definitely worth a look for fans of stealth gameplay, but it doesn’t hold a candle to first/third person stealth games (in my opinion). It’s just such a different beast.

      If you want something similar-ish to Mark of the Ninja, I’d suggest giving The Art of Theft a try. :)

  36. Brandon says:

    So, the stealth in Dishonored has nothing to do with Shadows, but the entire first mission is so mired in shadows and darkness that you spend the entire time associating them with being hidden and stealthy?

    No wonder I sucked at that game.. I didn’t realize. Actually it makes a lot of sense now why I didn’t enjoy the game at all, hearing you guys mention that it’s more of a choice between kill/knock out than a choice between knock out/sneak past really made it click.

    I was trying to play it in a sneak past kind of way.

  37. Artur CalDazar says:

    I also found the intro to be really jarring. They were trying to impart all this information at once, and it didn’t work.
    Its good the game does let you slow down a bit later on, but here things going so fast was just a huge negative for getting into the game.

  38. Gruhunchously says:

    Wait, this was made by the same studio that did Dark Messiah? That other game with an interesting set of mechanics that was undermined by a rather pitiful storyline? That…explains quite a bit.

    Dishonored needs more boot, though.

  39. Nalyd says:

    I’ve got to dissent re: lethal vs. nonlethal play. There are a lot of systems in lethal play, but most of them are pretty superfluous. In my lethal runthrough, even on much harder difficulties, I rarely needed anything more than the sword and the gun or wristbow. While nonlethal play was veeery tense and engaging, and the puzzle of which guard to take out when is something I very much enjoy. Deciphering their patrol routes is like untying a knot.

  40. Lachlan the Mad says:

    Am I the first person to ever catch the Mighty Boosh reference at 8:10? (“They understand love about as well as Old Gregg”).

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