Saturday, August 23, 2014

Dishonored: Plot Device Ruins Gameplay

This weekend, Steam has free play for both Dishonored and Borderlands 2.  Dishonored is a first person stealth game developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks in 2012.  The Empress has been murdered and the Lord Protector, aka, you, has been framed for her death.  Your mission is to rescue the Empress's kidnapped daughter, Emily, restore her to the throne, and eliminate the tyranny of the Lord Regent.  In this game's setting, there's a plague that is spread by rats.  Any person that becomes infected transform into weepers, creatures that are feral and spread infection. 

My biggest gripe with the game is the chaos system.  If there are many deaths, chaos spreads.  This means plague and weepers become more prevalent in addition to added security.  It doesn't matter if you kill guards, civilians, assassins, or thugs--more deaths leads to more chaos.  Now the general idea of dead bodies leads to rats feeding off them and spreading the plague is understandable.  But if you dispose of bodies in waste management bins or possess the shadow kill ability which renders killed people's bodies to disappear, then infection should not spread.  As such, more deaths leads to more chaos is a red herring--it's misleading.  It's a badly executed morality system, where you also don't know how much chaos you have generated.  At the end of each mission, the game tells you if you have low or high chaos.  If you do a good deed, say rescue a victim, the chaos decreases a bit.

Another problem with the chaos system is how it affects your gameplay.  The game gives you many options to incapacitate someone--magic, guns, grenades, stealth kills-- yet because killing leads to more chaos, all these nifty abilities are negligible.  Since there's no chaos meter, you can't figure out how many deaths you can get away and still earn the good ending.  What's the point of giving you options of how to handle a mission when the game is pushing you to play entirely by stealth and by non-lethal means since you're handicapped if you want to engage the enemy.

Robert Lin enjoys basketball and anime.  Follow him on Twitter and/or Google.

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