Revenge solves everything.
If the tagline is to believed for the much praised hit Dishonored, it should mean that it is a game that is as brutal as it is efficient. Revenge by its nature is a violently primal act, and implying that it is the answer to everything translates to revenge clearly being the best course of action for Corvo, the framed royal bodyguard protagonist in Dishonored.
Yet I find myself in a battle philosophically. As Corvo, despite having been obviously framed and being able to quickly put faces to the conspirators, I still feel like he should feel a little bad for having to run through his former compatriots in the royal guard. From the onset of the game, I made a distinct effort to opt for a stealthy approach and to render my opponents unconscious. Add in the fact that there’s a massive achievement titled “Clean Hands,” which is earned by having a bodycount total of zero, and I feel that I have no choice but to be nice.
Except being nice is so boring. While sneaking about the sewers in the first level, the experience was relegated to memorizing the paths of guards (which is slightly randomized), making sure to approach from the correct angle (in stealth stance), and being at the appropriate distance to knock the guards out. It was tedious, not particularly exciting and really killed the brooding mood of Dishonored’s city of Dunwall.
A sort of water oriented early 1900s city, Dunwall is a rich but filthy city. Trash fills the streets while the remnants of a formerly industrial city quietly wait for the worst to pass. Infested by a plauge, corpses of the dead line the sewers, with notes scrawled on paper by those breathing their last breath. Rats play a pivotal role, crawling everywhere throughout the city. Packs of rats are hungry and vicious, devouring corpses and people should they have the opportunity. The rats are a reflection of Dunwall’s plague and corruption, their population increases the more people die.
Dishonored begs you to be a little violent. After all, it puts a sword in your hand and gives you the choice of killing or incapacitating your enemies. While incapacitating amounts to the tried and true sneaking up on an unaware guard to crush their windpipe for a few seconds, sending them into a nice slumber. Opting for the violent route gives an assortment of kill animations that really sell Corvo’s billing as the top assassin in the entire Empress’ army. The killing is swift and efficient, brutally violent and incredibly cold.
Both playstyles result in an entirely different narrative. By being more pacifistic and merely incapacitating enemies, Corvo is a man who seeks retribution, without tarnishing his reputation as he sees it. But by cutting a path through everyone and anyone who stands in his way, Corvo is a man on a mission, with no regard for the people who buried him or the populace who believed the lies to be true. It is an incredibly powerful narrative that I always expect a publisher like Bethesda to deliver on. With such a rich lore surrounding Corvo and Dunwall, the accessible approach of the game and the incredible variety of strategies to employ, Dishonored might be in store for another visit after I complete it.