A quick rant this week. Please, join me on my lawn.
I’m very much a Patient Gamer. I’ll buy titles, and wait months or years more for them to get patched properly and work all the bugs out, and then I’ll play them. I think the last title I bought new-ish was Shovel Knight — and before that, it was Borderlands 2. No, not the DLC. The original Borderlands 2. With the Hammerlock and the bonertoots and everything.
So imagine my level of anticipation when I finally fired up 2012 smash hit Dishonored this week…
… and imagine my disappointment when I found it to be, so far, pretty forgiving.
Along with being a Patient Gamer, I’m also a bit of a Stealth Gamer, thanks to early fascinations with Metal Gear Solid, its VR Missions expansion, and Metal Gear Solid 2. Anything with a pacifist run or a ghost run available, I’ll do. I’ve done pacifist runs of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Mirror’s Edge (that damn server room), and nearly 100%ed Klei Entertainment’s peerless Mark of the Ninja. More recently, indie title Styx: Master of Shadows is a game that captured my attention, thanks to the lovely, sarcastic tone and the lavishly-detailed vertical environments.
Styx is actually a pretty good counterpoint to Dishonored for what I want to talk about, particularly when it comes to, say… chairs.
In Styx: Master of Shadows, you play the titular Styx, a scrawny, underpowered goblin who has to make his way through a huge, heavily-patrolled city-fortress built in the branches of the World Tree in order to steal its magical Heart and silence the voices in his head.
And in Styx, if you bump into a chair, it moves.
The verisimilitude is a key part of the challenge. Chairs bump and nudge. Buckets and brooms topple over. Potion bottles break. I was doing a pacifist/ghost run (no kills, no alerts), and I got so used to avoiding every single little object that you’d think I had a phobia.
Additionally — crucially — the game doesn’t overload you with the Special Magical Powers right away. I had to slink my way through the early levels without a lot of supernatural assistance, and it was hard. So when the game finally started giving me the clone-spawning powers and special sight and so on, I was relieved… and then, on cue, the challenge ramped up even further. Beautifully done.
Compare to the first few bits of Dishonored. I’m an hour in on the game’s Very Hard difficulty (greatly looking forward to higher difficulty levels, when I unlock them), and… these guards are damn near blind. Chairs appear to be nailed to the floor. Doors and jail cells have been greased with WD-40. I can nudge the occasional bottle, or pick it up and throw it, but everything else is easy-mode.
And the powers. I’ve already had the Special Conversation with the usual Darksad Metaphysical Weeaboo From Beyond Death, I already have Blink and Dark Sight and like eight little bone-charm booster things. I am jam-packed with game-breaking Magical Powers. Really, Bethesda? Really? I’ve talked before about how I don’t want to be made to feel good, I want to earn it. That hasn’t been the case in Dunwall.
I just want to be made to doubt myself. So far, all I’m doubting is these guards’ ability to find their ass with both hands.
More later, when I’ve got those additional difficulty levels done. In the meantime, you’ll have to pardon me while I water the grass on this lawn.
Jesse Mackenzie is the Managing Editor of aybonline.com. If you want to hear him do an impression of Homer Simpson thinking about doughnuts, ask him about Mark of the Ninja. He can be reached at email@example.com, and his opinions are his own.