This weekend was largely all about the Dishonored franchise for me and making some serious progress through large chunks of it. I wrote a bit about Dishonored 2 and Parsec the other day, but to recap… Parsec is this really cool streaming client that allows you to play games with exceedingly low latency from another machine. When combined with the fact that I have traditionally done most of my single player gaming on my downstairs laptop… this ends up being a revolutionary change for me personally. Dishonored 2 was the first game to release that my GTX 960M graphics card and 4th gen i7 processor could not handle. I could not under any circumstances get the game to run at something I would consider “playable” and as a result I just didn’t play the game. A little less than 2 years alter… with me stumbling onto Parsec… it was absolutely the first game I attempted because I hated that I never got around to playing it.
The reason being that I love the Dishonored setting… and in truth it is probably as close to my ideal game universe as I could possibly assemble. It has steam punk machinations, crazy tentacled whales, a cruel god that bestows dark gifts, and the ability to rack up an insanely high body count. I love the lore and mythology of the world and the fact that it hints at things… and often times doesn’t tell us all the details. There is a point in one of the games where it mentions there are currently eight individuals with the outsiders mark… but then never fills in the details of who those eight are. Even after consulting the Wiki… there are a bunch of options but nowhere near enough to make up that entire gathering. So just knowing that somewhere out there is another super powered being that you have not encountered makes every discussion you get into… feel a little more suspicious. In my mind there is a universe where Dishonored and Bioshock could co-exist… and unfortunately while they don’t link up neatly I would love to see some larger setting that connects the dots between the two.
I remember when I first started playing Dishonored 2 I was not super keen on its design ethic. Gone were the mist shrouded gloomy streets of Dunwall… which were replaced by the sun bathed all too real deprivations of Karnaca. I found it so much harder to skulk about and take out my targets from the shadows and was ultimately forced to change my play style in a way that used a lot more distraction than I was used to in the original game. I also found the story largely incomprehensible because I had fallen for one of the great flaws of the Dishonored series. Arkane studios expects that when you play one of their games… that you have played every other piece of content in that series. For whatever reason I never actually played the Knife of Dunwall or Brigmore Witches DLC, I think in part because I didn’t want to really play as Daud… someone I looked at as the bad guy of the first game. The truth is Dishonored is a setting where everything is nuanced. Daud was no more bad guy than Corvo was a good guy… they were just pawns in a larger tapestry being set in motion by the Outsiders uncanny knack for bestowing his mark upon deeply flawed and broken people.
The problem with not playing these two DLC episodes however is that the events leading up to the start of Dishonored 2 took me completely off guard and I was introduced to a character I knew nothing about… or in truth a pair of characters… Megan Foster and Delilah Copperspoon. So while I found the entire experience of Dishonored 2 enjoyable… it felt way less engaging than the first one did. The other problem I have with Dishonored… is I am a high body count sort of person and the games love making me pay for my actions. Effectively you can play the games in High Chaos or Low Chaos modes… and your actions cause massive ripple effects on the ultimately ending of the game. That means there is traditionally a good ending and a bad ending… and if I am left to my own devices… I always get the bad endings. I tend to see anyone who stands in the way of my goal as someone I need to slice my way through… and as a result I end up building a world bathed in blood that produces a rather disappointing ending.
Knowing that I would ultimately want to play through Dishonored 2 again in as low a chaos manner as possible to see the other ending… I decided to go ahead and play those two DLCs that I had skipped. Now immediately after playing Dishonored 2 I would have said that I enjoyed it greatly but that it is was nowhere near as good as the original game. The DLCs are that difference because after having completed both of them this weekend… it immediately turns my opinion of the second game on its head because the entire experience becomes as deeply nuanced as the first one felt. Essentially Knife of Dunwall and Brigmore Witches are a prequel to the events that happen at the beginning of Dishonored 2 and without knowing any of that lore… it feels really bad. Afterwards however… the end result feels glorious and triumphant as the pieces click into place and you can see this entire story happening behind the scenes that you as Corvo knew nothing about.
It also humanizes the character of Daud… who was not a good man but also not anywhere near as evil as he seemed to be at face value. He was a man who spent his last hours trying to repair the damage he had set in motion. The high chaos ending of Dishonored 2 shows you that Corvo is just as flawed a human being as Daud was, and that ultimately each of these people bestowed the dark gift… are on a bit of a course towards self destruction. I am trying not to be super spoilery about the events of these games… in case someone reading this has not played them. Much like the Mass Effect series… I feel like Dishonored, the DLC and its sequel are must play games. These days you can pick them all up for pretty cheap and I highly suggest you spend a couple of excellent weekends doing the single player thing wrapped up in that world.
At this point however I have moved on to Death of the Outsider rather than an immediate second playing of Dishonored 2. I’ve just barely started and so far it seems extremely interesting because the character of Billie Lurk is now one that I feel familiar enough with to be able to experience this story in full. Prior to playing through the DLCs to the original game however… that would have not been the case. This gets back to the great flaw of this series… in that you cannot simply drop into a new title without having experienced all of the old content. There are going to be so many things you simply never get explained… because Arkane took the time to explore them in depth in another title. I am secretly hoping that the Bethesda show this weekend shows us yet another excellent title in this line of games. We talked a bit this weekend about how amazing the Dishonored-verse would make for a role playing game. There are so many locations that are hinted at in the games that we never get to see, so I feel like the world can keep expanding. I do however hope that the next titles are going to be like Death of the Outsider, in that they take a character connected to the events we have already played… but not someone we have already explored the story arc of like Corvo or Daud.