Feel free to have your own opinion, but this is how I see it. The biggest question for me personally is which of the two main games is the better one. They both have their strengths.
Warning: I expect you to have played the games here. I’m not explaining various things here. I just assume you know what I’m talking about, when I mention names, places, mechanics and so forth.
While I have great appreciation for a number of different games for a number of different reasons, I always seem to return to these two games: Dishonored and Dishonored 2. Now I managed to stay away for three years before replaying them. When I do, I find myself enthralled once again. It is not a common feeling at my age.
The funny thing is that I resisted at first. I loved the Thief games, so at the time I thought I’m not going to play Dishonored, because it felt like it was a lesser version of Thief based on the trailer (the trailer I saw emphasized combat, which I wasn’t interested in). It took me years to get to Dishonored. I think I just decided to buy it, because it was on sale just before the release of Dishonored 2. Boy, had I been wrong about the game.
I tend to play the game very differently from what I’ve seen on YouTube. There’s actually a surprising amount of footage for games that have been out 11 and 7 years respectively. There’s still people out there trying to get cool kills to display to the world. These channels aren’t even very popular, so I guess its more about the fun. Me? I never kill anyone. Sure, I’ve killed to try High Chaos, but when I did my most recent playthroughs, my total number of kills: 1. That was accidental. I thought I had placed an unconscious guard on a good ledge, but it wasn’t wide enough and he fell into water and drowned.
I also try to maintain utter secrecy. Because I was playing on Iron Man on Dishonored 2 (you can only save to basically pause the game, you can’t reload, if you mess up), I was spotted a few times on each mission, but it wasn’t for the lack of trying. I try to find a good spot and I will sit there, sometimes for minutes, waiting to learn the patterns of whoever I’m stalking and then waiting for the opportunity to strike. I somehow messed up the dialogue in Boyle’s mansion, so in order to get the nonlethal resolution, I had to clear quite a few guests before I found the opportunity to snatch the right Boyle… and had to traverse through the whole upstairs to get to the basement.
But that’s the fun. I can plan things out meticulously just to figure out something. And the game doesn’t tell me to. The game just suggests that maybe I don’t kill the Boyle just to get out easy. Maybe I can build additional problems for myself so that I get more out the game. It just gives me the tools and incentives to what I want with it.
That’s only the beginning. I also like the world. I’m very much into steampunk. It has this weird mad science feel to it. This is visible everywhere. Electrical machines havent been minituarized yet, so they have big cables and are in themselves big and cumbersome. The whale oil they run on is also ubiquitous despite the danger its presence everywhere presents.
The people have personalities. For example, the witches are not just extensions of Delilah. Quite the opposite. Many of them are vary of her, but find the community something worth fighting and working for, even if their boss happens to have her own ambitions outside of that. One of them even betrays Delilah to Daud in the DLCs and in the final misison of Dishonored 2, you can find the musings of one of the witches regarding her wish to become form her own navy to be able to traverse the seas. There’s also a weird truther group in Dishonored 2, which wants the people behind the coup in the first game back. You can find their meeting memos. They don’t really come up otherwise, but they are there for flavor.
It works. I don’t know about you, but I’m more hesitent to kill a character than a bunch of pixels. I know this is somewhat weird, as many games do have us just kill a bunch of people, but at the same time, isn’t it weird how eager we are to kill a bunch of things made to look like people? And in graphic ways. I mean, yes, the kill animations are glorious. I just tend to stay away from them.
The game works to give a choice on this. You don’t have to kill anyone. There’s always a way. However, it doesn’t make this easy from an ethical point of view either. I mean, don’t kill this person, but then human traffic her into sexual slavery instead, is not or should not be an easy decision. We also condemn others into a more traditional slavery, one dies as a weeper, some are put into prison, and we fry one brain. I guess Breanna at the Royal Conservatory gets off quite easy, as she only loses her powers as a witch and thus her place in Delilah’s hierarchy. One could argue that Delilah actually has a quite happy ending, as she lives out the rest of her life as the imagined empress of her ideal world. That seems like a win-win to me, with the real world being the other winner.
I know many people approach the game very differently, but I do like the themes of forgiveness and turning a new page in the low chaos playthroughs. Especially for fictional worlds, we would find Corvo just mass murdering all the traitors justified, but my Corvo never does that. He wants to be better, because of his former lover. He wants to honor Jessamina and protect Emily, but in this particular case, while he might not know it, he is actually protecting Emily as he avoids killing anyone.
Here’s a criticism though: As many games and other fiction does tend to do, the games do espouse Great Man Theory, which I guess we should update to the Great Person Theory. That’s an idea from 1800s (if I remember correctly), which describes history as something guided by people, who have been born to lead the world into a specific direction. I don’t like this theory. I do feel that there have been people, who have had disproportionate affect on history, but not nearly as high as one might otherwise think. I think mostly these people, who are seen as great, are products of their environment and history just conspires to remember their names. There were many people involved in most inventins, but we remember just the one. Whoever is the richest person right now just happens to be that, because they happened to find a niche, which grew (probably because of Internet), because there just was more potential for growth than before due to the more interconnected world. Corvo and Emily represent this kind of thinking, but while I’m philosophically opposed to this, it works as fiction.
Any way, the big question, which is better, Dishonored or Dishonored 2?
I don’t know. They both have their points. Dishonored was a relevation at the time, even though I had been playing Thief for quite a while. A sequel can’t really overcome this. The story is pretty similar in both games, but the first game was first, so the points go there.
However, the second game does have more replayability with the two characters, even if their basic powers are very similar. I do like Emily. She is a very nice, different take. I mean, Garrett and Corvo are quite stereotypical in this sense. These characters just tend to be gruff and dark male figures, who have already seen everything, whereas Emily is a much lighter character, who is still finding her feet in the world. The game also has more toys both magical and weapons, that enable my playstyle.
So, I don’t really know.