Dishonored: A Fantastic Action Game With An Identity Crisis


Alright, let’s get this out of the way, alright? I suck at stealth games.

No no no, seriously, you need to understand the severity of my lack of skills when it comes to stealth, okay? I am terrible. Like even with the chicken hat enabled in Metal Gear Solid 5, I get caught, and eventually lose the damn thing. Yes, I am that bad. Am I ashamed? Honestly, I would be. But I’ve had so many experiences that at this point, I really just don’t care anymore.

But here’s the thing, I’m not bad at video games. Like I can handle myself in “Dark Souls”. I mean I finished “Jak 2” on the Vita for fucks sake. If that doesn’t tell you that I am at least competent when playing games, I don’t know what will. I’m just very, very, very, bad at stealth. Now that’s not to say I don’t like stealth games. I actually do. And I’m not going to sit here and blame the game for having shitty mechanics. Sure some games have poorly implemented stealth mechanics, and even games that are advertised as a stealth game, can be mediocre. But at the end of it, I understand that it’s my lack of patience and poor judge of timing that results in me not liking these types of games.

I love the Metal Gear Solid series. Heck Peace Walker is easily in my top 30 list of favourite games of all time. And I think this series, particularity “MGS 5: The Phantom Pain” is a prime example of how stealth should be done.

Listen, “The Phantom Pain” has a ton of issues when it comes to its narrative and pacing; but the gameplay and stealth are easily 10/10; regardless of how crap I am at it. The game is incredibly dynamic. So many different ways to approach an enemy camp. So many different tools and gadgets.

From ballon type decoys, to traps, to fucking calling in a helicopter to blast music to distract the guards, to using animals like your horse to take a dump in front of an enemy vehicle to have it stop from bringing in reinforcements. I mean it’s basically ridiculousness, but it works fantastically, and only strengthens the quality of the game as a stealth experience.

This is what a stealth game should be. It shouldn’t be simply using sleep darts or sneaking up behind enemies and strangling them to unconsciousness. And a stealth game should never keep telling you, “Hey! Remember, this is a stealth game. So remember: Sneaky sneaky sneaky!”

Which is what my experience for the first half of “Dishonored” was.

I never knew much about Dishonored. I knew it was a well received game, but it never became one of those, “big name, must have” titles. I could be wrong, but that was the feeling I had. Back in 2012 however, I wanted to test out my newly bought MacBook Air to see if it could play some games.

Yes I tried gaming on a Mac, don’t kill me. So I downloaded Dishonored and gave it a go. Though I didn’t really run into any performance issues, I did realize quite quick that this game was not really for me. I really enjoyed the aesthetic of the game, and loved the dual-weapon mechanic, but…it was a stealth game. So after the first main mission, I quit the game and uninstalled it. Now, fast forward five years, and my brother-in-law gives me a video game for my birthday. Yay, someone actually gave me something I like on my birthday!

But then I looked at what game he gave me and it was….”Dishonored 2″ I continued my polite smile and gave him a hug and thanked him, but I knew in my heart of hearts that I was never going to get this game out of its plastic wrapping. A couple months passed and gamer guilt eventually got the better of me, and so I decided to go on Craigslist, buy a used version of Dishonored 1, which I did for 5 bucks, and play both games one after the other.

Upon starting up the first game again, I yet again came to love the aesthetic, and narrative of the game. It was very Bioshock-y, which was great. I loved being able to dual-wield, and the traversal mechanics were brilliant. But…boy was this a stealth game. And a quite difficult one at that.

After the first couple missions fighting standard guards, your introduced to a quasi-open city where you could Night Crawler your way up pipes, through windows, and across walls. Problem was, you then had to constantly be on the look out for other assassins that had many of the same abilities as you.

And they usually stayed up on top of rooftops, so the whole Batman Arkham theory of “higher ground=advantage” is thrown out the window.

But the issue doesn’t come into play here. Having a multitude of enemies that are varied and make you have to think is always a good thing if implemented right, which they are in this game. The problem relies in this:

Dishonored Is An Action Game, That Won’t Let You Have Fun

I read a post on a forum where the author said that he felt this game was overrated, but simply because he was playing it the way he thought the game was meant to be played. As a stealth game. Dishonored from the get go judges you for being caught, and for killing. After every mission, you are given a report card, showing you how much damage you’ve done.

How many times you’ve been caught, and how many people you’ve killed. After the tally, it then gives you a final report of either “High Chaos” or “Low Chaos.” The former obviously meaning you did a lot of bad boy killing, and the latter being the good boy no killing.

So in your mind, what do you think the game wants you to do when seeing all these stats? For me I went, “Crap, got High Chaos again, I need to do better.”

And maybe I wouldn’t be telling that to myself if it wasn’t for the game constantly being hellbent on telling you that the more you kill, and the more you get caught, the more “Chaos” you’ll strike throughout the city. Every other loading screen is about this.

About the Plague that’s ensuing the city. And that your actions have a direct correlation to that. And that the ending of the game will depend on how you go about your missions. So with all of that, the game is basically at your throat about not killing and not being caught. And guess what? It is a shame, because this game is a bombastic, enthralling, and brilliantly dynamic and FUN game when played the opposite way.

“I…Have…The Power!!” … But you ain’t letting me use it.

You can dual-wield a sword and a crossbow. A crossbow and the power to call in an army of rats to engulf your enemy and tear him apart, limb from limb. A sword and the power to blast a group of enemies with a gust of wind with so much force that it flings them through walls and splatters their skulls.

You can stop time, teleport to a group of enemies, plant a bomb on one enemy, that upon detonation, ejects razor blades, then teleport back to your hiding spot, release time, and watch the group of baddies have their heads and arms cut off. I mean…holy fuck. Why would you NOT play this way? Why would you resort to playing the game with only sleeping darts, and choking guys, instead of being a goddamn boss?

And listen, if the game allowed you to maintain the “Low Chaos” by only not getting caught, but allowing killing, perfect. That would actually be a much more fun game. Being able to do all the bad-assery, but still trying not to get caught. But the game doesn’t allow that. If you want the – I’m assuming – “happier” ending with “Low-Chaos” you have to not kill. But I’m sorry, this game is a million times more fun when you can simply go off and let loose.

Now I know there are probably a lot of you commenting saying that this game is one of the greatest stealth games ever, if you know how to play it. You need to understand the mechanics better, blah blah blah. And you know what? I’m sure you’re right.

I’ve heard many people say this is one of the best stealth games ever made, and that the second game is even better. And I’m sure. But from my perspective – a guy that although is atrocious at stealth games, has played and finished enough to understand the mechanics of a good stealth game – this game didn’t do it right.

If you’re going to have two different playstyles, for two different endings. First off, let us decide. Don’t force us every two seconds, and judge and penalize us, for playing one way. And secondly, ironically in my opinion,

you’ve hid the actual brilliance and fun of your game, underneath the play style that you deem “not correct.”

If you want to be at our throats and force us to play this game as a stealth game, then…make it fun? Like the way you do it for the…other way? I mean we’re given an arsenal of fantastic weapons and powers, and are given a brilliantly designed playground of a city to enjoy ourselves in; so that’s great.

But couldn’t we get more options and mechanics to use when playing this game as a stealth game? I mean the one power I used when re-playing some of these missions stealthily, was the ability to control rats and animals, and I actually thought that worked quite well. And being able to stop time also came in handy. But these things were only ever to BYPASS enemies. These aren’t, in my experience, ways to actually tackle enemies or subvert them.

Can we not get some way to distract them? Or do some other things like take control of a guard and order other guards to do something else, opening up you to get passed them? I don’t know, but I feel that there could have been so many ways to make the stealth in this game just as dynamic and fun as when playing it as an action game.

Maybe the second game is better? We’ll see.

**Chief Editor Jay Note: It’s not. It’s the same game, but with tentacles. No mechanical improvements, just the same game**


  1. This article seems to greatly misunderstand the point of the game, it’s choose your own way. They are not forcing you to play it as a sneaky stealth game where you don’t get to kill anyone. It’s a “play your own way” There is no “correct” or right way to play these games, If you want to murder everyone, go ahead and do it, nobody is stopping you.

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