A Dishonored Salute
A brief look at one of my favorite series on the PS4.
The lapping sounds of sea water against the side of the small rowboat are echoing against the damp, moss lined bricks of the bridge you are passing under quietly. The sun is setting fast on the horizon to ready the night for your actions. In the distance you can see the high mounted city of Dunwall and its twinkling lights powered by the whale oil fuels that are being harvested on a daily basis. A whaler ship is passing into the docks just ahead of you with its latest capture mounted and hung above the rear of the ship. If you listen carefully you can hear its kin in the sea around you singing and mourning for the loss.
Your quiet boat pulls to the side of the dock unnoticed and you can hear the guards of the region talking among themselves. A soft step out of the dinghy and you affix the clockwork styled mask over your face. As you look around to assess your path and direction you've already begun to wonder if you'll play the situation out as a violent assassin or a phantom in the shadows. The choices and opportunities that are available to you are limitless.
The buildings and factories are pressed together tightly and through them are electrical, unmanned train cars that are transporting the dead of the city to the mass dumping grounds at the edge of the city limits. The rat plague has been sweeping mercilessly through the city for months. Old and young alike are infected without bias and left abandoned in quarantined areas to fend for themselves with what little energy they have left.
You bring your hands up into view; in the right is a concealed dagger that in a singular and flashy twirl upon the open palm of your hand springs open. The silver glow of the clean metal catches the fading sunlight and flares weakly at the exterior of your mask. In your left hand is a small and throwable dagger that is perfect for either dispatching a guard from a distance or to draw his attention to the sound so you can sneak past him unnoticed.
In your long and oversized coat are pockets holding an array of useful tools to help you pick locks, regain your health, or create the perfect run of an in and out assignment. However, out of all of these tools and gadgets, the most useful of them all is marked upon the back of your left hand. A circular arrangement of daggered lines ornate your hand much like a tattoo and at first glance it's nothing more than that, a tattoo.
Raising your head up to the overhang of the building that sits just above the two guards you heard upon your approach. You raise your hand up to the outcropping and the dark tattoo begins to resonate and glow as it senses your need for its power. A trailing and ethereal line points to where you're aiming your hand to and as you squeeze a fist to confirm the destination, you feel it.
The cold suction of the "void" as it pulls you from space and time itself in order to transport you to that exact point without having the guards ever knowing you were there. In a singular white flash of your eyes you've been moved with minimal effort above the guards and now begin your ascent into the city to locate the traitor in the city government.
Dashing in similar fashion upon the high rooftops, through the vacant buildings, and over wide river beds you slink into the heavily fortified structure of the man you seek: The Overseer responsible for the death of the Empress of Dunwall. Using your mastery over time itself you literally stop the world around you and dash quickly past the guards in the halls and crawl through the over head window that leads directly into the private chambers of the Overseer. His office is located just next door and through the walls you can hear him draw the meeting to a close with lieutenants and commanders.
As he steps into his quiet room that's being kept warm by the wide fireplace he begins to ponder the future of his rule while being unaware of just how short it's about to become. Above him, perched on the chandelier, you wait for him to cross into the perfect position. He turns slowly to the balcony doors and steps towards them. The soft depress of his leather boot against the red carpet is weighted further as he feels your body crush down at his back side.
"Gah!" he whelps.
Your cold, sharp companion slides against his throat and halts his capacity to call for help. The warm droplets of his ruby essence hit the carpet and you feel his body drop lifeless at your hands. Setting him down slowly at the floor you sheathe the dagger and dart out the balcony door. A quick flash onto the free and clear rooftop of the fortress allows a speedy, unhindered escape. In less than half the time that it took for you to make it to his chambers, you are safely pulling the small boat away from the dock and back into the dark tunnels that lead to your safe house and the world behind you being left unaware that you were ever in the vicinity.
This is just one of the many scenarios that can play out in the video game series Dishonored. It is an Action-Adventure style game that offers numerous replay times as you don the mantle of Corvo Attano, the dishonored royal guard that was framed for the death of the ruling Empress. The primary protagonist of Dishonored, Corvo is tasked with recovering the kidnapped young daughter of the empress, Emily Kaldwin, killing the Overseer, and returning the young girl to the rightful place of leadership. In between all of this you'll uncover conspiracies and cults that lend to the dystopian atmosphere that has been crafted around you.
The series has seen two main games alongside several DLC's and side stories that followed other characters in the universe. Developed by Arkane Studios it was initially released on October 9, 2012 and has since been a staple game in my library of playable games. No matter the amount of times I've played this series I always find a new area or pathway to take me to my target. It offers a rich and living world of characters and environments that react and acknowledge your choices as evidenced by the "summary" screen at the end of each level. The collected result of these choices leads to one of many endings that are possible for the game.
Dishonored 2 was no different but instead had managed to improve upon the success and design of its predecessor. Set years after the events of the first game, we see the opening of the game showcasing the coronation of the now matured Emily Kaldwin but within minutes the ceremony is interrupted by Emily's aunt, Delilah Copperspoon. Without giving way to too much at the end of the sequence you are asked to decide to either play as Corvo or Emily. With a decision made the alternative character is literally frozen in stone and you make an escape into the usurped lands of Dunwall towards a river boat that takes you to Karnaka.
With a clever telling of story and character introduction you are able to scale a new and vibrant location with both familiar and new powers depending on the character you chose. The journey you go on as either character reveals new lore and intrigue into the Dishonored universe and reintroduces you to old characters from prior DLC entries.
With the recent acquisition of both Bethesda and Arkane Studios by Microsoft I felt the twinge of a sad loss in my chest as I am not currently sold by the idea of the new Xbox Series X. Growing up I have always owned multiple consoles including all iterations of the Playstation and Xbox through years past. This year however I am feeling less inclined to actually own the newest Xbox as I look to the collection I have for the Xbox One I own now. A literal handful of games sit, coated in a light dust, filling only half a shelf space of one of those older DVD racks that can hold up to 800 total cases. Atop that shelf is around seven or eight shelves that are packed tightly with PlayStation games.
This wasn't a conscious thing. It wasn't done out of spite against one or the other. I just favored the simplest thing between the two titans of the console industry, the controller. The feel and comfort of the grip against the wide and hulking Xbox controller felt natural and comfortable in my hands. It was easy and instinctive and coupled with the fact that many of the games I had for the Xbox were later released for the PlayStation anyways I lost heart and desire to engage further with the console.
While nothing official has been said about game releases or "exclusive" titles from any of the acquired studios, logic would say that any future releases from Arkane would be limited to the Microsoft brand and their proprietary products. So in response I have decided to take yet another journey into the worlds crafted by Arkane Studios but this time in the iteration that I had not been fortunate to pick up upon its initial release in that of Dishonored: Death of the Outsider.
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider sees us returning to the streets of Karnaka but in a different "sector". This means that the world is both familiar yet new to us with the story being set after the events of Dishonored 2. We see the effects of the Karnakan shores after Corvo or Emily had made their presence known to the region and engaged in the events required of your visit. With news articles filling the world of the ship you reside on about the returned Empress, you see and read the world as it evolves and grows around you.
While still early in the game I have come to meet the familiar characters of the Dishonored universe once more that includes Daud, a tired and dying assassin responsible for the death of the original games Empress. The Outsider, a mysterious being or "god" as the characters in the game refer to him as. The Outsider is the sole "creature" responsible for the abilities gifted to Corvo, Emily, Daud, and more recently to Billie Lurk.
Billie Lurk (voiced by actress Rosario Dawson) was first introduced to us in the DLC The Knife of Dunwall and allows us to see the end of the series from a different perspective. While she is not appreciative or desiring of the powers given by The Outsider, we as the player are able to decide if we want to use them at all. I have never shied away from the opportunity to use them in any of the story arcs of the series and so naturally I equipped them all and immediately began testing the boundaries of them one by one.
Dashing from rooftop to street lamp to awning, I have happily avoided guards and watchdogs below as I near the first marker set on the screen. A familiar excitement fills my body as I ponder the outcome of the actions I am going to make. I have read and seen very little in relation to this game in general and that has been on purpose. I know that as a staple in the series the potential outcomes can vary depending on what I do in the world around me and as such I am now happily moving forward with expectation that even after I finish this play through, I will again play the story from start to finish in a completely different manner.
Ending at a late hour, the save file of my game shows the screenshot of Billie looking out at the forthcoming city below her as I left her perched atop a presumably abandoned building. I eagerly await my return to the filthy and cautionary streets of Karnaka to see where the tale will end while at the same time being saddened by the idea that this is most likely the last time I will play a game of this careful design.
I have happily enjoyed the countless hours and rich environment created by the teams at Arkane Studios and while they are still present and working, I fear that it may be the last time I see a game of this degree. Their collection of games is vast and rarely is one alike to another which is understandable as the industry does necessitate this. As a result I will be sure to truly take my time in this final world of seedy people and dangerous alleys. I look forward to your future work Arkane and hope that in some small passing you'll see this article and create an equal yet separate tale that will overshadow the previous years of your work!