Video(games) killed the storyteller: ‘Dishonored’ by Arkane Studios
Voice acting & dialogue: 6/10
Video games that involve puzzle solving, ingenuity, and clue driven storytelling are my preferred gaming fare. I will admit that most of my favorite video games are somehow related to Bethesda Softworks. The following game is not exempt from my “favorites” list. However, no game is without fault, or criticism.
“Dishonored” was developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks in 2012. “Dishonored” has received numerous gaming awards—most of the rewards were for mechanics and visuals that the game offers, but I’m interested in the story overall. “Dishonored” is a game that automatically throws the player for a loop in regards to narrative and storyline, as well as plays with the ethics of “good” and “evil.”
The game begins from the perspective of the main character, Corvo Attano, the Lord Protector of the Empress of Dunwall—a fictional plague ridden city similar to that of Victorian England. After bringing news of his journey to the Empress, Corvo and she are attacked by assassins. The Empress is murdered and her daughter, Emily, is kidnapped. Corvo is accused of being responsible for both accounts and thrown into Dunwall Prison.
Six months pass. Corvo has been tortured and interrogated for the entirety of this time, but the game chooses to have a time lapse. This is interesting, as it allows the player to accept the Dunwall has fallen into chaos and ruin because the Spymaster has taken over in the absence of the Empress, and he is far from ideal to rule. After receiving a letter from a “friend” Corvo breaks out of prison and the game officially starts up.
Starting off with the voice acting, I took away points for a stoic and absent main character voice. Corvo never talks. This is a problem for me, especially when numerous characters interact with him. I’ve docked points for this dilemma in my review of “Bioshock” and I stand by it being a problem in regards to storytelling. I give the voice acting, in absence of a main character voice, a 6/10. I’ll be honest and say that I bumped the voice acting up one point because of the “Outsider,” a godlike being who gives Corvo powers.
The story in “Dishonored” is intriguing. The game allows you to play the game anyway you choose— kill everyone for revenge, peacefully take down every enemy in the game, or avoid them entirely by being stealthy. If you are peaceful for most of the game then you get a happy ending, if you choose to go on a spree of “revenge” then you are likely to receive one of the number of “bad” endings.
This type of storytelling is by far my favorite, especially when the game plays with the idea and gives you “environmental storytelling” which means that by reading items around you and listening to conversations by sneaking, you are given hints to quests and missions. This is immensely helpful, and makes being sneaky worthwhile. I give the story an 8.5/10. I feel that the developers could have had more stock placed into the high chaos aspect of the story; it felt less fleshed out than the “good” ending.
Lastly, let’s look at the digestibility of this story. I believe it earns a 10/10. I give the story a solid ten for a number of reasons. The main reason being that it is rather straight forward. ‘Here is a mission, complete the mission any which way you see fit, go on to next mission.’ This is not a hard or new concept to grasp and is rather easy to accomplish, even when playing a “high chaos” play through.
“Dishonored” surely holds up, even after five years, and has a sequel as well as many ad-ons. Has “Dishonored” killed the storyteller? I don’t think so, although it did take the storyteller out for “whisky and cigars.”