Released as a “definitive edition” on the newer consoles the Dishonored collection placed a super strong 2012 game on the 2015 shelves. Would it be more like listening to Loaded or V.U. after a few years break? What I once would call the best stealth game ever I was now finding myself struggling to just get going-Metal Gear Solid 5 had turned Dishonored into V.U.
Dishonored, a game featuring magic and sneak-crouch based, sight/sound focused stealth with distinctive art design and choice, was now a pain to work through. It was too slow, too full of restarts and weird slight misses of blink killing me only to realize I hadn’t saved before attempting said blink. The biggest problem though was how I found it kept me playing in a particular playstyle.
So Dishonored has this interesting system where you go through the game and end up having a high or low chaos playthrough. More bodies found, more people killed, you raise the chaos level and see more guards on patrol and the levels more full of weepers-the enemies that are really just people afflicted by the game’s rat plague.
I loved the game so much originally but replaying it it hit me how I had never pushed for that deadly playthough. Something about how everything was set up made the low chaos model seem more viable, like it was the true stealth route. Also it made the game easier and gives what appears to be the good ending. What I had always told people was this interesting way to change difficulty to playstyle, killing more enemies meaning more enemies spawn in the first place, now was clearly a punishment. Whether it was intended or not I felt like I had the right way to play or a playthrough with a less than impeccable stealth record.
I know you can argue that this is all in my head, this is a problem with me and not the game, but this year Metal Gear Solid V released and I had no problem getting into the kinetic “play it as it goes” scenarios stealth might lead to. Especially interesting is it didn’t get drowned out by perfect stealth as the game moved forward, I would have a fairly constant experience as I moved through the game of getting the strategic enjoyment of clearing a section with stealth then deal with another area going loud. I could move back and forth with a fluidity that said not only did the game allow for me to do this but it didn’t really judge that I was killing one guy in the middle of my mission to save another.
There was a middle ground. What’s weird is that MGS V clearly grades players at the end of a mission. And while I often got middling “grades” on missions I always loved getting my Octopus shout out at the end of a mission. Octopus was the codename you received for non-lethal takedowns. There was a codename for any playstyle really and it made collecting them not just something to try to do but let you feel like your style was OK. If you got the Orca for using grenades it felt a little less like the super easy way out and more a style of play.
Going back to play Dishonored everything felt so constricting. I mean the level design is very focused, layered but focused really. A few paths past anything, a few ways to solve most any problem, but it’s a fairly hard game to replay. MGS V made doing the same sidequests different every time. As the game progresses guards start getting new armor and weapons, it leads to a whole new meta-game of sending mercenaries out to attack their stored gear so it won’t make it to the combat zone, but for most of the game it means how a particular mission might work can be changed up in a lot of ways.
Playing Dishonored there’s a spot early on where I would always take these guys out with sleeping darts. I’ve taken them out with sleeping darts every time I’ve played, and that strategy will always work. It hit me as I was playing that I would end up doing all the same strategies as every other playthrough. I would go for the least kills, never getting seen, the nonlethal solutions to all the problems. Suddenly this game wasn’t something I was going to play but a plan I was performing.
I love Dishonored, but stealth has changed thanks to the latest Metal Gear Solid. Metal Gear though had it’s own problems. It was by no means a perfect game, but it opened up a new way of thinking about stealth for me. It allowed me to use all my toys and didn’t make me feel bad for using them. Hopefully Dishonored 2 also follows this route because the best times in the original game were when you knew you had screwed up and just went crazy blowing everyone up and electrocuting a whole map of enemies. Sadly that would always be followed by a reload.