You Can’t Play Hero in Dishonored’s Story – And That’s Good
Sneaking past the gangsters and into their distillery (after having procured diseased rat guts), players can easily poison the plague cure with plague, dealing a pretty heavy blow to the gang. At least, that’s how it seems — but spend some time taking in your surroundings on this particular mission and you might discover a ledger listing the names of families to whom the gang sells its bootleg remedy. The customers are poor people who can’t afford the name-brand stuff. Suddenly, it becomes clear that you might not just be hurting the apparent bad guys in this situation. So does poisoning the criminals’ still make you a bad guy?
Dishonored throws this question our way over and over again, and probably the most unfortunate thing about the game is that it doesn’t stick to its guns. Eventually, the story allows you to achieve moral high ground, rewarding you for choosing mercy.
Still, the game gets pretty close in providing you with a dark path without necessarily suggesting that you revel in it. In most games, you either play as the hero, or you play at being a bad guy — either starting bad and becoming good, or going ludicrously, comically bad, like a Bond villain. Dishonored actually presents you with choices with no right answers more often than not. There’s rarely a chance to actually be a good guy.
That’s a tough sell for a video game, and it’s one of Dishonored’s great strengths that it can challenge players in that way. The game manages to do one better than the standard “moral conundrum” we’ve seen in video games in the last decade — it constantly gives you no-win situations and asks you to choose the lesser of two evils. Or, even better, it provides you with a goal to complete without sharing the true consequences of that action, instead leaving it to the player to discover the context.
Stepping into a world with video games that aren’t about implacable heroes shooting down thousands of minions of evil could very well be stepping into the next generation of games as they continue to evolve as a medium and art form. I only hope that more games embrace this idea as much as, and even more than, Dishonored has.
Combining stealth, magic, and gadgetry against overwhelming odds, Corvo hunts the men that betrayed him in Dishonored. Become a master assassin with Game Front’s Dishonored walkthrough and punish those that have wronged you with style.