Posted on October 22, 2012, Phil Hornshaw Why It’s Okay If You Dislike Dishonored
The first wave of reviews for Dishonored praised the game pretty much universally. I was right there with the bulk of the gaming journalism community — I love Dishonored, I had great fun playing it, and I’ve played it again since writing the review. It’s been on my mind a lot since it released.
But I realize that while I might be in the majority, there are a lot of people who don’t like the game. A second wave of reviews tended to be more critical, with more players and critics taking issue with Dishonored. Some, maybe most, of those reviews were met with lots of rough handling from commenters and players.
Here’s a news flash, however: It’s okay to dislike Dishonored. It doesn’t make you an idiot or crazy or ignorant of the history of video games. It just means that some of the game’s key elements — the bets upon which the developers placed all their chips — failed to resonate with you.
Your viewpoint of not liking Dishonored is entirely valid, and talking about the game’s flaws, and all games’ flaws, is a worthy discussion.
Here’s my theory about Dishonored: it’s all about the world. That’s clearly where the developers put the lion’s share of their storybuilding effort, and something they’ve said repeatedly was very important to them. Arkane Studios opted to tell a fairly simple revenge story, but to make the world of Dunwall as immersive as possible. And it is immersive, beautiful, awful, deep, strange, and filled with its own history. There’s a huge amount to discover about Dunwall.
The best story moments of Dishonored take place without Corvo’s interaction. Reading books, finding journals, and (more than anything) overhearing conversations are the things that give Dunwall the kind of breadth that makes it feel real. I loved this about Dishonored, and I spent a lot of time reading books and listening to conversations and just watching.
Dishonored’s world grabbed me, brought me in, kept me interested. No, I wasn’t all that enthralled with the revenge elements of the story — after all, what did I really care about the Empress, or my supposed torture at the opening of the game? Those things happened to Corvo, not to me.
The developers put their efforts into building the world, but if the world doesn’t interest you … what then? There seem to be plenty of people who aren’t all that smitten with Dishonored. These people tend to find the game a lot shorter because they don’t care about exploring it as much, or reading so many books, or listening to so many conversations.
These people aren’t wrong about the flaws they perceive in Dishonored, about how they’re too powerful as they hack through all the enemies with a series of crazy powers that render most battles fairly meaningless, or how they have no real reason to do all the murdering they eventually do. For them, the thing that the developers hoped would draw them in — the world — isn’t doing the drawing. And so they’re not nearly as interested in Dishonored, they finish it faster, and they don’t get what all the fuss is about.