Hunker down and grab a snack, kiddies. This one’s gonna be a long one. And I will be talking about a mature rated video game, so if you’re here from my beading and jewelry videos….well, you might want to skip this one. (I post more jewelry and nice things on Tuesdays on my YouTube channel…)
So over the winter break, I had the experience of playing this little gem right here:
This game….where do I even begin? I KNOW! I WILL GRAB MY NOTES!
Since this rant is so long, I may or may not unintentionally disclose spoilers of some form (depending on how sensitive your definition of spoilers is) So you may want to skip it if you want to have a whole first impression of the game without anyone else’s influence.
TL;DR version: BUY THIS FUCKING GAME.
The rest of you still here? Good.
Alright, I think that I should start by saying: This is the FIRST TIME I have felt badass playing a woman in a game. Bethesda: beautifully done.
The way she was designed, the way she talked, her gameplay mechanics. Emily was written so well, her movements were so fluid and the combat programmed beautifully. I was able to be immersed in her character. (Mind you, she was pretty badass as a kid in the first game too)
Now, she is not PERFECT, there are a few little nit picky things that I would have liked to see differently or addressed:
1. She is still quite pretty, which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, she’s supposedly “hiding her face” the entire time she’s on a mission. But from the pictures of her, and the cutscene animations, the only effort she seems to be doing is flipping a bandana over her face, leaving her eyes (and perfectly blended smokey eye makeup) visible.
Now it may not have been intentional, but I have this issue with the portrayal of women and the idea of “Sure, honey, you can do whatever you want, as long as you look pretty/sexy doing it!” AGAIN, this might not have been intentional, but couldn’t I have just borrowed Corvo’s mask while escaping Dunwall Tower through the safe room? It seemed to snap to the size of whoever was wearing it. Or better yet, have something equally intimidating to cover her face?
I did love that there were SO. MANY. WOMEN. in this game. I LOVE IT. The NPCs were half women. There were guard women, Elite Guard Women, random civilian women. Women committing crimes, woman being HUMAN, not pretty sexy decorations around the streets.
Did……did that woman just make a poop comment? The audacity! SCANDALOUS.
….I love it, give me more.
A WOMAN was the captain of the royal guard. And Megan Foster was your ship Captain giving you transport for almost the entire adventure:
Now that being said, there was definitely more room for diversity, especially with the witches and other NPCs, but this is a big start. Different sexualities were even addressed. This game just seemed…more human. (Again, it’s not perfect, there was certainly more room for inclusion, but it is better than a lot of recent games)
On another note altogether, I really love how this game is a total nod (or something more obvious like a chest bump) towards the Thief franchise, which was definitely an influencer to Dishonored (see The Flooded District from the first game. You know what I’m talking about.)
(low-key though, I thought it fucking HILARIOUS that they got Stephen Russell to voice Corvo after the train wreck of the Thief “reboot” that Eidos pushed out (read – GUTTED) and didn’t want him to play Garrett. The irony is just delightful.)
There are some other examples that made this game a blend of the original game plus Thief 3:
- The black markets where you can buy extra “tips” that help you on your mission
- The semi open world feeling and transitions between each level
- The “drawing” art style that happened in pre-mission cutscenes
Let’s talk about level design!
BEAUTIFULLY STRUCTURED. STUNNING. It’s so immersive, and gorgeous. And there are a few levels in particular that are just so well fabricated. (Clockwork Mansion, and Dust District/A Crack in the Slab. That’s all I’m saying.)
However, and this could have been a limitation in the engine, but I wish there was some diversity in the environment lighting as well as color saturation differences in the textures. Everything still had the same appearance to me and sort of blended together, which could just be me. There were some very unique environments that sort of melded together in my head because the city streets of one map looked the same as the streets of another area altogether. Same with any mansion interiors. Everything was lit in the same color (where there was lighting anyways) and it didn’t highlight the artistry of the level designer’s work.
And there are a lot of technical issues with the game that attributed to poor reviews at the start of its release. Again, don’t release a game that hasn’t been tested on many mainstream systems. AMD users always get the shit end of the stick that they will scream about it. Patching it later does not counteract the damage that will be done to reputation the very first week of release.
The biggest factor that may have led to its performance issues is the use of the VOID engine. The first game used Unreal 4, and they most likely wanted to break away from (and use ID???) I don’t know, IMO I don’t think an IP like this should have been used as a flagship title for a new engine. The performance was HORRID. I had upgraded my machine SPECIFICALLY for this game, and I still could barely run it past “Low” quality settings. That says something when I can run ULTRA on the previous game now.
The first patch made it run a little smoother, but it also increased the loading screen time between areas, which I’m not sure is a great tradeoff.
There were some design choices that could have also been altered to save a few polygons methinks. For one, the skybox was TOO. DAMN. LARGE. A lot of the levels were based on what was essentially a deserted island, and a lot of the outer details just didn’t need to be there since no one would really notice them (Yes, *I* noticed them, fair point, but I was annoyed at them, so it doesn’t count)
A lot of the background objects were modeled and slapped with high quality textures as well, and they were in places that the player could not even interact with anyways.
This level confused the fuck out of me when I first arrived. The detail on the rooftops in the area where you emerge was so….detailed, that I thought there was a path to go to. Especially since the ACTUAL game path was in front of three patrols with no obvious getaway.
Now onto some mechanics!!!!
There were some absolutely fantastic choices made that addressed some issues of the previous game, as well as simply added on to the experience of the sequel.
There was a nonlethal solution for EVERYTHING. Aerial takedowns? You got it. A bitch turns around at the last minute ans spots you? PUNCH THAT ASSHOLE IN THE FACE THEN GRAB HIM. Good times, great times.
Ultimately, the game is fantastically customizable so you can tailor how you like to play the game. Run ‘n gun? Fuckyeah….well you’ll hurt quite a bit but FUCKYEAH. Sneaky sneak? That’s awesome too. And with the recent addition of the Custom Difficulty setting, you can add as much or as little challenge as you would like.
It is also super easy to speedrun if you’re not interested in all the fluff, and just wanna get through the game.
Encounters were fantastic! Varied and interesting. LOVE the clockwork soldiers, they added an extra element of difficulty with their two view perspectives. And they didn’t have them in just one level. You were introduced to them, then you encountered more every so often in the game. More might have been added, but I think there was enough present in the game to remind the player that they still existed in the world.
For those of you who are familiar with the achievements of the first game, there was one in particular that caused me so much angst that I just couldn’t for a while….just couldn’t.
I am talking about the one named “Mostly Flesh and Steel” Here is verbatim what the achievement entails:
But I think a much better phrasing would have been “Spend no Runes.” Period. Because what did my stupid ass do? Go “Huh, that’s easy! I don’t use any other powers anyway!” And dropped a Rune to upgrade Blink the second I got it.
When did my stupid ass Google that shit and realize that would immediately disqualify me? Chapter 8.
I was not. A happy camper. Especially since I was multitasking and doing a ghost/nokill run.
This was addressed in the sequel by simply providing a “No Magic Mode” right at the beginning of the game.
By this asshole right here. Now you would, without a shadow of a doubt, be able to do get that e-peen achievement no problem.
I also like that Emily’s powers were unique from Corvo’s, so you got to try something new and go about in the level in your own way. EXCEPT for one, and more on that later…
And the newly introduced New Game+ gives you powers from both characters at the same time, so you can fuck with people till your corrupted heart’s content.
And they recently (and by recent I mean literally LAST WEEK) they finally released Chapter Select like they had in the old game. So now I can actually start from a chapter if I royally fuckup instead of the ENTIRE FUCKING GAME. Or try and reserve precious limited save slots for the start of each chapter, doing it the manual way.
UPDATE: So apparently you can’t enable mission select until you run through a campaign ALL OVER AGAIN. which means, if you’ve already played it: Guess what? you’re doin’ it again. Oh well. Seems kinda shitty to the people who bought it early, but I can understand it from a programming/memory perspective.
Besides, this game makes it REALLY easy to speedrun if you know exactly what you’re doing.
Then there were also some not-so-great mechanics and gameplay features.
TOO. MANY. FUCKING. RUNES. EVERYWHERE. OH MY FUCKING GOD.
I did thoroughly enjoy the charm and rune crafting mechanic and I thought it added something extra to the gameplay. BUT GOOD FUCKING CHRIST. I spent more time scouring the map for those pieces of shit then playing the actual game, and that’s WITH the heart telling me exactly where the fuck to go. It got to the point where the magic of the level wore off so fast, and it turned into a chore list instead.
I HATE FAR REACH SO FUCKING MUCH. This was Emily’s physics-based answer to Corvo’s Blink (which I was SO RELIEVED to have back when I played through again.) Mind you, I did enjoy the telekinesis aspect, where you started chucking bottles and bodies around.
But *I* do not like to be chucked around. And I have spent so many times re-loading my game from a ghost run because it launched me into oblivion and back, right at the feet of a guard, instead of the ACTUAL place I was aiming for.
Instead of a semi-teleport system, like Blink was, Far Reach was more like a demonic grappling hook. That hates you and all you love. And the SNAPPING was so irritating. There were certain things you could teleport to that were FURTHER AWAY than the places you ACTUALLY wanted to go to, and it would somehow never touch the objects closer to you that were intentionally placed in a path for you to take. It was infuriating.
….and some WTF features.
Needless to say, the gratuitous violence is rather comical….and OTT. I mean, I get it, they wanted it to be horrifically gruesome so that your cold-hearted ass might actually FEEL a thing or two, and that butchering innocent bystanders or random assholes just doing their jobs is generally frowned upon by the average populace.
But seriously…body parts just flyin’ erreywhere. I’m pretty sure humans only have TWO arms.
On the note of killing random living creatures, there are a couple (again, nit-picky) moral choices presented that impacts your “Chaos” level that I scratch my head at.
First off, the Nest Keepers. These are essentially the Weeper equivalent from the first game. But they are Weeper+. Essentially, the Nest Keepers are created by bloodflies and have been practically converted to the point where they are literally nothing but skin and bone with a hive sticking out of their abdomen. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEIR ORGANS AND BRAINS HAVE BEEN HOLLOWED OUT.
But are you allowed to kill them? NOPE. That will put a black mark on your “no-kill” runs and you might as well start from your last save.
I mean, there is ABSOLUTELY no coming back from conversion with these things unless you somehow had six million dollars to spare.
Wanna know what you CAN kill without remorse?
|user whyisthisevenathing on imgur.com|
That’s right, these faithful and trusting bundles of joy can be decimated by your blade with no ill-consequences to your chaos or kill count. 😀
Then finally, there’s a few story elements in there that didn’t settle with me, but then again, who am I? I’m just a loudmouthed, rabid fan with certain predispositions towards a stealth franchise.
DIALOGUE. SO. MUCH. DIALOG. They spent so much time on it. I have run through the game three times and I’m still hearing new shit from the characters.
That being said, the characters talk A. LOT. There is sooooooo much internal dialog, and it kind of gets in the way. I don’t notice it as much when playing Emily, her writing is done very well and her banter makes sense. She reminisces about her childhood days and reacts to her environment, it blends seamlessly as you are playing. She doesn’t come off as talking for the fuck of it.
My issue is with Corvo’s writing. It seems wayyyy too OTT. And I think that impression comes with the fact that Corvo was a silent character in the first game, and you kind of had to fill in the gaps about what his character was about. To me anyway, he seemed more like the strong, silent type that intimidated people with his appearance, and spoke only when it was required of him.
But sequel Corvo talks A. LOT. Constantly internalizing with himself that HES GOTTA GET HIS DAUGHTER BACK!!! The almost foaming-from-the-mouth mantra sounding like a broken record before the second mission even started. I have to play nonlethal with his character, but I did notice that his quips got angrier and more violent as the game progressed, and the delivery of it was kinda cringey.
Honestly, Corvo doesn’t need to be there, he felt shoehorned in and didn’t really have a purpose. His story didn’t exactly make sense. It is NOT his story. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Stephen Russell’s voice acting and that dude could read a dictionary and still make it sound amazing.
That being said, I do understand and appreciate why he is there. He is there for the demographic that “can’t relate to playing a woman” or absolutely refuse to do so due to personal bias. And I really appreciate the devs for taking the effort to bridge that gap and make many people happy. This game is amazing.
(Also, in the tutorial, I really REALLY wanted Corvo to catch me taking the coin purse from him, snatch my hand, and say “That’s not for you.” (Where my Thief peeps at?))
That being said, I really don’t like what they did to the Outsider. I loved the blasé tone the first voice actor had. He was generally unimpressed with everything, chronically bored, and having a little amusement toying with the likes of mortals. Corvo leaves a trail of blood and bodies everywhere, and his expression is like “Huh. Neat. Welp. You tried. Good job anyway.” -golf clap-
The new version sounds more like a TV announcer or car salesman rather than an unbiased trickster deity. His dialog also shifted, and they way it was written made it sound like there WAS a right or wrong answer. And you should be ashamed for killing everyone, which I don’t think is in the Outsider’s interests at all.
His backstory was also touched on. And by touched I mean like they gave one sentence to say how he came about and never mentioned it again. Ehhhhhh…..
The ending….was rather lackluster. Without getting into details, I really didn’t feel like I accomplished anything at the end. I felt so awesome crawling through this beautiful world, but at the end, the pace changed, and it felt like nothing more than flipping through a Goosebumps Choose-Your-Own-Scare book just to find all the endings and not actually getting any of the story.
It was almost mathematical, as if you were just putting in parts of an equation. “You did X and Y therefore, You Get result Z.” I felt like I was playing a super violent Cosmo Quiz.
It wasn’t too dissimilar to the ending of the first game, I just didn’t feel it as much, like anything really concluded I guess. I suppose there was more to get attached to. I can’t describe what it is, but there was some fundamental element missing from these endings.
Overall, the replay value is fantastic. I would recommend at least three playthroughs, two if you’re really efficient. One to play nekkid and experience the story naturally, then one to go full nonlethal, grabbing the cheevos and extra dialog, then full chaos, and seeing how great a difference there was.
But generally BUY THIS GAME. Do not let the release bugs chuck this game into the pile of “Ohhh look, women protags just don’t sell well, so we just shouldn’t make anymore.” Buy it. And buy it for your friends if you can’t force them to. Buy it for your grandma as well.