Dishonored: The Onion

I want Samuel the boatman to be my uncle

There’s going to be a backlash against Dishonored. It can’t be helped: when a game makes big promises, a justice squad will quickly arise to loudly demand that it accounts for not meeting them to the very letter, and in this case I suspect there’s an additional flock of people who have been led by marketing to expect an all-out action game. I can predict, even sympathise with, some of the complaints, others I suspect will be absolutely mystifying to me. It’s the finest hour in what we might loosely but innacurately term ‘blockbuster shooters’ in years – I’d feel petulant were I to demand it give me even more. But there is one complaint that may reach a crescendo in short order, and that is the issue of length. For me, Dishonored was a deliciously long game, clocking in at about 25 hours even without the total replay I intend on having very soon. For someone else – someone who has a lot of numbers in the name they use when playing Halo 4, say – it will be insultingly short. It may not even make a double figures quantity of hours. That’s not the game’s fault, it’s theirs (or, perhaps, the fault of the marketeers who sold the game as an action opus). They gobbled the onion up whole, too greedy or too lazy or too accustomed to inflexible fare to peel apart its layers.

When you start a mission in Dishonored, your main objective/target will, if you not deliberately deactivated it on option, appear on the HUD as an ever-present marker. In most cases, the objective will be under 300 metres from your position (though will require a transition from an outdoor space to an indoor one). You can take out your gun, your crossbow, your grenades, your sword, your razor mines, perhaps your windblast power if you’ve been minded to acquire it, and you can run towards that marker.

You will have to do some jumping, you will probably have to do some fighting, and you’ll almost inevitably need to do some saving and reloading, but with a bit of skill and a bit of luck you will make it to that marker in a matter of minutes. This is certainly the case if you play on Normal, though expect a need for greater caution and precision on Hard. I have tried it myself on a couple of missions, and lo, it can indeed be brief.

If that is your Dishonored, your Dishonored will last but a handful of hours. You will have followed a cursor and you will have shot some men, and you will perhaps be questioning why there was so very little of it. Dishonored does contain that game, but Dishonored is not that game.

My Dishonored was largely spent in a crouch, in the shadows, killing no-one, collecting everything. That is not the necessary way to play it to get more out of it, but it’s certainly one way to do so. Dishonored’s levels always appear, at a quick glance, as straight, albeit lavish, runs across short distances with perhaps a couple of dozen enemies to contend with. You can do this, if your skill at shooters so allows, but by God you’re denying yourself so much.

Power upgrades, vignettes that flesh out this broken world, capsule puzzles and magnificent sights are hidden away to the sides and most of all under the skin of the map. Events and choices with some pretty huge repercussions on not just plot, but the contents and nature of later levels. What looks, superficially, like a small area is dense with layers, both of possibilities but also architecturally – maze-like buildings with satisfyingly inconvenient access points and hidden rooms, tragic notes from plague victims, books from lost authors, references to the unseen monsters which pull at destiny’s strings, and even requests for lengthy assistance from the occasional damned survivor. Things that change matters, things that flesh out a world that largely avoids open exposition, but also things to be seen for the simple joy of seeing.

Ignore the objective marker. Turn it off, ideally, but if you must have it on because otherwise you feel too unfocused, don’t even look towards it until you’ll teased open all the layers, scoured every corner whether for loot, for context, or for spectacle. Creeping around the back entrance to an enemy-occupied townhouse, I stumbled across a narrow, flooded street stretching off into the distance. Dunwall’s metal-plated walls towered at either side, suggesting something massive, fortified, impregnable. In the water below floated rubble, bodies, misery, but the light played across one iron face of this artificial valley in a sharp white beam, bleaching out the dirt and death, turning this bleak scene of ruin and oppression into one of stark, unblemished beauty. It became a hint of the gleaming metal-Victorian metropolis Dunwall once was on the way to becoming, before the plague, before the death of its beloved ruler, before man’s awful hunger for power laid it so low.

It wasn’t a scene to do anything with, or in. But it was clearly hand-crafted, put there by someone proud of it, who wanted to describe Dunwall in a single scene. Had I run from A to B, I would never have seen it – never even have known it was there. It was put there for people like me, who will play the game not to complete the objectives, not to get the end and kill anything that moved, but to explore for the simple, pretention-free pleasure of exploring.

I want, with perhaps unhealthy compulsion, to see everything that’s there, everything that’s been made for me. It’s not just that I want to find all the Runes, Bonecharms, paintings, side quests and money (I do though – oh, I really do. Even though, as a non-lethal player, most of the things I can buy with this loot are of no use to me), it’s that I want to know that I have not missed anything. It agitates to me to even suspect some stone was left unturned. If the level results screen shows I’ve missed something, it burns me. This is nothing to do with kleptomania or achievement-hunting, and everything to do with the knowledge that something was created and I didn’t get to see it. I don’t know why it matters so much, but I know that Dishonored is a game designed to meet this strange, silent, selfish need.

In almost any game, should I encounter a hallway with one staircase going up, towards my target, and another going down, towards nothing obvious at all, I will go down. In the vast majority of shooters – and I lump Dishonored into that category even though I shot no-one in it, bar the occasional emergency stun dart – that stairway will end abruptly, in a fallen bookcase, a crumbling sofa, a pile of bricks or a mysteriously damage- and jump-resistant Closed For Maintenance sign. In Dishonored, it goes somewhere. An alternate route to your objective, perhaps. A path to a different objective. A letter or character who will reveal how to neutralise your assassination target non-lethally. A Rune, a nest of maddened plague victims, a key that won’t serve a purpose until the next level, or just a new perspective on part of this infected, drowned, proud, painterly world.

So fearful of missing anything was I that I felt compelled to knock out or stun-dart every guard I saw, purely to ensure I could then explore unfettered. Even once everyone was sleeping their bruised-necked sleep, I would creep and Blink about the place, possessing rats and fish, combing every corner. The maps felt palatial to me. The idea that that they contained just 200 metres or so of space ludicrous. Because they didn’t. They contained kilomotres of it, folded in on itself, braided, shielded, but all there to unravel for those willing to do so.

If you want to rush around with a gun, shooting anything that moves, don’t buy Dishonored. It has put those things in there for you, and it offers slick, brutal, varied permutations on how to use them, but they are not its all. If you’re looking for 10+ hours of shooting men, or even stabbing men, you are well-served already and forever by games that do that, do it well, and do it for a long time. You and those like you are the victor of the great games race, and you have the spoils, many times over.

So let us have Dishonored. Let us have this one expensive, luxurious game that only truly works, only sings a glorious tune, only becomes a 20+ hour game if met by those who treat it in the spirit with which it is offered. Don’t tell us it’s too short and too slight just because you don’t find combing through its many layers, peeling back every last millimetre of artfully subdued skin, of interest. Because you want to rush to the conclusion, and you don’t believe anything that doesn’t explicitly inform reaching that conclusion is worthwhile.

As for me, I ignore the objectives. I wait, I watch, I wonder. Eventually, with a working knowledge of guard movement patterns, I run a careful knife across the surface, make myself a way in to what’s underneath. I start peeling and that deceptively short 200 metre sprint sprays open, exploding into a sprawling, handmade world of navigational puzzles, short stories, unspoken character studies and bespoke beauty spots. Dishonored’s Corvo has bullets, blades, bolts and black magic to call upon, but it’s Blink that is the game’s bedrock. The power that lets you reach more places, because, underneath all the distorted Victoriana stylings, that showy skull mask and the artful violence, Dishonored is a game about going places. And there’s no hurry.


  1. Lagwolf says:

    Skyrim effect mb? People are so spoiled by the game, that can easily be played for 150 hours on your first build. I suspect it will be a while until we get another (solo) game with such legs.

  2. MadTinkerer says:

    Aha! So in other words they did make Ultima Underworld 3 after all! Bravo, chaps. I’ll set aside some money next paycheck to get this (this paycheck I needed to choose between Dishonored or X-Com, so Dishonored had to wait).

    • Vinraith says:

      Yes, they did. It was called “Arx Fatalis” and it’s on GOG for a reasonable price.

      This game, on the other hand, bears no resemblance whatsoever to Ultima Underworld. It doesn’t claim to be an RPG and isn’t trying to be one.

      • Harlander says:

        It’s also a pre-order bonus for Dishonoured, bizzarely

      • MadTinkerer says:

        How would you know? You’re skipping it.

        As for Arx, okay maybe I should have said “Ultima Underworld 4” above. But relatively small, completely non-linear level design seemingly from a time before linear level design had been conceived, that just screams “Underworld” to me. If you want to say that Dishonored isn’t like the Underworld games because it isn’t an RPG, then you have too strict a definition of RPG. Most Immersive Sims are RPGs.

        Go read the leaked Ultima VII design documents (avaiable on if you buy U7) if you don’t believe me. They were calling it “virtual reality” before the term was stolen to mean strapping televisions to your face. Dishonored is descended from the same pre-Diablo, pre-Baldur’s Gate school of first-person RPGs as Skyrim and System Shock 2 and Arx Fatalis and Ultima Underworld 2. Just because there’s no skill points or classes, that doesn’t make it not an RPG.

  3. int says:

    “My Dishonored was largely spent in a crouch, in the shadows, killing no-one, collecting everything.”

    This is why I love Splinter Cell, before it went action-shooty-shoot-shoot.

    If I wanted to I could go non-lethal throughout the entire game. Sometimes never even assault anyone, just sneak past the goons.

  4. futage says:

    I am worried about the shortness of Dishonoured.

    I am not one of those people, to whom you have pre-emptively responded in this article, who rush through a game and then complain about its length.

    I just enjoy long games. I like playing a game for weeks or months on end and becoming subsumed into the world and its reality. I like losing myself in games, this is a huge part of what I enjoy about them. And I sometimes find it difficult to enjoy a game where I can’t do this.

    25 hours isn’t a long game, for me. It varies of course but 50 hours is about the point where I’m starting to feel at home and 100+ hours is far more like it. I’m prepared to work for this, I’ll explore every nook and cranny when I fall in love with a world and its reality. I don’t expect it to be served to me on a plate.

    I’ll certainly play Dishonoured and I’m sure I’ll love it, it looks great. But if someone asks me what I think, I’ll likely say “I wish it were longer”.

    Of course I realise that it’s not really economically viable to make lengthy, complex 3d action games any more since the work required to create the assets has kinda exploded. I also realise that some games should be short, that sometimes a short length is appropriate to the form and the content and that to have gone on longer would compromise the whole. That may be the case here, I won’t know until I’ve played it.

    None of that alters the fact that I often find it hard to enjoy shorter games. It’s like sitting down to a long-anticipated delicious meal only to have the plate removed after only a few mouthfuls (I realise how flawed that is as an analogy – they’ve been very open about the length of the game. I’m only trying to describe how it feels.)

    I realise it’s a hugely subjective thing but I am one of those people who simply enjoys long games And to (implicitly at least) characterise all complaints about length as the whining of those unwilling to engage fully with the experience is bollocks.

    • alundra says:

      Yeah, I agree with you, games are too short these days, 100+ hours for $60usg on Skyrim, that was some good value for the money, nobody expects every game out there to last so much but you gotta be a total conformist to feel well served by less than 50 hours.

      Mr. Meer was spot on on his article, it’s obvious if you don’t take the time to savoir every bit of the game it last a lot shorter than it should, but, praising pathetic excuses for a game wrapped in shinny gfx is plain mediocrity.

      And no, by that last comment I’m not referring to Dishonored, can’t be the judge of that yet.

    • Premium User Badge

      Qazinsky says:

      I feel that game length standards have gone the wrong way, one opinon I cannot truly understand is the “This game is great, but XX hrs are long enough”. Sometimes it feels like you’ve only just sampled the games mechanics before it is over!

    • futage says:

      Ok well I spent 16 hours on mission 1 so my fears are pretty much allayed.

  5. frightlever says:

    So this is a thing now is it? Alec devoted a post to pointing out why some people didn’t understand the Xcom demo. Now he’s telling people they’re playing Dishonored wrong. Given how Dishonored was billed, I find that ironic.

    • Fincher says:

      Any stealthy aspect to a game is there to give gaming “aficionados” some kind of superiority over people who choose not to go that route. I’

    • Fincher says:

      Any stealthy aspect to a game is there to give gaming “aficionados” some kind of superiority over people who choose not to go that route. I’m puzzled by it too.

      • Nogo says:

        It’s not that hard to understand, and hardly about feeling smug (especially considering most of those ‘aficionados’ usually resort to violence or end up completing a madcap run-through). Simply put, most shooters don’t allow stealth. So how is it so baffling to think people prefer the rare stealth approach when on offer? You’re basically saying you can’t understand why people find it weird to buy a burger at a Mexican restaurant.

        And where are you reading Alec saying “use stealth?” The article plainly states that there’s ample content on offer, it’s just not explicitly sign-posted. So please, point and laugh at all the reviewers who were on a deadline and missed the majority of the game because arrows are more interesting than levels.

    • Acorino says:

      Honestly, it would be like merely playing the main quest in Skyrim and complaining there isn’t much to it. If you stick to one rigid path then it’s your own damn fault if you miss out on a lot of excellent content. You can play nothing more than shooty bang bang in Dishonored. But don’t complain then if you finish the game rather swiftly. If you want more bang for your buck (pun intended), then better find the right game for it. I heard Battlefield 3 is pretty good…

      Skyrim and Dishonored I feel are great examples why its ludicrous to measure a game in terms of its lengths. Sure you can finish Skyrim under 10 hours, but how much have you missed then? Pretty much everything, I would wager.

      I guess many gamers still perceive games as movies, with one linear path to the end.

      • Lawful Evil says:

        “Sure you can finish Skyrim under 10 hours”

        Incorrect. You can’t *finish* Skyrim, or Oblivion, or Morrowind under 10 hours. You might complete the main quest, albeit with cheats, but not finish the game, because there isn’t an *ending* – you end playing the game when you chose, but the game doesn’t force yout to evade the ending of the main quest simply because it isn’t the ending of the game.

    • TheApologist says:

      Or they’re advocating games they really like through extended and useful discussion beyond a review. As is their wont and as RPS has always done.

  6. MDefender says:

    I’ve always played games like this. What are you apoligising for, the short game that isn’t even out yet or the fact that “nasty internet trorrs” might say exactly that in the coming few days? What on earth is the point?
    This is a ridiculous situation to be in. The idea that a design factor that was arguably self-apparent for months needs or even deserves this whitewash.
    “On a direct playthrough on normal using objective markers and violence, dishonored takes between 4-6 hours to complete.”
    Was that so hard?

  7. faelnor says:

    My own little backlash for the time being: Is there no way to holster my weapons? I don’t want to see that useless gun, and I do not need the blade. Why take space on my screen?

    • faelnor says:

      You actually can! Just long press use. That game is a dream.

  8. MarcP says:

    Most of the games you mention were already dismissed or acknowledged in the very post you’re replying to, Sheng-ji, and by lumping “story-based for teens” and “RPG” with genuine manshoots you’re just proving my point. Unfortunately for me.

  9. ffordesoon says:

    This piece reminds me of a Deus Ex Made Me installment that Jordan Thomas (I think) wrote for RPS a couple years back, where he talked about how he thought Deus Ex was a “shitty linear shooter” the first time he played it, because it literally didn’t occur to him that there could be more to it. And then (I believe – this is a summary from memory) he heard that you could save Paul, and it cracked his brain wide open, because he was like, “No, no, Paul has to die… Right? Th-that’s how games work!”

    And then he played it again, and saved Paul and did everything completely differently, and other shooters were kind of ruined for him. XD

    Oh, Alec? This quote:

    “In almost any game, should I encounter a hallway with one staircase going up, towards my target, and another going down, towards nothing obvious at all, I will go down.”

    …Is the absolute best description of what sort of gamer I am that I’ve ever read, and explains a hell of a lot more about my taste in games than any label I’ve ever heard. I don’t care about genres at all. I care about whether I can go down the staircase that seems to lead nowhere and maybe see something amazing.

    • LintMan says:

      ““In almost any game, should I encounter a hallway with one staircase going up, towards my target, and another going down, towards nothing obvious at all, I will go down.”

      …Is the absolute best description of what sort of gamer I am that I’ve ever read, and explains a hell of a lot more about my taste in games than any label I’ve ever heard. I don’t care about genres at all. I care about whether I can go down the staircase that seems to lead nowhere and maybe see something amazing.”

      I compulsively do this as well, but annoyingly in a lot of recent games, I seem to keep running afoul of game designers’ intent to detour players off the obvious paths, forcing me to do a lot of backtracking:

      “Those stairs look like they’re lleading up to the goal, so I’ll explore this side passage first and see what’s there”. Then: “Wow this area was huge andit’s still going, and I just saw another event/cutscene indicating I’m getting CLOSER to the goal.” So then I have to backtrack to the stairs I skipped to see what I missed there, where I discover they dead ended in an impassable door or pile of rubble just around the corner from where I started. So then I have to backtrack AGAIN to where I had gone. Grrr. It’s like I’m being punished for trying to thoroughly explore the area.

  10. yesterdayisawadeer says:

    The words! They are healing my torn soul!

  11. zerosociety says:

    So a friend of mine and I both got New Vegas at the same time. We both enjoyed it a great deal. His first playthrough took 10 hours and mine took 74. Which of us is superior?

    Neither. We both paid our money and engaged with the game in ways it was designed to encourage and support and in ways we enjoyed. His playthrough of NV was 10 hours (and his Skyrim playthrough was 7) but was he doing something wrong? Nope. Was he missing content? Yes.

    The question is: does this make New Vegas “A 10 hour game”?

    The last few days have seen all sorts of Dishonoured buzz calling it “a 6 hour game”, but is it? I don’t see this article so much declaring superiority for one playstyle over another, but just saying “yes, it CAN be a 6 hour game or it CAN be 20+ and that decision is up to you.” I actually value that information a lot more as a consumer than if they had just said it’s one or the other.

    I’ll take games that have content that can be explored depending on my playstyle over games like (the rather fun and well made) Darkness 2 which, no matter how you play it, lasts about 4-5 hours from start to finish with only a little replayability.

    • JackShandy says:

      The other thing is that most people don’t even finish games.

      link to

      • ChaseGunman says:

        I didn’t finish Portal2 because halfway through it started crashing and nothing I’ve tried will fix it :(

      • derbefrier says:

        I’ll admit I have a lot of games i have never finished(I did finish Portal 2 though). Its mostly because I get bored with them after a while. I feel like I have seen everything the game has to offer and the story sucks so I move on to something else. In other words the game may have 40 hours of gameplay but gets boring after the first 20 or so why would i keep playing. This mostly happens with RPGs for me as most action games are pretty short and sweet but RPGs just have a way of dragging on and on and on and on….. Its not like I cant put a lot of hours in a game though I have put well over hundred in Skyrim thanks to mods and just broke the 100 hour mark with Dark Souls because that game is just awesome. Most games though just aren’t good enough to even finish these days.

    • LintMan says:

      I generally judge the length of a SP game by how long you can keep playing it and seeing and doing substantially new content (without being OCD about doing 100% of EVERYTHING). But I don’t consider “replay the campaign on a harder difficulty leve to get better lootl” or even “replay the campaign with a different class” as “new content”.

      So for me, Starcraft 2 was about a 10 hour game. Diablo 2 was maybe 15 hours. DX:HR was maybe 30-40. Oblivion with expansions was around 130. Skyrim is 80+ (ongoing) so far.

    • fish99 says:

      I’d actually argue that your friend was doing it wrong and basically missed the point of a game like Vegas. I’d equate just doing the main quest in a Bethesda/Obsidian RPG to just doing the first level in Gear of War, especially given that the best content in these games is usually not the main quest. Does your friend even realize he missed 90% of the game btw?

      • zerosociety says:

        He knows, but he’s happy with what he got. He got the barebones beginning/middle and end that Obsidian designed. Is he minimizing value? Yeah. Is he doing it wrong? Nah.

  12. TCM says:

    Anyone who measures the value of game in hours taken is entirely silly anyhow.

    Braid took me around 3 hours to beat, and I’m not going to bother with the stars. Bastion took me around ten hours. Binding of Isaac takes maybe an hour to run through once. Red Dead Redemption took me a good forty hours. X-Com, around 10 a run. Europa Universalis 3 has no actual ending, but I’ve probably invested a good 300 hours into it. All of these games occupy the same space in my heart, the space of ‘games that I absolutely love and will recommend to anyone who will ever listen’.

    If there is some minimum threshold of time you need to invest into a game before you feel it was ‘worth it’, you should reevaluate the way you are thinking about gaming.

    • LintMan says:

      Time played isn’t the sole factor for game value judgement, but I think it can be a big factor.

      For example, I was overwhelmingly satisfied after the 4 hours it took me to complete Portal. It was Game of the Year for me. On the other hand, I recall feeling massively ripped off by the 4 hour campaign length of the Age of Mythology: Titans expansion pack.

  13. Poliphilo says:

    So let us have Dishonored. Let us have this one expensive, luxurious game that only truly works, only sings a glorious tune, only becomes a 20+ hour game if met by those who treat it in the spirit with which it is offered.

    Yes please. Thank you very much, Arkane. I will play the shit out of it! ^^

  14. welverin says:

    I like have quest markers and and a compass pointing me towards the objective, because then I know where not to go and head off in the other direction until I’ve explored every lat thing there is before doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

    There were two or three times while playing Fallout 3 where while randomly exploring things I got rather annoyed when a quest update for the main questline popped up, all because I accidentally stumbled upon a plot point without realizing it.

  15. Sigh says:

    This actually kind of concerns me.

    I am not a “Straight-to-the-objective-Mountain-Dew-and-whiskey-swilling-steroid-injecting-adrenaline-junkie” That Alec is sooooo concerned with here, but I am a little worried that Dishonored has a lot of filler…more than I anticipated. I love sneaking around to hidden corners of a map to find piles of coins but when I did that in Bioshock I still had between 15-30 hours of core gameplay that was not crouching-in-shadows-looking-for-pennies-and-pence gameplay. I pre-ordered Dishonored and will find out for myself how long the game is, but I have this sneaking suspicion that there is not as much core/storyline-focused gameplay as I thought I was purchasing…despite what all of the White Knights say above.

    Well, we will all find out soon enough. I am hoping for the best, but this article damaged my anticipation and excitement a little as I think even Adam Smith hinted at the brevity. Sigh.

    EDIT: Does anyone else find it creepy that Alec wrote a feature length article defending a game that has not been released yet that is followed by a long stream of people concurring and also defending a game that has not been released yet given that nearly everyone here has not played it yet? Oh while you are reading this just know that Halo 5 and Call of Duty 15 are going to be AWESOME despite what all of the doubters say. And I am someone that pre-ordered Dishonored but I read all of this over-confidant trumpeting and hollering as actually a thinly-veiled facade hiding the doubts that are creeping into everyone’s consciousness…I don’t know how else to interpret such uninformed yelling in my ear.

    Pleaaaassseeee let the game be good and of decent length.

    • DXN says:

      Alec is writing about his own experiences actually playing the game, and responding to criticisms that people have already started making, and the commenters are agreeing with the principle of his argument because it’s something we/they have thought about in the past. So what’s creepy?

      • Sigh says:

        Yes, Alec has played the game and is responding to criticism both real and imagined. Nearly everyone in the comments has not played the game. I applaud Alec’s sentiment and writing, I value this videogame site above all others, and I love these opinion pieces that result in such an outpouring of passion from the community from both sides of a debate.

        However, the very fact that Alec felt compelled to write this piece before the game was released into the wild worries me. The creepy part is all of the individuals that have joined him on the soapbox before they have even experienced any gameplay firsthand. I know that a lot of the comments are agreeing with Alec’s sentiments and perspective abstractly as I do, but it feels like this whole thing is a group of people drawing some strange line in the sand that didn’t really need to be there. I am a little concerned about intrinsically poor design in Dishonored. Yes the CITY is the best character in the game and there are so man shiny trinkets to find in dark corners, but come on I feel like we are all stretching a bit far here to defend this game. I cannot comment authoritatively on the game since I have not played it, but I sense there were some missed opportunities.

        And yes I still find all of this hollering agreement about an unknown quantity “creepy”. Good day sir.

    • Muzman says:

      Bioshock was a shooter with relatively simple levels.
      If Dishonoured has levels like that it will be bad, so hopefully not.

  16. Synesthesia says:

    “In almost any game, should I encounter a hallway with one staircase going up, towards my target, and another going down, towards nothing obvious at all, I will go down.”

    So, you too, are part of the covenant? Show me The Mark.

  17. thestage says:

    “This is nothing to do with kleptomania or achievement-hunting, and everything to do with the knowledge that something was created and I didn’t get to see it”

    By which you mean it is egotism (in the real sense of the word). You know, the same egotism that is the clinical root of kleptomania, and the assuaging of which happens to be the method du jour of modern video games. The fawning–look at what exists for me, what these wonderful people did to create this fantastic thing that is “the finest hour…of the shooter”–in addition to being unhelpful, anticritical, sycophantic, cynical, and subservient, is a cover. It is a means toward branding, an exercise of identity control cast in terms of fealty, which is now rather ironically repurposed as a critical act.

    This site has spent the last several months as the mouthpiece of Dishonored’s “do anything, you are in control!” bullet point; more generally, it has not so subtly enforced this as the “proper” means of crafting a video game, and specifically as the identifier of “pc gaming” in general. All of which is garbage, I might say, but instead I’ll note that this is only true when it is convenient, as now we are supposed to play Dishonored “a certain way” (obviously the stealth way, which is not only the way everyone actually plays these games–ie, the fictional audience you are raging against doesn’t exist–but also the way in which they were designed, everything else being a response to that play style). If we don’t we are in no uncertain terms a bunch of idiots; a bunch of, as the the undertones go, “console gamers.” This game, which is noted as the finest hour of the modern “shooter”, can only truly be played by not shooting. Perhaps you find profound depth in that decree, but I’m here to assure you that the hole you’re digging ain’t any deeper than six feet.

    This entire article is an identity piece, just as the game is an identity game, and the site is a transparently ideological one. It is, to put it more succinctly, a function of ego. Which is why this is not a piece of writing investigating the kind of design that entertains or might entertain certain possibilities, reward certain behavior, lead in certain ways, or an investigation of the suppositions that might lead one to playing this way or that, to design and pace the experience in this direction or that–why, in short, it is not a critical investigation using any method of analysis, but is instead in the form of polemic, a pre-emptive assault against an imaginary antagonistic audience. Until you get over this nonsense, you will never be able to tell me anything about the game that I could not glean from a video. One day video game writing will move beyond all of this, I swear.

    • SonicTitan says:

      Well RPS *is* just a glorified blog.

      Seriously though, what you just described is basically every video game that has ever existed. If you wanted to be a cynical asshole (and you obviously do) then you could deconstruct the appeal of ALL video games as a narcissistic one. They’re a power fantasy, right? And thus should be vilified if at all possible. But if you think that why are you even here? Yeah, Meer has an opinion on how video games should be played – that is, with awe, delicacy and respect for what’s been created. He’s not a narcissist for having a strong opinion.

      • thestage says:

        1. Where did I say anything about power fantasies? Where did I say anything that you can reduce to them, apply to them, or that can be explained by an appeal to them?

        2. No, video games are not inherently power fantasies. No, appeals are not inherently narcissistic.

        3. Alec’s essay, in fact, is all about denying the power fantasy in favor of something else. That “something else” can be called a lot of things. By abandoning the power fantasy to the imaginary antagonistic presence to which he is responding, he is pretending that his “selfish need” is in some way more noble. I’m calling a spade a spade, and then noting how this move of his has entirely overridden both the game and his view of it, which both makes this functionally useless as criticism and identifies it as stemming from the same root as whatever response he is preemptively attacking.

    • JackShandy says:

      Ahahaha! That was great.

      • MadTinkerer says:

        Just bear in mind that the system is making you egotistic, man. People need to be objective, not subjective, if they’re getting paid for it. And the consolization of PC games is the best thing to happen to anyone ever! Get with the program and buy an XBox, Alec!

        (If you don’t I’ll psychoanalyze you! I mean it!)

    • thestage says:

      To get more nuts and bolts with the game, and with games and their effect on certain people in general, lets look at this, which someone above quoted as an exemplary notion:

      “In almost any game, should I encounter a hallway with one staircase going up, towards my target, and another going down, towards nothing obvious at all, I will go down.”

      One question is “why?” You seem to assume that it is a matter of the subject, as an inherent difference between Player A (awesome guy, the specter of the ego) and Player B (the idiotic menace to whom you are functionally addressing). I would contest that, and place this as a conditioned response, a function of accumulated video game design. But that is a complicated and difficult topic, unfit, at least, for these comments. Instead, I’ll simply note that your portrayal of this response as a positive one is functionally opposed to the structure of the game, to which this would be seen as a rupture, a failure. The game is praised as “alive,” as atmospheric and “immersive” (which is even the RPS genre code word), but within this totality your instinct is not to acquiesce to the fiction of the game world, but to ignore it entirely. Were it truly “immersive,” you would feel a strong compulsion to track and kill the “target” at the expense of everything else. This suggests to me a break in the hardwiring of the game, which would compel the player to adopt the mantle of tourist (and to do so in a very pejorative sense of the word where every location, character, scrap of dialogue, or mechanic is reduced to a number on a checklist) while claiming immersion (again, the tourist is never immersed), and would at the same time oppose this with a fiction and play goal that rather dumbly and duteously beg for an opposite approach.

      But there I go being critical again.

      • SonicTitan says:

        Video games are power fantasies. All of them. This isn’t a negative, just an observation on the inherent mechanics of the medium. It’s part of what makes them universally appealing – they’re an intuitive, accessible automata box where the player sets the pieces in motion. The real question is whether wanting to play them is a function of narcissism.

        To your second point, I would agree that a desire to break from what a game “wants” you to do means that on some level the game has failed to “immerse” you in its design. In that case, it’s either a failing on the developer’s part, a failure of the language we use to describe games, or a failure in understanding how games are supposed to be played. And it puts games in an interesting position – if the ultimate goal is to be “immersive” then how can the game ever really allow players control? It’s the age-old question of developer design vs. player intent. Meer is arguing for player intent, and for what it’s worth I agree him. Maybe it’s time to retire the objective of being “immersive” altogether, since you correctly pointed out that it’s anathema to good game design.

        • JackShandy says:

          “Video games are power fantasies. All of them.”

          Silent hill? Slender? Proteus? Botanicula? I’m just reading icons off my desktop here. Spacechem. How can you possibly believe this?

          (e: I particularly like how disbelieving my avatar looks here)

        • thestage says:

          ” Maybe it’s time to retire the objective of being “immersive” altogether”

          Oh I retired it long ago, if I even believed it to begin with. But Alec did not, and it is Alec I am responding to.

          Video games are neither inherently power fantasies, nor are they universally appealing. You are viewing a very specific slice of video games, and then launching a defense/attack that generalizes that to the whole. Which is what Alec is doing. In fact, it’s rather a bit of a fad to take a “power fantasy game” and then hit the OSNAPREVERSE button by turning the tables But not only do all shooters not have to be power fantasies (you are correct to say that the term is not inherently negative), but there also exist a whole lot of games that don’t even have to be shooters. Some of them don’t even have avatars! Which is also why all talk of “innovation” is doomed to juvenility: it assumes and adheres to the strict genre convention and classification that it nominally opposes.

          Note also that a break between the intentions or desires of the player, and the intentions or desires of either the avatar or the designer does not automatically constitute a flaw in the game design. There is no such thing as a systemic, generalized, universally applicable law of design or notion of failure that would accompany such a dogma. My entire critique of Alec’s little article is more or less based on that idea in general, but in this specific instance as it relates both to this game and to Alec’s assessment of it, he has seriously overlooked the discontinuity between what he is praising and how the game operates. It is his insistence on a universal, hierarchical method of play (as an aside, you and he both separate “failure of the developer” and “failure in understanding how games/the game is supposed to be played”–there is no separation, you can only play what is designed, and how the game responds to that play is only ever a function of said design) that exposes the flaws in his own argument.

      • JackShandy says:

        I think you know the answers to the questions you’re posing, and you’re mostly playing devils advocate.

        ” (going away from the goal is) functionally opposed to the structure of the game, to which this would be seen as a rupture, a failure.”

        Luckily, Videogames are fun even if you don’t go towards the goal at all times. Simply existing in the structure of a game world, without pursuing the goal, is fulfilling. It does not rupture the game, or render it pointless. Don’t you believe this?

        In ignoring the objective, he is fulfilling the game’s promise: that the people and places within it are more than simply obstacles; that experiencing the living world is a pleasure in it’s own right. That is essentially what Alec means by Immersive.

      • thestage says:

        me responding to me again (note the irony)

        RPS chum Robert Yang might explain what I’m talking about by noting that Alec is promoting the integrity of the game by actively encouraging (demanding, rather) players to exist outside of it. the game is great because it is open and because it reacts to this openness, but it does so by strictly opposing its narrative and its functional goals to the openness and immersive pull that it professes to serve. further, it’s only “truly” great when you deny this entire system in favor of one of its specific permutations. that’s not game design.

      • Emeraude says:

        Were it truly “immersive,” you would feel a strong compulsion to track and kill the “target” at the expense of everything else.

        Why ? I don’t see it at all.

        I guess it might depend on how you understand “immersive”. Immersive as “allowing the player to lose himself in the construct of the game” ? Immersive as in “makes you immerse yourself in the built persona” ? And even if you saw it that way why would “kill the ‘target’ at the expense of everything else.” be more valid a reaction than, say, a paranoiac “who are all the actors in this little drama and what is exactly that I’m being manipulated in doing” ?

      • ffordesoon says:

        It astonishes me that one so erudite can also be so narrow-minded.

        Whether or not the “stairs” example constitutes a failure of immersion depends on the game. It depends on the level of dissonance between the mechanics and the story, the logic of the gameworld, how well the game teaches the logic of the world to the player, and about a hundred other things. If we were certain that an NPC would be killed if we didn’t get to a certain area in time, and we liked that NPC, then yes, efficiency would be the order of the day. If, however, neither the narrative nor the mechanics are time-sensitive, and the protagonist is a blank slate, there is no dissonance between the desires of the player and the desires of the protagonist, and as such, there is no loss of immersion. Dishonored, as far as I am aware, fulfills both conditions. Ergo, no loss of immersion.

        Now, I personally would argue that player immersion is not something every game should aspire to. In fact, I think many abstracted mechanics can be just as compelling as the you-are-there immediacy of an immersion-driven title, and I also think some games should abandon even the pretense of immersion. It’s not a panacea, nor should it be thought of as such.

        But a game like Dishonored is built around player interaction with systems, with the narrative there to contextualize the interaction. The “immersion” such games aspire to is not virtual tourism, but exacting verisimilitude. Returning to the “stairs” example, the immersive sim is the answer to every frustrated cry of “Why can I only break this door down and not that one?” ever. In an immersive sim, every object plays by the same rules as every other object. The player is, in theory, immersed because of this, not because he or she is following a shopping list laid down by an overbearing auteur who really wants to make movies.

        To act like rewarding the tendency to test systems amongst players instead of punishing it somehow contravenes immersion is to fundamentally fail to understand the continuing appeal of the immersive sim.

        It’s not unique to games, either. Many great films noir have murky, hard-to-follow plots, but they are great films just the same, because their emotional arcs make sense. We feel like we are being given a privileged glimpse into a world with its own rules, like we could get lost in them. It’s the same with immersive games. Immersion is not about synchronizing the player and the protagonist’s desires. That’s just one tool to increase immersion – one among many. It’s about giving the player a world they can fall into, a world with its own rules.

        And yes, our egos are flattered when we catch something that almost all players will miss, something that feels like it was put there just for us to find and ponder. So? You say that like it’s a bad thing, when it’s merely a byproduct of the developer’s attention to detail. You get the same thrill when you realize a bit of set decoration or costuming in a film foreshadows a character’s eventual fate. Are you suggesting that a work of entertainment should be a slapdash affair so as to avoid potentially appealing to an audience member’s ego? That a persuasive essay like this should fail to appeal to anyone’s ego? What is your contention?

        You have deconstructed Alec’s essay by presupposing an RPS metanarrative into which this essay neatly fits (which misses the rather substantial point that the RPS guys have always been high-profile proponents of immersive sims, and never claimed to be anything else, which means that your critique attacking them for being biased toward immersive sims is basically you saying, “You are biased towards the games you like and think are fun.” Which I don’t think they would dispute), but you have not constructed anything in its place. Point the way out of the society of the Spectacle, O Guy Debord of games criticism, and I shall respect you. Until you can do that, I will continue to find your comments pointless and shortsighted.

        • Gnarf says:

          “Whether or not the “stairs” example constitutes a failure of immersion depends on the game. It depends on the level of dissonance between the mechanics and the story, the logic of the gameworld, how well the game teaches the logic of the world to the player, and about a hundred other things.”

          Note that Alec said that he did that in almost every game. As a general thing, I’d say that suggests a kind of metagaming. It sounds more like consciously deciding against doing something you know you’re “supposed” to and less like just feeling like wandering about is the right thing to do in the game.

          What you’re saying is that in this or that game it maybe makes sense to go downstairs. I don’t think that was what Alec was getting at. Or at least it didn’t come off like that.

    • kud13 says:


      because trying to encourage the industry to produce more immersive sims by supporting the rare few we do ever get is such a horrible, horrible thing.

      Dishonored is openly driven by nostalgia. this fact, along with the pedigree of the developers was squarely aimed at the part of the potential consumer base who are not attracted by the shiny COD-esque gameplay.

      RPS writers like imsims They recognise their importance as an alternative in development of gaming to the mainstream industry standards. Thus, they promote them. RPS never claimed the lofty peaks of total objectivity. There is a reason why they use opinion pieces rather than a standardised scoring system for their reviews of games.

      • thestage says:

        this article entirely denies the openness of the immersive sim, and the structure of the game denies the immersiveness of the immersive sim. you’re not reading what I’m saying; you’re reading alec’s polemic and placing me on the other side so that you can identify as one at the expense of the other.

        • Nogo says:

          But you’re assuming the game has some sort of drive towards main objectives that’s somehow greater than a little digital arrow. Your argument makes sense in theory, but unless you’ve played the game and found some consistent thread that actively discourages exploration, in favor of rote objectives, then the only argument you can make is that the arrow should be defaulted to off.

          • thestage says:

            You’re an assassin. Usually assassins aren’t sight-seers.

            But as I’ve said elsewhere in this minefield of a thread, the entire idea of video game “tourism” as a superior mode of play is 1) full of a million holes, 2) expressed as a reflection of the insecurities and neurosis of the player in question. Which is why Alec has to paint it as superior in the first place.

          • MadTinkerer says:

            EDIT: Nevermind, Sheng-Ji said it much better and was probably less inebriated than I am right now.

    • ffordesoon says:

      Hey, guy who got pissed at Alec for being a pseudo-intellectual prat fresh from university because he mentioned Mitt Romney in a video game review?

      This is what a pseudo-intellectual prat fresh from university looks like.

      You can tell them apart from the actual intellectuals because they use five-dollar words to explain a one-cent point.

    • Henke says:

      thestage, I gotta agree with a lot of what you’re saying. I love RPS, stealth, and exploration-heavy gameplay but this article mostly came off as self-congratulatory wankery. (Yay us for “getting” stealth!) If these “Halo-fanboys” who won’t understand how the game is meant to be played actually exist they’re in the extreme minority. The Splinter Cell, MGS and Assassin’s Creed games have been huge mainstream successes and even the Halo and COD games contain stealth-bits, so I doubt the concept of stealth is lost to even the consoliest of console-gamers.

    • neofit says:

      @thestage: Well put Sir! And you did it without any name-calling, yet I am sure a horde of those ubermensch-wannabes is going to call you names for disagreeing with the party line.

      The WITs (as well as this “WIT hotfix”) these past months are changing focus. They used to be about games. Now it’s more about how the author is feeling awesome about himself playing a game. The pieces about Dark Souls and this very Dishonored are perfect examples.

      So, either I spend time gazing at every texture, looking for every piece of lore or whatever, or I am a leet 13-years-old kiddie? Really? These are all the alternatives awesome people can think about? This reminds me of TSW players, who feel they are geniuses for googling and solving trivial pixel-hunting puzzles, while meleeing zombies with their assault rifle.

      Let’s talk about exploration then? In the Thief games, you are, well, a thief, so it’s in your job description to explore every nook and cranny and come out with max loot. In the TES games, you’ll find quests, loot, etc., that you can use in the rest of the game. Heck, even in the unexpectedly fun Borderlands games, exploring may give you a chest with loot that you can either use or sell, which is useful for the rest of the game (btw, 77 hours played just for the first playthrough, but I suspect Steam is lying here).

      All these posts with “oooh, I too love to take the stairs going down” posts are awesome, as if it were something exceptional.

      Now, from your description of Dishonored I understand that exploring yields… lore? Vistas? Liking these doesn’t put you even remotely above anyone else. I am doing about an hour of reading each day and have about 10 books waiting in my unfortunately ever-growing backlog. The last thing I want to do is waste time reading some game-writer’s lore in some 10-hours long computer game.

      So you are given a task to kill X, you seem to be a pro with supernatural powers and can do the hit in 20 in and out, yet you will explore the whole mansion, read all the inhabitants’ letters, clobber all the guards and put your mission at risk? Really? And doing this make you feel superior? I don’t see any gameplay elements here, only filler. Unless you are into the Mist and other type of adventure games, but then please state this clearly in the first paragraph so we don’t waste our time reading any further.

      Are you even given a task and if so by whom? As with most WITs these days, we need to look at comments to get actual information about the game. With all your talk of awesomeness, both the game’s and of those who like it, you still haven’t described in any piece what kind of game it is, in any article. Is it a TES-like persistent roamer (yeah, fat chance)? Is it a GTA or SR-like non-persistent pseudo-roamer, with a strong party line and mediocre mouse and keyboard controls? Is it a Witcher-like slightly interactive movie, as is too common these days? Is it a Thief-like game with a series of missions and full freedom inside the mission area? I suppose it’s the latter, but this is not clear. What about controls, AA, save-system, inevitable comparisons with other games, etc.?

      Now go ahead, flame, express your superiority.

      • JackShandy says:

        “Now, from your description of Dishonored I understand that exploring yields… lore? Vistas? ”

        “Power upgrades, vignettes that flesh out this broken world, capsule puzzles and magnificent sights are hidden away to the sides and most of all under the skin of the map. Events and choices with some pretty huge repercussions on not just plot, but the contents and nature of later levels. ”

        So, side quests, puzzles, upgrades, events and choices that effect the plot and gameplay of later levels.

        “you still haven’t described in any piece what kind of game it is, in any article.”

        “A stealth game… almost certainly the finest stealth game I’ve played since the dawn of The Metal Age.”

        So, a stealth game, similar to Thief in most aspects. This may be unhelpful if you haven’t played Thief, of course.

        (Forgive me if I pretend that you wanted your question answered.)

      • Nogo says:

        “So you are given a task to kill X, you seem to be a pro with supernatural powers and can do the hit in 20 in and out, yet you will explore the whole mansion, read all the inhabitants’ letters, clobber all the guards and put your mission at risk?”

        How do supernatural powers preclude marshaling resources and intelligence? And who said “20” or “clobber all the guards” for that matter?

        You and thestage seem to be making most of this up as you go for the sake of saying “narrative and gameplay should work together!” Which isn’t really necessary to point out these days.

    • Alec Meer says:

      What a lot of words.

    • PikaBot says:

      Good lord, man. Unless your goal is to look like a smug, pretentious prick, Stephen Dedalus is a poor role model.

      • deejayem says:

        But he’s only a pretentious prick to cover up the bleeding of his wounded heart! Underneath it all he’s a sensitive soul scarred by dysfunctional parents and brutal Catholic upbringing. Honest.

        • thestage says:

          You’ve a pretty poor reading of Stephen Dedalus. Or of Joyce, for that matter.

          • PikaBot says:

            Nope, I’d say he’s got it about right. Not even having Simon Dedalus for a father is sufficient excuse for bringing up Aquinas in everyday speech. And if you think Joyce himself wasn’t a pretentious prick? I challenge you to try to read Finnegans Wake and then come back and say that with a straight face. The man was a brilliant writer in a lot of ways but he was absolutely intolerable in a lot of others.

          • deejayem says:

            I wasn’t being entirely serious, but Dedalus is no angel. One of many things to love about Joyce is his honesty about his own failings, and his willingness to reflect them in his characters.

            PS Remind me how we got onto this again?

          • thestage says:

            of course he wasn’t an angel. but you paint him as a victim. and there were quite substantial differences between stephen and the young joyce anyway (particularly the stephen from Ulysses).

            oh, and we got to this because pikabot wanted to show that he was smarter than me because he had read joyce

    • Gnarf says:

      ‘All of which is garbage, I might say, but instead I’ll note that this is only true when it is convenient, as now we are supposed to play Dishonored “a certain way”’

      That is something that has been bothering me that I haven’t been too consciously aware of. Or, they’re two things that have been bothering me (obsessing about “openness”, and “you’re playing it wrong”-arguments) that I haven’t seen a connection between. Either way, very well said.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      @ The Stage.

      Your entire, weird rant is based on flawed logic. You use that flawed logic to elevate yourself to dizzying heights of pretentiousness and smugness but because your nasty little personality seems to think it is OK to hurl insults and accusations at people from the anonymous depths of your disgusting little corner of the world, allow me to do the same directed squarely at you. You may notice I am using unnecessary and insulting descriptive words, like weird, nasty, disgusting. I am taking my cue directly from you, this is exactly what you did.

      Your flawed logic is that the above article was a critical piece. It was not. The review was. This was an article in which someone who has played the game is writing an opinion piece on why he had a blast with the game. So let’s de-construct your entire scribble. Cutting through the psychobabble bullshit (your history of psychology lecturer would be ashamed at your lack of comprehension of Freuds id, ego and superego model – You’ve essentially stated that 0=0. Well done. My 2 and a half year old son is on a level with your understanding of it.) you state that Alec is looking at what exists for him in the game. Yes, a strong start for an article which is explaining why he found the game fun!

      You call it unhelpful, well that’s a matter of opinion but I’d like to see you explain why you enjoyed anything without explaining what there is to enjoy and crucially not giving spoilers

      You call it anticritical – I feel I have to repeat myself to penetrate your dim mind. This wasn’t the review.

      You call it sycophantic and subservient – You are saying he is acting obediently for his own gain. Here we come across a massive problem. This is your first instance of accusing Alec of corruption – taking money for positive press of the game, so lets shelve this one for a bit. We’ll come back to it, don’t worry.

      You call it cynical – Er…. after your last accusation, I would say you are the only cynic here. Of course we all know that the game makers only made the game for their paychecks. This was not a game given to the world for free in an amazing act of love. How was Alec mistrustful of the game makers integrity in the article. This leads me to my first proper, evidence based accusation of you: You do not understand the words you have used in your scrawl.

      You call it a cover – Tinfoil hats anyone? This article is a cover for what? He’s pretending to like the game because he really wants to get the message across that…. What, what???? What hidden messages do you see here? Buy the game if you enjoy the kind of game Alec describes? Ahhhh… you’re accusing him of misrepresenting the game. You are saying he’s creating a false impression of the game. But it’s an opinion piece. You have essentially told him that his opinion is wrong.

      You call it a means towards branding and an exercise in identity control. Well obviously RPS is a brand and it has it’s image. So what. I bet you maintain an image too, I bet you never dress as a punk rocker for a funeral and if you do, it’s because you nearly always dress as a punk rocker.

      You start a new paragraph with the accusation that RPS has been a mouthpiece for a style of gameplay. Which I can easily disprove by pointing you towards any number of reviews/articles etc you conveniently forgot to take into account like for example all the ones on xcom talking about turn based strategy. Hardly a mouthpiece when treating many styles of gaming with equal enthusiasm – selective use of outliers, you have ignored any evidence which doesn’t support your accusation.

      You go on to write that RPS has insinuated that there is only one way to make a game and that way is to do anything, be in control. Again, I would point you to the reams of writing over the last few months which explain in great detail why many games which don’t meet this criteria are fun. It’s you selecting your evidence again. In fact you then go on to write that this article disagrees with that imaginary standpoint. No shit sherlock, because they never took the stand you imagined they did.

      You then rage against the idea that there is a wrong way to play games. You have a point. If you have loads of fun playing blindfold, using broomhandles to steer your racing wheel and press the pedals whilst trying to play a first person shooter – more power to you. However, if you are playing a first person shooter with a wheel and pedals, controlled from the length of a broom handle away whilst blindfolded and you are complaining that the controls are shit, you are most definitely doing it wrong. This article wasn’t a response to an imaginary audience, it was a response to very real criticism that the game is not fun (all made by people who haven’t played the game yet) because there wasn’t enough content and the levels were too short and the game was too short. If people are having fun blasting through the front gate and killing the target in a minute or two, more power to them. If they are complaining that by doing so they are not having fun (bearing in mind once again that at that point, they hadn’t actually played the game), this article points out the game is not for them.

      You make a wonderful point about the modern shooter only being fun with not shooting, however this relies on the falsehood that to play this game non lethally or stealthily, one will not be shooting. Wrong. There is plenty of shooting involved. I have deliberately ignored until now the fact that this very article says that the description of shooter is inaccurate because your argument didn’t work even if Alec hadn’t clarified that in the first paragraph. The only six foot hole here is for you and your continued ignorance of the evidence refuting your accusations.

      You begin your concluding paragraph with the assertion that the article is an identity piece. The game is an identity game . No amount of googling finds any meaningful definition for this tripe, so I assume you made this up or copied it from someone who made it up. Maybe you could explain using terms and definitions that are more familiar to us lesser mortals?

      You claim that RPS is a transparently ideological one – as in they are trying to push an ideology. What is that ideology? They do have several, first and foremost being that PC gaming is not dead and second that reviews do not need scores. I hardly think these are the ideologies you refer to, so maybe instead of slinging hollow accusations, you could define the ideology that you imagine they have and has got you so irked so I can point you in the direction of lots of evidence to the contrary.

      You then oddly explain that because the site has an imagined ideology, this is the reason why the article didn’t become a thesis on game design. It was never meant to be a thesis on game design, just one mans opinion on what is fun in a game. Which is why your assertion that it is a polemic is wrong. You describe the audience as imaginary, while I agree that the game was not released when the article was written, there were very real complaints about the game being published before this article was written. Again, you are ignoring the evidence to suit your purposes. Also, unless you write a threat to someone, it is impossible to assault someone in writing. There is no threat to anyones health or wellbeing in the article therefore it is not an assault to anyone or anything. Stop using overly emotive words to support your baseless arguments, it’s the last resort of stupidity.

      Finally you conclude that Alec will never be able to tell you anything about the game you could not glean from watching a video. Well, maybe not, but let me explain one thing Alec could do that a video could not. Make his point without spoilers. How could a video show you that there are multiple ways of entering a mansion without showing you at least 2 of those ways? And when you get to that level in the game, you’ve just spoilt it for yourself. Slow Clap et al.

      So now we have deconstructed your crazed rant, what can we conclude.

      1) You don’t understand the words you have used.
      2) You believe that people whose opinion doesn’t match yours are wrong
      3) You will ignore any evidence presented to you which disproves your hollow accusations.

      Taking those three things into account, I can conclude that you are an idiot.

      But before I go, lets tackle the corruption accusations. This is a world where we strive to be more civilised to one another. Part of being civilised involved the concept of innocent until proven guilty. You make these accusations without a flicker of evidence, anecdotal or otherwise. Put up or shut up and sit down. Present your evidence that Alec or RPS have accepted money in exchange for positive coverage or don’t make the accusation.

      Here’s why you don’t make accusations without evidence:

      You are in the pay of a rival game to dishonored. You have accepted money to spam the boards of sites giving dishonored positive press with insults and negativity.

      See, we could sling mud all day in that vein and get precisely nowhere.

      So I’ll stick to evidence based accusations. You are an idiot.


  18. Emeraude says:

    ” This game, which is noted as the finest hour of the modern “shooter”, can only truly be played by not shooting.

    It was ? Because I rather remember it being described as a Thief and Deus Ex successor – and though those games share first person view with “shooters”, they belong to schools of game design based on completely different presuppositions. Along which: if you only play the game once – and only one way – you’re doing it wrong. One of the main interest of that kind of games is exploration of the possibilities and variations. I know no player who’d do a pure stealth/exploration run and not *also* a violent direct one – and others too after that.
    The purpose of the game is not to reach the end of its course, it’s to explore all the ways by which you can reach it, and the implications and consequences those have.
    If such an exploration of game mechanics and narrative does not interest you, then you *are* quite simply playing the wrong game for you (and there is no shame in that – I’d never play a racing game, I hate those, but I don’t go complaining that they’re stupid because your aim is to reach the end the faster possible… the game is built on other presuppositions, for a different audience).

    This site has spent the last several months as the mouthpiece of Dishonored’s “do anything, you are in control!” bullet point; more generally, it has not so subtly enforced this as the “proper” means of crafting a video game, and specifically as the identifier of “pc gaming” in general.

    The proper mean of crafting a certain kind of video games, who have historically been mostly prevalent on PCs, yes – and has such has been associtated by some with the identity of the platform.

    • thestage says:

      “It was?”

      By Alec, yes. In the article to which I am referring and responding.

      As for the rest of your post–or at least the parts that are relevant–you’ll note that Alec is not promoting an investigation of the game’s mechanical or responsive permutations. In fact, he is specifically privileging one and attacking those who do not agree with that privilege.

      • Emeraude says:

        First part of my post I erased by mistake: I tend to agree with you that the article is problematic, but was trying to make sure whether you talked in light of this article in particular or also those that preceded it too… which by the time I posted you had already answered elsewhere.
        I’m not sure I can follow you if the whole context of publication is taken – even if I can see your point.

        You’ll note though that in the article; Alec started to define the game as “loosely but inaccurately [a]‘blockbuster shooter'”, though.

        Emphasis mine.

  19. Zorn says:

    There is some nice personal opinion propaganda going the last pages. I’m feeling a bit like when I was at my first year at university. Or when I was reading Mao for the first time: “There are only two ways, one is the way the plunge us all into darkness, the other one is the one to guide us all into the light. My way.” Okay, this not word by word, and I let the parts about china out. But then again, I’m just a poster on a glorified blog, don’t expect too much from them. Oh, shouldn’t we may play the who has which degree or IQ game to measure who even has the right to call an opinion an argument? That never fails to be amusing, and much more important, constructive.

    • Smion says:

      Clearly, stating that there might be more content in a game than those who haven’t seen that content suggest is just like Maoism.

  20. Muzman says:

    Seriously disappointed in this comment section. This was a golden opportunity to produce a raft of Dishonoured based headlines in the style of The Onion.

    There’s still time!

    Anyway, key to all this is a fact I’ve not seen mentioned: How many missions are there exactly?
    I’m a Thief type, I won’t judge it based solely on that. (people forget the first Hitman, popular enough to found a dynasty, had Four proper complicated levels and about four more little ones to pad it out. But those first four (aforementioned four?) were damn fun with endless things to do)

    • Henke says:

      Hey Muzman! :D

      I heard somewhere that there are 12 chapters in the game. Not sure if a chapter is a single level or series of levels though.

      • Muzman says:

        Shouldn’t you be playing Half-Life? Back to your room!

        cheers guys. Actual numbers. Both pretty decent.

    • JackShandy says:

      I heard 9.

  21. alilsneaky says:

    This is more like it, an actual description of what the game plays like and what makes it different and what to expect from it.

  22. popej says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever played a game in any other way than as described here. Hopefully Thief 4 will take it to the next level although I’m not holding my breath.

  23. Alas Away says:

    It’s amazing how there’s small amount of people with real passion for good, deep games, and a vast majority of…well, those that have none.

  24. The_QC says:

    I have to say that RPS is starting to be rather defensive about the games that they like. Both this one and XCOM have had articles about how people who don’t like the game are wrong.

    I don’t accept that there is a right type of gamer and a wrong one. I like what I like and I’m not going to accept that I’m inferior just because it’s not what you like.

    I haven’t played Dishonored yet, so I have no opinion on it, but an article that basically says “stealth is the only fun way to play” doesn’t really push me towards buying it. Personally, my tolerance for stealth is very low and there are only a handful of games in existence where I didn’t hate it.

    The article also seems to also create a straw Dishonored hater. Are those really the reasons why some people will dislike it? Having easily found objectives has never prevented open world games from being successful and well liked (and thoroughly explored). The GTA games, the Elder Scrolls games, the Assassin’s Creed games, all have large worlds with lots of stuff to explore, while at the same time always having a next objective that you can reach easily. I’ve never found the objective marker to be a problem there. If anything, the objective marker is useful for knowing where NOT to go before you’re done with exploring. Are there people who say that Skyrim is too short? I’ve never heard of such a thing.

  25. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    The article has some issues. Mainly, if the developers of the game had designed it better (allowing a natural way of discovering what the game has to offer as part of the main drive of the game), there shouldn’t have been any *need* for an article like this.

    But this rather important point is skipped over and ignored for some reason I’ve yet to work out. It’s a fault of the game and should be recognised as such, not glossed over in this…frankly rather disappointing…way.

  26. Bob says:

    Good Lord. I’m another explorer in games, to the point of suspecting I’m suffering an OCD. As a fan of Deus Ex and the Thief series it gladdens my heart that Dishonored is a game that lets you try different paths and ways to achieve your objectives.

    @ Muzman:
    *News Flash*
    A group of Dishonored reviewers were arrested for accepting under the counter payments from Bethesda. The popular press has labeled them “The Onion Ring”. When a group of gamers were asked what would be a suitable punishment, the consensus was they should be sautéed and put to the steak….preferably a Porterhouse.

  27. DXN says:

    Thanks for the article, Alec. I’m not sure why strong opinions like this make people freak out in such odd ways, but it’s nice to have someone confirm the type of interest that can be take from this game for those who are interested in it.

  28. remoteDefecator says:

    I haven’t played it, it looks cool, it’s definitely on the list, but…

    25 hours? Playing “the long way” through the game?

    Well, guess I’m waiting for the $30 GOTY edition.

  29. shadowy_light says:

    Wonderfully well written piece, and I agree with your sentiments and play style with near 1:1 accuracy.

    I would lend my weight to the slight swell of dissent with regards to the somewhat dismissing tone of the article to those individuals who do not want to play the game like this, however. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the whole idea of games like this (by which I mean of the Deus Ex lineage) is that you should be able to play them exactly however you want to play them and be entertained regardless.

    As such, I feel the line “If you want to rush around with a gun, shooting anything that moves, don’t buy Dishonored. It has put those things in there for you, and it offers slick, brutal, varied permutations on how to use them, but they are not its all.” is not in keeping with the spirit of this genre’s ideology. I also suspect that Arkane would rather those who want to rush around with a gun do in fact buy the game. Let them play it like that, let them judge it based on its merits as that game… Why on earth should they not?

    If Dishonored isn’t a good game when played as a straight up shooter, then surely that’s as big a flaw as if it hadn’t managed the more subtle gameplay elements with aplomb… commercially speaking its a much bigger flaw.

  30. JulienJaden says:

    With all due respect (and I have a lot of respect for you RPS guys), I think the game seems a little on the short side.
    Before somebody tells me to: I always play thoroughly. I look for everything there is to do, I explore, I try to find other ways to solve problems. I had a good 80 hours when I was done with my first “Dragon Age: Origins” playthrough, and it could have been a couple more if I hadn’t been so keen on knowing how it ends.
    Yet, I think that it’s valid to criticize “Dishonored” for its length (hehe), or lack thereof.
    I agree that people should play the game with a sense of wonder and the wish to explore the world around them, simply because that is far more enjoyable than rushing through. But the argument that following the most obvious way, picking the obvious solution to the problem and staying “on the rails” should be a valid way of playing is not to be ignored. You may say that that is a stupid way of playing, and you may be right, but even then the game should offer some longevity. I mean, a speedrun through HL1 can be done in less than three hours, and then you’re shamelessly exploiting the game’s limits here and there. But we’re not talking about a speedrun here but about about finishing a game in one of the ways it’s supposed to be played, guns blazing, in under six hours.
    This isn’t the first time that a game’s on the short side. I may very well remember things subjectively but I’ve got a feeling that games were longer ten, fifteen years ago. I know for a fact though that they had more than six hours or so to offer, even when you weren’t checking every nook and cranny.

    Maybe I’m unreasonable but I would have loved to see MW2 and 3 as one game, with a better multiplayer and a story that will occupy you for more than an afternoon each.
    What about “Spec Ops: The Line”? I was done in less than a day. It was a fantastic story but since I generally don’t do multiplayer, that’s a title I might not pick up again.

    My point is: Games, especially FPS, that offer as much as two or three days’ worth of entertainment, singleplayer-only, seem to be in very short supply. Especially those that do so by offering an intriguing story that would fill a book with 700 pages or more. I think you could easily fit a dozen modern FPS in one those. And that’s scary, at least to me, because few people seem to be vocal about this and the publishers just keep throwing them our way, burrying the precious few games that are actually worth picking up because of their story, or singleplayer in general.
    I’m glad that “Dishonored” can be played twice and has a fascinating setting and story, and that’s probably enough to make me buy it (that and being able to mess around with different “character builds”) but people are cutting the industry way too much slack for using multiplayer and graphics as an excuse for shitty singleplayer and the prices for games that can’t even boast a seven hour campagin are fairly unreasonable (Yes, I’m looking at you, CoD).
    And if it’s actually the growing pile of garbage, instead of the very few gems hidden inside, that people want, then I think that gaming has already passed its zenith.

  31. Shooop says:

    If people go into this game expecting another standard-issue shooter then it’s their own damn fault for not watching any more than the first two trailers.

  32. His Dudeness says:

    Look Alec, I already pre-ordered it following the ‘Wot I think’ the other day…what else do you want me to do?? ;-p

  33. derekro says:

    You Sir. I salute you.

  34. Megazell says:

    I don’t get the logic on how a consumer/player who plays the game as it was made and ends the game faster then others is lazy, if that is the way the game was made by the developers.

    I could most certainly understand this if a person used a cheat or exploit because that is something that was not intended as part of the game playing experience by the developers.

    I get that many games have detours and/or side quest but if the core game/content can be ended naturally in a short time then that is a game maker issue not a consumer/player issue.

  35. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    Yeah, I’m fairly early in the game, but the levels do seem kinda small and there’s not much to see even in hidden corners besides books (to be fair, those are pretty great)

    I’m hoping that it’s just the “tutorial” bunch of levels though, and things will open up somewhat later in the game.