Thursday, June 6, 2013

Hiding the Body in Dishonored

Due to a combination of circumstances that include ill-health and the fact that I never actually had the opportunity to fully play-through the video game Dishonored on my Xbox (I played it on PS3 when I did the review), and due to my curiosity about whether it would feel different on Xbox as opposed to PS3, I finally got around to playing Dishonored on my Xbox.

Being ill sucks.  That is not a gray-area issue.  Having a video game to play that you can really and truly immerse yourself in - and especially when that game has a good story line and interesting alternate play options - well, let me just say that when you are ill that sort of thing really can go a long way towards helping you get through your day.

The mask is about the story and the protagonist shifting from protector to avenger and assassin!

Gotta Hide the Body?

The way Dishonored is engineered, there are basically two ways you can play the game...

(1) As a stealth action-adventure title in which your primary goal is to be a literal ghost, not be seen at all, not set off any alarms, not kill anyone and not allow any of the bodies you incap to be discovered.

(2) Play it as a bloodbath adventure in which you go all out, killing everybody.

While it may seem like the latter would be the more difficult method, considering the huge number of enemies and potential targets in the game, it turns out that it is the former that is really the challenge.

I have a lot more respect for CIA wetwork agents now, particularly when I consider the potential issues that are associated with hiding bodies.

What I mean by that is that it is easy enough to not kill anyone - that is basically a choice you make - while it is slightly more difficult to not kill anyone AND not trigger any alarms or be seen not killing anyone, but not killing anyone while you are not seen not killing anyone and at the same time not setting off any alarms while AT THE SAME TIME finding places to hide the bodies so that none are discovered, well, that is hard.

I say it is hard EVEN while acknowledging the mechanism in the game that causes the previous bodies of the targets you have incapped past five to disappear (basically the game will only allow you to have five bodies in a zone at any one time, so each time you incap or kill a new one, the oldest body in your collection despawns).

Game play is surprisingly fluid and the game is largely bug-free.  But you expect that from Arkane.

Remember the Hitman Series?

The whole stealth action-adventure approach in Dishonored was not a real challenge until I reached the mission called "Return to the Tower" which was, let me tell you right now, a bitch.  Really really challenging.

In fact it was so challenging due to the random patrol pattern of non-combat NPC's who somehow kept stumbling upon incapped bodies and sounding alarms - even when those bodies were on the other side of walls, hidden in shadows - that I finally came to the realization that I was going to need to really hide the bodies well.

The solution I devised was to kill the pack of rats in the Torture Chamber after incapping the Wolfhound and Torturer, and then haul every body down there after I choked each out.  Granted there was never a huge stack of bodies due to the five-body limitation (in the Hitman games I would often end up with a HUGE stack of bodies), it was still close enough to the feeling that I used to get playing the Hitman games to give me pretty decent flashbacks to that series.

I should mention that I have always been a fan of the Hitman games - it being a game series that somehow took on a subject that IRL I would never go near, but due to the approach that was used in the game and its back story, really helped to define "entertainment" for that genre.

But getting back on the subject, if you happen to have played Dishonored AND you did the no-killing and no-alarms play through AND you managed to do the "Return to the Tower" mission without staking bodies in an out-of-the-way location, would you please email me and tell me how you did it?

I am particularly interested in hearing from you if you managed to do this level in full-on stealth mode by avoiding dealing with any (or very few) enemies.

Seriously, I couldn't figure out how to play that mission without clearing the enemies floor by floor, so it took me longer to complete that one mission than it did for me to do all of the previous missions combined.  Which was really odd when I thought about it later.

While the selection of enemy types is very narrow for this type of game and its genre, there is still plenty of challenge and variety to be found in Dishonored, which is one of only a handful of games to earn a perfect 10 out of 10 review score.

Achievements in Dishonored

One of the really cool aspects of the game was the collection of Achievements / Trophies that they devised for the game.

While the Achievements are not really divided into logical groups with respect to which set of goals you ended up choosing (either the no-kill / no-alarm approach, or the bloodbath approach) what I discovered was that they really do sort of split into three distinct groups: (1) the ones you will unlock during the no-kill / no-alarm play-through; (2) the ones you will unlock during the bloodbath style of play-through; and (3) the ones you had to go out of your way and do things you would not ordinarily do in order to unlock them sort.

Actually there is a 4th type but it does not really count, being as it is the small number that are part of the story and so will unlock no matter what method you chose to play...

If you are playing the game (or are contemplating playing and I really recommend you do play if you are looking for an immersive and fun stealth game that you can replay Rambo-style after you beat it all Ninja-Ghost style), I recommend the following Achievements / Trophies logical grouping:

Note: There are 70 Achievements worth a total of 1,420G for the Xbox 360 version of Dishonored, with 50 of them (worth 1000G) from the base game, and 20 (worth 420G) from the DLC.

Category I: Stealth Run Achievements
These include all of the Achievements that are unlocked as a natural consequence of playing through the stealth action play through.  There are 10 in total, worth 330G and when you add the 170G from the story-based automatic ones, you get a grand total of 500G, which appears to suggest based on the other numbers that the Stealth Play is really the intended method of play.
  1. Clean Hands (100G) You completed the game without killing anyone
  2. Faceless (20G) After escaping Coldridge Prison, you completed a mission without alerting anyone
  3. Ghost (30G) You completed all missions after the prologue, alerting or killing no one but key targets
  4. Just Dark Enough (50G) You completed the game in low chaos (S)
  5. Poetic Justice (30G) You neutralized all key targets using indirect means (S)
  6. Political Suicide (10G) You brought about the Lord Regent's fall from grace by broadcasting his crimes
  7. Shadow (30G) You completed all missions after the prologue without alerting anyone
  8. Specter (20G) After escaping prison, you completed a mission, not alerting anyone and killing less than 5 people
  9. Surgical (30G) You played from the first mission through Kaldwin's Bridge killing fewer than 10 characters
  10. Vanished (10G) You escaped prison and navigated the sewers undetected (S)
Category II: Bloodbath Run Achievements
These include all of the Achievements that are unlocked as a natural consequence of playing through the bloodbath (killing-action) play-through.  There are 4 in total, worth 80G and when you add the 170G from the story-based automatic ones, you get a grand total of 250G, which is like half of what you got on the Stealth play-through, and that appears to suggest that this is the secondary approach at least in terms of G, and maybe the fun-factor too?
  1. Cleaner (10G) You fought 5 enemies at once and none of them survived 
  2. Dunwall in Chaos (50G) You completed the game in high chaos (S) 
  3. Razor Rain (10G) You killed 5 characters with Drop Assassination 
  4. Rogue (10G) You assassinated 10 unaware enemies
Category III: Achievements you have to actively unlock
These are the ones you will need to actively work towards unlocked, which means in theory they are missable.  There are 28 in total, worth 420G.
  1. Alive Without Breath (10G) You took possession of a fish (S)
  2. An Unfortunate Accident (10G) You killed Morgan Pendleton with steam (S)
  3. Art Dealer (50G) You collected all the Sokolov paintings
  4. The Art of the Steal (10G) You got the Art Dealer's safe combination for Slackjaw, but robbed the safe first (S)
  5. Back Home (10G) You grabbed a live grenade and threw it back, killing an attacker
  6. Big Boy (20G) You killed a tallboy using only your sword
  7. Bodyguard (10G) You protected Callista's uncle, Captain Geoff Curnow (S)
  8. Creepy Crawly (10G) You used a rat tunnel (S)
  9. The Escapist (10G) After Coldridge Prison, you eluded 5 pursuers at once without killing them or leaving the map
  10. Food Chain (10G) You assassinated an assassin (S)
  11. Gentleman Caller (10G) You completed all the Granny Rags side missions (S)
  12. Harm's Way (10G) You caused 5 unintentional suicides
  13. Hornets' Nest (20G) You killed 4 enemies in less than 1 second using the crossbow
  14. Inhabitant (10G) You stayed in possession of others for most of a 3 minute period
  15. King of the World (10G) You reached the top of Kaldwin's Bridge (S)
  16. Lights Out (10G) You deactivated at least 5 security systems on Kingsparrow Island (S)
  17. Manipulator (10G) You made others kill 5 of their own allies
  18. Merchant of Disorder (20G) You acquired 15 equipment upgrades
  19. Mercy is the Mark (10G) You spared Daud’s life (S)
  20. Mostly Flesh and Steel (50G) You finished the game without purchasing any supernatural powers or enhancements, besides Blink
  21. Speed of Darkness (10G) You traveled 30 meters in less than 1 second
  22. Street Conspiracy (10G) You completed all the Slackjaw side missions (S)
  23. Tempest (20G) You killed 6 enemies in less than 1 second
  24. Thief (20G) You pickpocketed items worth a total of 200 coins
  25. This Is Mine (10G) You recovered your belongings
  26. Versatile (20G) You killed characters with each weapon and offensive gadget
  27. Wall of Sparks (10G) You killed an enemy with the Wall of Light
  28. Well Mannered (10G) You completed the Boyle Estate mission without spoiling the party (S)
Category IV: Automatic (Story-Based) and the like
These are basically automatic Achievements unlocked as a natural consequence of playing through the story, so they apply to both styles of play.  There are 8 in total, worth 170G.
  1. Capturing Genius and Madness (10G) You abducted Anton Sokolov, Royal Physician
  2. Child Care (10G) You located Lady Emily Kaldwin, heir to the throne
  3. Dishonored (5G) You escaped Coldridge Prison
  4. Excommunication (5G) You eliminated High Overseer Campbell
  5. Long Live the Empress (10G) You saved Empress Emily Kaldwin (S)
  6. Occultist (20G) You collected 10 bone charms
  7. Regicide (10G) You assassinated the Lord Regent, Hiram Burrows
  8. Resolution (100G) You completed the game
Category V: Optional DLC Achievements
These are unlocking inside the two DLC expansions for the game - note that to obtain these you will need to spend money (well, Microsoft Points on Xbox Live anyway).  If you did not pay for these, and then download them, you cannot unlock them!
  1. Assassin Vs. Machine (15G) Complete Train Runner before the train arrives at the station*
  2. By My Hand Alone (15G) Get to Wave 13 in Back Alley Brawl killing all combatants personally*
  3. Cleaner Hands (40G) Complete The Knife of Dunwall without killing anyone**
  4. Daredevil (15G) In Bonfires, perform all the special combination jumps in 1 round*
  5. Headhunter (15G) Complete Assassin's Run with 100% accuracy using only head shots*
  6. Just Business (15G) You got the information you needed from the Rothwild Slaughterhouse**
  7. Long Way Down (15G) Perform a drop assassination of at least 150 meters in the Kill Cascade challenge*
  8. Message from the Empress (10G) You performed a drop assassination from atop the Empress statue in The Knife of Dunwall** (S)
  9. Missing Pieces (15G) You obtained Delilah Copperspoon's identity from Thalia Timsh** (S)
  10. Mrs Pilsen's Remorse (30G) Find Emily's doll hidden in each of the 10 challenges*
  11. Natural Talent (15G) Finish Mystery Foe without using any active supernatural powers*
  12. No Regrets (35G) Complete The Knife of Dunwall in High Chaos**
  13. Rare Collector (15G) Find all of the collectable figurines in Burglar on Expert*
  14. Rats and Ashes (10G) Attach an arc mine to a rat, resulting in a kill**
  15. Redemptive Path (35G) Complete The Knife of Dunwall in Low Chaos**
  16. Stone Cold Heart (10G) You spoke with the statue of Delilah in Timsh's estate** (S)
  17. Time Management (15G) Finish Chain Kill or Bend Time Massacre without failing any wave, including bonuses*
  18. Void Star (50G) Complete all Normal and Expert challenges with a 3-Stars rating*
  19. Well Connected (10G) Purchase all of the Favors in The Knife of Dunwall**
  20. Whisper Ways (40G) Complete The Knife of Dunwall without alerting anyone**
(S) Secret Achievement.
* DLC: Dunwall City Trials (10 Achievements worth 200G)
** DLC: The Knife of Dunwall (10 Achievements worth 220G)

The image embedded above is from the Trials DLC - if there is any question in your mind as to whether paying for the DLC for this game is worth it, well, yeah, it is worth it.  Big time!

Hindsight is Not Always 20/20

My first exposure to Dishonored was a bit unusual in that unlike almost all of the other AAA titles for console that released in 2012/2013, for some reason I was not on the press release and PR list for it, so my first experience was at last year's E3 (2012).

After we sat through the presentation for Dishonored I remember thinking three things:

(1) It looks like a Steampunk approach to the stealth-shooter genre;

(2) It is being developed by Arkane, and they made the new Batman series, so it is going to be a well-built, graphically sound, and very impressive tight story;

(3) I am probably not going to like it.

So yeah, it very much is a steam-punk-influenced title, and yes indeed it was made by the same studio that made the new Batman series, which means it is very tight in the story, well built, and has very pleasing graphics as well as effective use of game mechanics (which is not always the case when a game combines traditional swords and sorcery with the shooter-fusion-genres).  Ah, but as far as number three is concerned, I got it wrong.

It turns out that I liked it a LOT.  Well, there you go - cannot be right all the time, right?

If you are interested, Dishonored was one of only a handful of games that actually earned a perfect score in its review - you can read my review of Dishonored here -  and I should note that in addition to scoring high, Dishonored also happens to be an economical game (due largely to its high replay potential and score) coming in at an average admission cost of just .74 cents an hour, which is really good for a modern shooter.  Just saying.

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