I've been thinking about Dishonored lately, playing it for the first time and all.
Some folks don't like what they call "walking simulators", I have a whole building of issues with that term, but I'll sum them up to a paragraph:
Adventure games were always around, and even Myst bridged the point-and-click to fps-adventure distance pretty soon, so yeah, they are games, and games shouldn't be measured by they degree of interaction anyway. Also text adventures. These are all very "true" genres so let's not go there okay? Whatever you enjoy, accept that it is just a preference, don't make it into validation and etc, let's all enjoy games together, adventure games can be presented in first person, etc.
That said, games like Dishonored, Deus Ex and Bioshock present very interesting places, and sometimes the gameplay on top of them don't match the graphic situation. I'll keep to Dishonored, which is what I'm playing, but the other two have issues like these too.
My (biggest) problem with Dishonored is that you can see all of the gears of the videogame, they're in full sight, and that makes it into a less interesting experience, imo. For instance, in Silent Hill 2 you didn't know what ending you were going to get. The game didn't telegraph that and you were not "controlling" the outcome of the history with awareness of that. It made the whole experience much more organic, and the revelation that you had one of several endings made it all more interesting to replay it.
Dishonored tells me, even before I get the whole mask and tattoo getup, that I can choose between killing or not killing people, but that it will affect the ending. Not only that, it comes with full on end-of-chapter screens that tell me how many dudes I killed, etcetera. I'm not against THAT by itself, as much as I don't have the energy or the impulse to try and do a "best run", Isee the appeal in it, but I think in this case it is an example of how Dishonored tries to wear too many hats at the same time.
It tries to be an interesting FPS, but the mishmash of narrative and gameplay makes into a blob. It's too boring to be a simple adventure (or "walking simulator") because the story is weak and badly written. It's to lorey and has a head too far it's storified conventions to be a fun action game. And even the most interesting and fun action ideas it has, are hidden behind the whole "you know you should be going stealthy instead" proposition.
If it didn't tell me about the bad ending state AT ALL it would be much more fun. I'd probably do a bad ending run on accident and another one to see how it goes. But now I'm spoiled by it.
It suffers from having also too many options that look incredible but don't work all that well. It really feels like a bloated game trying to check all the boxes and not being able to fulfil any properly.
And it sucks because apart from those grievances I LOVE the architecture and art direction in it. The people are all ugly and weird. The buildings and streets are amazing. And it made me think of another point about architecture and interaction: it is weak anyway.
Either in FPSs AND "walking simulators" the level of interaction with the scenery is usually minimal. Some people complain about Gone Home and similar games, but that one actually has a lot more interaction with the scenery itself than a lot of FPSs out there. Which is weird.
I remember playing Duke Nukem 3D and Postal 2 and being amazed of how much you could interact and break shit. Later, in games like Destroy all Humans, Red Faction, you could also interact a lot and destroy a lot.
How come we have more powerful engines and games and now we can (mostly) only interact with the enemies?
Even in games heralded as "The Big Thing" like Bioshock and such, most interaction is with enemies, story logs or key parts that gate you of game. Or the usual back-of-the-box gimmick that gets repeated a thousand times ("you can shock enemies that are inside the water").
My points are two here, so I'll sum them up, I don't have much to say, was just wishing to write some thoughts I'm having while playing Dishonored anyway.
1: We need more scenery interaction in games, in general. So I think it's unfair to hold anything against first person adventure games, when they do that, sometimes even more than games that are considered "more gamey" (and even if they didn't, they're still "true" games, let's not discuss stuff that's just advertising trends, please)
2: Dishonored is a beautiful game, tied down by both it's "videogamey" and "narrativey" wishes. I hope the second one is more action oriented, and that the team does a separate game, not necessarily in the same universe, but with that attention to architecture, with better writing and exploration. They have the talent for both, but trying to tie it all up in one game ends up not working for anyone. I'd love to just walk around these places.
And if you folks are interested in that theme, please tell me your favourite places in gaming, I love some good archiceture.