An immersive sim is a video game genre that emphasizes player choice. While Farming Simulator simulates the work of a farmer, and Microsoft Flight Simulator simulates the process of flying a plane, an immersive sim is designed for you to completely immerse yourself in a world and its story.
They do this by being very generous in the ways players can interact with the systems of the game, making almost any tactic a player can envision viable. Bioshock, Deus Ex and Prey are all great examples of immersive sims.
Dishonored is a first-person action stealth game from 2012. It was developed by Arkane Studios, who also later developed Prey (2017).
In the game, you play as Corvo Attano, a royal protector framed for the killing of his empress and lover. The game sees you going after the real conspirators behind Empress Jessamine Kaldwin’s murder, and attempt to rescue your kidnapped daughter Emily Kaldwin. It is set in the city of Dunwall, a dark fantasy electropunk version of late-19th century London.
You can go after your targets directly. Fighting your way through city guards and anyone else that gets in your way. But I preferred to play the game more stealthily, killing as few opponents as possible. And it is even possible to complete the game without killing anyone. Including your assassination targets.
The story also circles around the Rat Plague, a citywide infestation of giant disease-ridden rodents. Anyone bitten gets sick, some turning into zombie-like Weepers before passing away. Hoards of rats roam the streets of Dunwall, eating corpses and multiplying. This leads to a fun mechanic in the game where the amount of people you kill increases the amount of rats and Weepers you have to deal with. Murder leads to a more chaotic world.
One of the main things that made this game so much fun for me was the many magical powers you can utilize while sneaking through Dunwall.
My favorite power Blink allowed me to teleport across vast distances. So I would often jump from one roof, teleport to another, then teleport behind a guard down on the ground so that I could silently choke him out unnoticed.
But my favorite part of Dishonored as a whole is the story. There are so many cool characters and locations. My favorites being anything concerning the occult aspects of the story. The Outsider and Granny Rags stand out as some of the most interesting characters. Not just in Dishonored, but in games as a whole.
Dunwall City Trials
This piece of downloadable content is a collection of different challenge modes. Some are stealth focused, others combat focused. This prompted me to try some of the combat abilities that I had not engaged with in my stealth-run of the main game. Which was very fun, so I’m glad I got to experience it.
The Knife of Dunwall
This DLC sees you take the role of Daud, the master assassin who was hired to assassinate Empress Jessamine Kaldwin.
The DLC gives you the option of taking a redemptive non-violent path. But after having so much fun with the combat engine in Dunwall City Trials, and also wanting to get quickly to the end of this DLC so that I could start Dishonored 2, I decided to lean into Daud’s more villainous character traits.
When I was playing the base game I saved often, and I quickly reloaded most times I was spotted by enemies, wanting to go through the levels undetected. In this DLC I barely ever reloaded a savegame, deciding to rather roll with the punches.
I feel that the two play-styles I used for the main game and the DLC fit each character I was playing as. Corvo was an innocent man that had been framed for an assassination, so it felt right to play him as non-violently and honorably as I cared to.
Daud on the other hand was an actual assassin. And while he felt regret for killing the Empress, plunging the Empire of the Isles into chaos, it did not feel like he had any significant regret concerning any of the countless other lives he had snuffed out during his long career. So I let myself sink into the mindset of a ruthless killer. That’s a decision I would have never even been asked to consider in most other games.
One level in this DLC takes place in a whale slaughterhouse.
Whales are important in the world of Dishonored, as their oil is used to power various electrical devices. This is mirrored by the real 18th century spermaceti, or sperm oil, from sperm whales. But spermaceti was mostly used for lamps, heaters and candles. Unlike whale oil in Dishonored which was used to power various instruments of death, among some more mundane things.
Whales are also associated with the Void. This endless nothingness is said to be the source of all magic and horror in the world of Dishonored. It is also the home of the Outsider, so many people carry runes and bonecharms made from whale bones, inscribed with mystical symbols. This practice is however outlawed, as worship of the Outsider is illegal.
The Brigmore Witches
This DLC continues Daud’s story from The Knife of Dunwall. In Knife, Daud is contacted by the Outsider, who sets him on the trail of a witch named Delilah Copperspoon.
It turns out that Delilah had also contacted Daud’s second in command Billie Lurk, having turned her to betray her boss and mentor. If I had played Knife non-violently, I would have had the option to banish Billie instead of killing her for her attempted coup. But since I was going for the High Chaos route in that DLC, she had to die.
In this DLC, Daud goes after Delilah herself. Apparently her plan was to possess the body of Emily Kaldwin. That way she could rule as empress through Emily once she had been crowned.
Through this DLC I wavered between continuing to play as a cold killer, or going back to a more stealthy approach. In the end, I had balanced it just enough that all that distinguished whether I would end up with the High Chaos or Low Chaos ending were if I decided to kill Delilah or simply banish her to the Void. So I just banished her first, reloaded my save, then killed her as well.
This sequel starts off 15 years after the first game, with the return of Delilah Copperspoon. With the help of Duke Luca Abele of the southern kingdom of Serkonos, she overthrows Empress Emily’s rule. Delilah claims she is actually the secret sister of Jessamine Kaldwin, making her the true heiress to the throne.
The story seems to build on the first Dishonored’s low chaos ending, as many characters who could be killed in the first game are still in play in the second game. Even Billie Lurk from ‘The Knife of Dunwall’ shows up as a major supporter of the main character, having changed her name to Meagan Foster.
The first choice you have to make in the game is whether to play the game as Corvo Attano again. Or you can play as his daughter Emily this time around.
The character you pick would escape Dunwall to travel to Serkonos’ capital of Karnaca to naturalize Delilah’s backers. While the character you don’t pick gets turned into a stone statue by Delilah herself.
I found it more interesting to reclaim the kingdom as the empress of that kingdom than as the royal protector again. So I played as Emily on my first playthrough. It was also more interesting that Emily would now be the one to save her father, after her father had saved her as a child.
Like with the first game, I wanted to play my first playthrough as non-violently as I could. Without hampering myself too much. Due to some new moves you can do in combat, and some cool new magic powers you can learn when playing as Emily, playing stealthily in this game was considerably more fun than it was in the first one.
My favorite new power was Domino, which allowed me to link the fates of up to four enemies. After that I could kill or knock one of them out, and the three others would suffer the same fate immediately.
I had so much fun with this game that I decided to immediately do a second playthrough.
There are so many ways to play this game. So this time I decided to play as Corvo, go for a high chaos ending, and decline the Outsider’s powers.
On my first playthrough, I spent a lot of time exploring and doing optional things. On my second, I decided to rush through the game, going directly for my assassination targets.
Playing the game violently is even more fun in this game than it was in the first one. Limiting myself by not being able to use powers also lead to me to having to think outside the box. But I may do a third playthrough of this game at some point, so that I get to play around with some of Corvo’s exclusive powers.
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider
This is a standalone expansion, continuing the story and using mostly the same game engine as Dishonored 2.
Throughout the series, the Outsider has been shown as the most powerful being in existence. He is a god, blamed for all evil across the Isles. Both hated and loved, he resides in and draws power from the Void, an ageless emptiness beyond mortal understanding.
The religious order of The Abbey of the Everyman bans all worship of the Outsider, but does more harm than good in maintaining that law. Witches and cultists make horrible sacrifices in his name, hoping to gain his favor. But few are ever touched by his gifts.
He only grants his powers to a select few in each generation, then sits back and watches. He finds chaos entertaining. But he is not really that invested in what people do with the powers he grants them. That is, not until the events of this game.
In ‘Dishonored: Death of the Outsider’ you play as Billie Lurk, after the events of Dishonored 2. She has gone back to her life as an assassin, and is trying to track down her old mentor Daud in Karnaca.
When she finally locates him, he is old and frail. On death’s door. But before leaving this realm, he has one last target for Billie to assassinate. The one Daud holds responsible for giving him the power to cause so much carnage back in Dunwall. The powers Daud used to kill Jessamine Kaldwin. He wants her to kill the Outsider himself.
One of my favorite parts of this game was the heist. The only blade that could kill the Outsider was being held in a Karnacan bank, ripe for the plucking.
I quietly infiltrated the high security bank vault, and left the scene without leaving any traces of ever having been there. And in true immersive sim fashion, that was only one of several ways I could have gone about robbing the bank. Dishonored draws a lot from the Thief video game series, and this level made me really interested in checking that out at some point.
‘Death of the Outsider’ is a fitting conclusion to the Outsider’s story in the series. Removing the Outsider from the cosmology of Dishonored’s world leaves the story free to go in a lot of interesting directions.
It used to be that anyone with powers would have to be granted them from the Outsider. Now the Void is free from any sort of control, and will likely spread its chaos much more randomly. If there is ever a Dishonored 3, I am exited to see where this all leads to.
But before we get to see that, I am exited to check out Arkane Studios’ next game, Deathloop. Given how great their other games are, I’m sure we are in for quite a treat with that one.
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