The Dismal Din Of Dunwall

dishonored box art

When I played Dishonored back in early 2013, I honestly didn’t have any expectations of the game. I knew the game had a choice-based approach to each mission, but, historically, stealth has not been my strong suit (and it wouldn’t be until I played Thief the following year), and I ended up taking the combat route often because I had botched my attempt at stealth.

The game had some of the most interesting skills I’d found in a game (you can possess rats and run around!), though the most useful among them (in my opinion) were the ones focused on combat.

At least, this is how I reasoned out my consistently foiled playstyle.

What I was not expecting, was just how beautiful and dreary the game world would be. Many times throughout my experience, I would look around the city of Dunwall and marvel at the art direction.

dishonored prison 01

The early part of the game takes place in Coldridge prison. It is exactly as unkempt and disgusting as you might expect.


I adore urban atrophy. I love seeing what buildings look like after an interim of decay. Arkane nailed the atmosphere of a moist and filthy prison. It only became worse once you got into the sewer system.

dishonored waterway 01

For much of the game, if it isn’t raining, it looks and feels as though it recently has, or will again. The feeling of moisture permeates the areas you traverse. It colors the experience in shades of soggy dustbin.

Despite all this, each location is breathtakingly beautiful. The environs are yours for the exploring.

And in each area, explore I did.

dishonored dunwall bridge 01

At more than one point in the game, you are brought via boat to your location. Perhaps it is because of the romanticism of boat travel, but seeing the city unfold before you from the perspective of the sea also colors the experience. It is industrial. It is half-forgotten. It is occupied by hostile forces.

And still, you can’t take your eyes off it.

dishonored city 02

Some areas offered a bit more safety than others, and in those, I spent time just looking. As part of the game, you were tasked with gaining entry into various locations, and they could be worlds apart from the dreary exteriors just behind you. The experience was atmospheric and intriguingly depressing. The city of Dunwall was nailed by the art direction in this way. Had the game been all brightly colored (and there were moments of such), the experience would have been entirely different.

dishonored dunwall city 01

Despite how depressing and unwelcoming Dunwall was, I adored it. I only ever caught myself wishing the areas were a bit larger, and my time in them a bit longer (just not because of stealth!).

As soon as I heard Bethesda was having their own E3 press conference (which happens tomorrow!), my immediate thought was, “Please announce Dishonored 2.” I can only imagine what Arkane will do with the new technology available to them. No matter what they do, I am sure I will be first in line to see it for myself.

9 replies »

  1. I still need to get around to playing this one. I’ve heard such great things about it, with the one big downside being that the coolest skills (as you mentioned) are not part of the stealthy, non-lethal approach. However, I’ve not heard or read such an aesthetics-based recommendation before now. It has only heightened my intrigue! I love it when a game is set in an environment that tells as much of a story as the characters themselves.


    • good morning!

      it’s such a better game than anything i expected. and the environments truly are stunning (in a last gen sort of fashion). locations aside, as soon as you start playing it, i have a feeling you will be hooked.


        • :) i have actually not been to bed yet! this is what i get for having the flu and sleeping at weird hours. blechhh.

          it’s true: i am writing at least five days a week now. one day is floating and today was that day. i’m some sort of struggling writing machine.


  2. Oh that sucks, I hope you get better soon!

    I can completely relate to the “struggling writing machine”. I began this morning by starting an html tutorial so I can try to get my site back on-line at it’s new home, looking the way I want it. What have I gotten myself into? :)


    • thank you. i am actively working on it. except for the, you know, not sleeping.


      and oh dude, i feel for you, i really do. i did not have a ton of fun setting up aspects of this site, and…yes. i wish you much patience and good fortune in your html endeavors.


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