Although Dishonored garnered praise from pretty much the entire gaming community, I wasn’t quite as taken. The tenement-ridden steampunk atmosphere was entrancing, but the muted role of Corvo didn’t really do it for me. I know that keeping him silent was a design decision meant to allow the player to step into the role of the character, but I actually found the two DLC chapters—which showed the perspective of Daud (played impressively by Michael Madsen)—to be superior to Corvo’s tale. In other words, I saw a ton of untapped potential with this world, and with a comic series and sequel on the horizon we’re about to get a lot more of it.
Dishonored #1 provides a quick and grim recap of the events that have unfolded so far in Dunwall, capital of Gristol. 12 years have passed since the assassin Corvo was cleared of his murder charges against Empress Jessamine, and he continues his service to the crown as Royal Protector. Emily Kaldwin, the daughter of the slain Empress, is now fully confirmed as the daughter of Corvo, adding quite a bit of personal baggage to his line of work. It’s a tad soap opera-ey, but it does the job of forging an immediate relationship between the two characters.
What ensues is your classic “royal plot” narrative, interspersed with some pretty violent action scenes, which are par for the course for the series. Watching the action play out, whether it’s a stealth encounter or a full-on brawl, feels true to the game right down to the aesthetics of the weapons. A great deal of effort was made to not only nail the setting, but the little nuances of equipment as well, including the spot-on iconic mask.
We also get a tiny bit of insight into Corvo as a man, coming to terms with his visage and how he isn’t entirely human anymore due to his flirtation with the dark arts. It reminds me a bit of your classic Bruce vs. Batman internal monologue, but with a spiritual element to it that’s a tad more interesting than say, the magic of the deus ex machina-ridden Lazarus Pit. The first issue also does a decent job of jumping around timelines without doing it so frequently that things get confusing or jarring. It’s all narrated with some sharp writing for Corvo, who gives his perspective on how he got to be in this predicament, and what he could have done to prevent it.
The art style is impressive, and complements the engaging enough (but ultimately ancillary) side story. Explosions (complete with shades of burning, unfortunate souls) are supremely detailed, and the magical aspect plays nicely with the surrealistic imagery, almost as if it’s showing us how Corvo sees the world in his mind’s eye.
I’m of two minds with Dishonored – The Wyrmwood Deceit, (which has three more chapters to go). It’s grabbed me in a way that I once again feel connected to Corvo’s plight, and actually has me a little more amped up to play the sequel. As a standalone story though, I need a little more convincing that it’s worth sticking out until the end.