Dishonored, Kickstarter, and the Nostalgia Delusion

"He said WHAT about the Game of The Year?!"

I’m tempted to think this is all Tim Schafer’s fault.

At the beginning of 2012, “indie” meant the same thing that it did with Kyle’s article in April, just after the release of FEZ: 8-to-16-bit platformers with a twist. At the same time, the infamous Double Fine Kickstarter was changing games publishing – some, not me, said forever. Since then, the most-funded Kickstarters have been a glut of references and continuations of game licenses most of us had forgotten or shelved along with our Nirvana: Leisure Suit Larry, Wasteland, the Infinity Engine games, Shadowrun, twice, Tex Murphy, Carmageddon… it’s an autumn feast. Break out the gourds and mulled wine.

Now there’s this weird separation between “independent” and “indie”. How large is an indie developer? Judging from Indie Game: The Movie and Vancouver’s indie developer meetups and game jams, indie developers are mostly one or two-person teams. But in online discussions and on funding sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, indie increasingly means formerly AAA teams like Obsidian, Double Fine, and Uber Entertainment – just without the leash of the traditional publisher. No wonder EA is in a slump and Activision-Blizzard aren’t quite as secure as they usually are – the revival of Diablo 3 made for the loudest awkward pause I’ve heard since my last family reunion. Are Valve and ZeniMax independent, because they can publish their own properties? Are they indie? Is it size or philosophy? Does it matter?

Those questions are why Dishonored is so interesting. The development talent is top notch – Harvey Smith designed Deus Ex alongside Warren Spector, while Viktor Antonov provided the artistic direction for the haunting City 17 from Half-Life 2 – and it shows in the finished game. ZeniMax, parent company of both Arkane Studios and Bethesda, is clearly sympathetic to trend-bucking games. Dishonored takes place in a world which, for once, doesn’t seem brown or cliched – or at least, the steampunk-ish technology has an unusual aquatic explanation. The city of Dunwall itself is remarkably well-thought-out: the Flooded District, de facto colony and corpse disposal for those stricken with the plague, is flooded because a levee broke, not because a blood mage slipped or somebody liked Objectivism a little too much. The explanation is just poor construction and human error. The guards bicker about cigars and cards and people are assholes to their servants. The aristocracy is concerned with flash and social standing over petty considerations like disease and security. The mise-en-scene, craft, and audiovisual artistry of the game sets a high bar for those who intend to follow in Arkane’s footsteps – but there’s something off about it.

Corvo Attano, the game’s exotically-named protagonist, is the Empress’ bodyguard who fails at his job in the introductory chapter. He gets framed so that others can usurp the throne, gets busted out by loyalists so they can rescue and reinstate the proper heir to the throne, and is given supernatural powers by a trickster deity for very good reasons which we never learn. From a game design perspective, Dishonored takes most of its cues from Thief and Deus Ex – enabling stealth and experimentation at least as much as combat, it’s a game that claims to offer multiple routes to each objective, multiple objectives for each map, the ability to do lethal and non-lethal conduct playthroughs, and a world that notices the choices you make. I kept forming associations with Thief, Deus Ex, System Shock 2, and other nostalgic favourites of the 90s and early ‘aughts – exactly as I was supposed to.

But that’s the weird part – like Robert “Radiator” Yang noted, Dishonored doesn’t compare that well to those games. It’s clear that it has similar design goals to the “emergent gameplay” golden calves of the 90s, but it’s almost too polished to have the same appeal. Maybe I’m just jaded, but as much as I like multiple routes and multiple goals, when the routes are “up” and the optional objectives are in an easy-to-read-and-find list format with glowing targets, the shine tends to wear off.

Note that the characters are looking forward, but the camera is focused on behind.

There’s my dilemma. I had quite a lot of fun with Dishonored, but after the game ended, my reaction amounted to “That happened”. I’d stopped caring and started feeling frustrated about halfway through the game, when teleporting assassins start hunting you. Where Deus Ex had you jump out a window seconds ahead of an explosion to beat the more-powerful versions of you, Dishonored has you stop time or awkwardly wedge yourself in crevices until the enemies pass. Where Thief had a stealth model which expected you to stay mobile and aware, Dishonored’s “sneaky routes” tend to just be rooftops. I spent most of the game atop lamp posts, which is not a sentence I ever expected to write. It’s a neat idea, but the “variety” starts to feel same-y. As interesting as Dishonored is, I found myself bored.

So where did this game go wrong? In some ways, it didn’t. It had an all-star developer staff, an excellent voice acting team, and a setting and premise which puts virtually every other AAA project to shame. Peter Travers would love the shit out of it. Normally, so would I.

I think the problem is in exactly the kind of nostalgia that’s powering the success of all these Kickstarters. Yes, I miss Black Isle, Ion Storm Austin, and Looking Glass. No, I don’t particularly want them back. They did some fantastic and innovative things when they were around, but shouldn’t we be looking forward? As a loose community of fans and developers, when we focus so much on what’s behind us, we’re liable to trip over something. We end up with Dishonored. It’s certainly a breath of fresh air compared to Gears and Max Payne 3, but it’s really just as stale, only we forgot what it used to taste like.

By recreating our fond memories anew, we can only make distilled versions of games we already own. Yes, it’s nice to have a game in the vein of Deus Ex, but there was more to that game than vents and tranquilizers. Thief was more than just hoovering up loot, as satisfying as Dishonored’s loot grabbing is. Thief and Deus Ex were clunky, granted, but that was because they were intensely ambitious in their gameplay, where Dishonored’s ambitions are at the level of imitation, adding just a mashup of the Black Death with not-quite-steampunk. Arkane clearly loves their classics, and that’s certainly a good thing. I love them too – but maybe we’ve forgotten why zombies were ever scary in the first place, forgotten why the Ramones stayed out of the Pet Sematary. Immortality’s not necessarily good.

Dead things should stay that way. In my book, that goes double for games.

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  • Matthew Weise

    I agree that Dishonored is basically a well-crafted nostalgia trip. But I guess I find it refreshing because Thief is a game *worth* imitating, whereas most games are imitations of crap.

    But this begs the question of just what *is* “forward thinking”? I agree we shouldn’t just imitate old games we like, but we *should* be selecting the bits from them we feel represent progressive directions modern game design has failed to capitalize on. For example, is Assassin’s Creed more “advanced” than Thief? Post-GTAIII open level design shifted away from persistence, which has become the de facto template for “open worlds”. From my perspective this is not progressive but regressive, so “going back” to more persistent world design as seen in Looking Glass and Origin is more progressive.

    Going “back” to medicine and plumbing is “forward” if you live in the Dark Ages. On that note, though, I’d argue something like Minecraft or Demon’s Souls better represents those lost progressions than a calculated nostalgia trip like Dishonored. Perhaps your objection is that Dishonored focuses more on the *surface* elements of those games than the underlying spirit.

    • Karl Parakenings

      Well, sure. I think that’s what I meant by Dishonored’s ambitions only being at the level of imitation, meaning superficial imitation rather than the kind of consideration and deeply-rooted design analysis that would qualify as “inspired by” rather than “imitating”.

      Sigh. And here I am making a vow to write more clearly..

      Here’s my basic problem with “cafeteria craftsmanship,” which is a phrase I just made up to describe “selecting bits of old games that represent directions modern game design has failed to capitalize on”. We usually know less about our modern situation than we do about our history. It’s one reason art critics are employable – the best we can do is project our past trends into the future, modified by current events. So to select the “right” bits of games, we’d have to already be in the future by ten years or so. We can ask the question “is AC more advanced than Thief” now, but the developers of AC couldn’t, really – all they could do was try very hard to ship a product and then worry about aesthetics later. (The GTAIII comment is particularly interesting, given this post by radiatoryang that I forgot to link at the right segment in the article )

      Properly, viewing game design elements as either “progressive” or “regressive” is a bit of a false dichotomy. When designing a game, all decisions carried over from previous games are “regressive” – they can’t help but be, because of the way time works. We can only determine innovation in hindsight, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make sure it ends up that way.

      So my takeaway is essentially “make shit that’s as weird as you can make it,” which I’m OK with.

      • Justin Keverne

        Something I feel has been overlooked in this analysis is the changes that have occurred in the audience over the past decade, simply put more people are playing games and it’s less straightforward to make assumptions about what other games they might have played. Given the size of the PC gaming audience at the time of the release of Thief, it wouldn’t have been unduly presumptive to assume that a reasonable proportion of them had played, or at least heard of, System Shock.

        When it comes to Dishonored the “game literacy” of its audience covers a wide spectrum. Can assumptions safely be made about the type of experiences players will be used to? No. Dishonored faces the same problem BioShock did, it is building upon a design philosophy that the gaming audience has been underexposed to. You simply cannot afford to “make shit that’s as weird as you can make it” because you will not get traction with that audience.

        As much as I value Robert Yang’s insights his analysis of the opening of Dishonored doesn’t make sense. There’s a good reason why it presents the training mission the way it does: clarity. When trying to introduce any new systems to somebody you have to be clear and often that clarity comes at the expense of player freedom. The section he describes is explicitly to train you in the way in which stealth and detection is modeled in Dishonored that is its only goal and it does only that. To complain that it doesn’t do more than it has told you it is going to is odd. I had a similar reaction to certain parts of this article, if you are using the “objective markers” and all the other aids there to help people not used to this style of game who is at fault for the ensuing boredom? I don’t ride a bike with training wheels anymore because they are not designed for me, nor would it make sense for me to complain about the existence of the health and safety demonstration on a flight simply because I’ve flown a lot and could recite it word for word.

        If we stripe away our rose tinted lenses, standing in the shadows watching a guard walk past within inches of you is no more illogical than standing on a lamp post doing the same.The means at your disposal to avoid danger in Dishonored are no more or less illogical, fiddly to pull off, or repetitive as they are in Thief or Deus Ex. Are some of the simulated aspects of Dishonored of a lower fidelity than those in Thief? Yes, were they always that way? No. The systems underpinning Dishonored were tweaked hundreds of times over the course of the development of the game the system settled on was the one that was deemed the most readable to the broadest number of people. (Source:

        As for the notion of progress, conventions exists for a reason. Any designer of any product will tell you that making everything as avant-garde as possible is a perfect way to ensure that nobody ever uses it. Progress always builds upon something preexisting, you cannot create anything from first principles.

        These type of games are a rare beast. Heavily reliant on systems and unpredictable interactions, by their very nature they take longer to design and develop than a Call of Duty or an Uncharted. Dishonored isn’t a return to a bygone era, but rather the latest step on a path that has historically been under populated and taken longer to progress down than others. This is easily supported by looking at the previous games Arkane has made, Dishonored is not a return to some nostalgic past rather it is a logical extension of the work they have been doing in Arx Fatalis and Dark Messiah. It’s a product of the slower path not the backward looking one.

        • Karl Parakenings

          Thanks for your reply, Justin. It definitely gave me food for thought. I’ve tried to consider it thoroughly in writing my response.

          I think I can summarize my attitude as “yes, but I don’t think that the audience for these games needs to be talked down to.” In some of my circles, this is known as the “Valve playtester” problem, where they removed maze segments from HL: Episode 2 because playtesters frequently got lost in them and were frustrated. ..but, isn’t that the point of mazes in the first place? This is a hazard that’s emerging as more games are playtested by small QA departments that are separate from the developers. It was certainly my experience in focus testing a recent title for a Vancouver studio – the stereotypical gamers, who were essentially brought in off the street, were happy to play it and say “I dunno. I didn’t quite get it, but sure, I’d like a free game.”

          But I don’t think that’s because they were dumb. They actually had some pretty good insights when I asked them about what they didn’t get and why. They didn’t understand the game, not because of their inexperience or level of game literacy, but because the game didn’t communicate certain elements effectively. This is a standard problem in industrial and web design. Donald Norman talks about it in The Design of Everyday Things. People pass off not understanding computers and phone systems as “oh, I’m terrible with technology,” but the actual truth is that they’re quite intelligent, but they don’t understand how to think like the designer. I think (and I’ll link Jack’s blog on legacy skills and expectations here) that new and old gamers alike don’t necessarily have to play System Shock to be interested in a game that’s like System Shock, or to enjoy playing a game that’s descended from System Shock.

          In other words, I don’t agree with the statement that “You can’t afford to make weird shit because people don’t like being challenged (the implication behind not getting traction with the audience)”. You definitely have to be clear when designing mechanics and setting and everything else within a game. But I think if you stop at clear, then you’re doing yourself, the game, and your audience a disservice. What Yang’s driving towards is precisely that: sure, you need to teach stealth skills to those who don’t have them already, but you should also recognize that not everyone needs to be taught stealth skills, that there should be a kind of ‘advanced stream’ for those willing to explore and play with the mechanics a little. One segment that I *did* really enjoy in Dishonored was the fact that I could pickpocket and steal shit at will in The Boyles’ Party. Everyone just waves it away as “Oh, I do it all the tiime! It’s practicatlly meant to be a party favour!” Which is a nice way to a) make the player feel recognized and respected, b) get across precisely how rich everyone is here, c) say a lot about the world this takes place in, and d) let the player buy some cool new toys after a relatively combat-free mission, or catch up if she hasn’t been looting everything to this point.

          Who is at fault for the ensuing boredom? Me, certainly. Having high standards makes acting surprised when things don’t live up to them kinda superfluous. But I think Arkane is at fault as well – while we don’t ride bikes with training wheels, conversely it’s possible to buy bikes *without* training wheels. I used the objective markers because I didn’t really see any way to figure out where to go without them. There’s a lot of lore in the game, but most of it’s whaling songs and gossip: almost none of it is used for the kind of detective work you’d sometimes do in Thief and Deus Ex, where you’d find a note about a secret stash and then hunt for the code behind trash bins because there was a specific kind of graffiti, etc.. Similarly, in the sewer section in Dishonored, there’s a 3-digit code on a safe with a note that gives you the hint “whiskey”. Whiskey figures pretty prominently in the game, especially the Dunwall #1 or whatever it’s called, which has “no. 748″ on barrels strewn around the city. So I tried that, and it didn’t work. So I tried it backwards, upside down, transposed…. and eventually gave up and looked up a walkthrough, which told me that I had to look behind whiskey bottles on a nearby shelf. I’d never considered that, because who would write down the combination next to a safe? That’s just stupid. But it’s a product of the same kind of “safe design”, prompted by having to spell everything out and immediately going for the most superficially disguised solution, because they’re easy to make.

          Everybody has to deal with people not wanting to think, or be challenged, or needing to disguise experimentation in conventional ways. It’s what Thief and DX *did*. It’s what Far Cry 2 did. It’s what Trespasser (RIP) did. I think that while these are certainly complex games, and they’re tough to do, I don’t think that there that rare, or necessarily take more time to develop than an asset tour like Spec Ops or Call of Duty or Uncharted. I think the idea that this kind of design progresses more slowly is an excuse propagated by publishers and developers alike, because everyone loves their job but nobody wants to make life more difficult for themselves. There’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone does it. But if the path is slower, it’s because of the people taking it, not because of the path itself.

          edit: I meant to bring up the stealth system. Having “awareness lines” is a perfect example. Every kid is perfectly able to play hide-and-seek at 8, because you recognize the posture changes of someone who is searching for you, who has found clue of where you went, who is on your trail, etc. It’s abstracted in MGS so intensely because it came from the MSX, but even there the alert modes were supported by changes in body language. In Dishonored, the differences are mostly in audio cues – silhouettes in character design are just as important, maybe moreso, for “readability” as magic lightning bolts that you can see through walls.

          • Justin Keverne

            We clearly have different views on Dishonored, and they seemed to be based on more than simply matters of taste. Simply put I disagree with you on what the game does and doesn’t do. The reasons for why that might be are intriguing, though I don’t know what they are.

            I would have said that Dishonored is an example of a game that goes out of it’s way not to talk down to the player. If anything the common complain against it is that it does precisely the opposite, that a lot of the information regarding the way its systems interact and the way powers function can only be gleaned from experimentation. This was certainly a mark against it in its reviews.

            The levels after the hide and seek tutorial provide just the “advanced stream” you described, which is part of why I can’t help but see Robert’s criticism as misleading. It’s complaining that a isolated tutorial moment does not offer the scope for creativity that the rest of the game offers. A justified criticism, but a redundant one.

            The option is there to remove the training wheels, and with one notable exception (Dealing with an unconscious Curnow), the means of finding your primary and secondary objectives are available through in game text and dialogue alone. I know this to be true from direct personal experience. Therefore I disagree regarding the lore in the game and the ways in which it provides information that can be used to aid exploration. I only knew certain directly applicable things about a level because I’d overheard a conversation, or read a note referencing them.

            That first safe is a special case being as the code is a reference to the first code used in System Shock and Deus Ex. Furthermore the Whiskey bottles that are prevalent throughout Dunwall are not seen until that point, and the first ones are standing directly in front of the code you need for the safe itself. Is it poor design? To an extent, but like the hide and seek game it is poor design that appears once and that is not representative of the game as a whole.

            The way combinations are used throughout the rest of the game seems to be exactly what you are asking for. In particular there is a code locked door in the High Overseer mission that requires you to piece together the different tenants of the Overseer’s and their ordering before you can unlock it.

            I think we’ll have to agree to disagree about the rarity of such games and the relative difficulty involved in their development.

            Re your Edit: There are posture, animation and audio changes associated with entering an alerted state. The lighting bolts are a redundancy, they are in no way the only means of determining the alertness level of a guard.

            I see the point you are making but from my perspective you are describing a game I simply did not play. A game that is not readable without abstract UI elements, a game that is patronizing and superficial, when it is not being confusing and unhelpful, a game that exists only as a nostalgic work. Were Dishonored such a game I would agree that it would be better off having not been made, however I simply cannot agree that it is such a game. Why we perceive it so very differently is something I don’t fully understand, especially given we both have prior exposure to the likes of Thief and Deus Ex.

          • Karl Parakenings

            I had a similar disagreement (of sorts) with Yang after he published his article. I’d run into Lydia, the maid at the pub, while climbing into a window on the third floor- she said “Oh! You scared me! I guess you’re training for.. killing?” and I really enjoyed that given my context. Yang, on the other hand, ran into her on the stairs in the building, and she said the same thing, which didn’t make sense. I think that kind of thing is probably where we part ways. I found I only ever encountered the alert system in the abstract form, since I make a habit of trying to ghost everything, so the only time I saw the awareness bolts is when I was hung up on geometry, the AI bugged, I was careless, etc. So I simply didn’t see the changes in posture, because there aren’t any “curious-but-not-alerted” states for the stealthy player to see (as far as I know.)

            There are other safes in the game, but (a) since you do run into the whiskey bottles beforehand and b) since that’s the one I remember being frustrated by most clearly) they are somewhat irrelevant for the point I would like to make here, which is that the first time you run into these situations is when the mechanics are at their greatest tension, where those who are not “game literate” are turned off. The hide-and-seek thing is a problem because running away is actually a strategy in hide-and-seek – but it’s not the one they implemented. Same with the Lydia thing – the implementation only considers the case they intended, because they drilled down to the execution which satisfied the lowest common denominator. It’s why I wish they hadn’t had the guards not look up ever – if the stealth is guaranteed, where’s the challenge in the timing and execution?

            Same thing with the overheard conversations – they’re usually placed at bottlenecks, where you’re sure to hear them, probably with subtitles and clear enunciation. It becomes just another form of cutscene then, in my view.

            The hide and seek thing is so weirdly put-together I’m surprised it’s there at all. I hid behind a staircase and she got frustrated and said “fine, let’s go” after about twenty seconds of not looking anywhere in particular. Maybe it’s a conflict between needing to use an eight-year-old as a tutorial (when they’re not good at stealth anyway) and Arkane’s constant rehearsal that the game is a power fantasy? Seems to cancel each other out.

          • Matthew Weise

            I don’t disagree with any of this stuff about Dishonored, but I guess none of it bothers me that much… maybe because my opinion of other recent Shock/Thief/DX-inspired games isn’t as high? Dishonored makes more or less the same compromises for modern audiences that Far Cry 2 and Bioshock do. If you want something that *really* feels coherent and uncompromising the way Looking Glass games used to you’re better off with Demon’s Souls than any of the games mentioned here.

          • Karl Parakenings

            Sure. But if I just wanted to play games I thought were perfect, I wouldn’t play very many games. I want games to do better and that’s why I help run this site, i guess.

        • Robert Yang

          re: my post… Dishonored went to the trouble of skinning the tutorial with narrative. If you do that, you don’t get to say “you’re leaving the hide and seek zone.”

          They could’ve had a gate shut the player in, if they didn’t want the player to leave.

          It’s the first game-y interaction in the game, and you’re not allowed to be creative with it?

          I think the worst part is that they could’ve just had the NPC break out of her animation, shout something like “hey you’re cheating, come back” or “if you didn’t want to play, you should’ve just said so” — and it would’ve worked beautifully with very little production cost and been meaningful in a game within a game.

          And again, this isn’t about what a tutorial is / isn’t. It’s about putting narrative on something, but then not following through with it.

          • Justin Keverne

            As an isolated example of Dishonored’s failure to live up to the expectations of the “immersive sim” (I don’t think we have entirely the same expectations but that’s a discussion for another time) I think I now understand your complain. I skimmed your article when it was linked here and I did not come away with the correct impression, so that’s on me. Though if running away is truly a valid strategy in hide and seek I think we’ve been exposed to very different versions of it.

            I think anything codified as a tutorial should be granted a little more leeway in its design given that it’s objectives are much more specific, and that effectively teaching a complex game system in a limited time and space is a significant challenge. That said, choosing to contextualize such a tutorial within the fiction and then not committing to that is poor design. So in that we agree, and I concede the point.

            In the original article Karl use your comments about an isolated section of the game to make a generalization about the failings of the game as a whole; generalizations that don’t seem to match up with your own comments on the subject, or my experience of the game. Maybe you do agree with him, if so then we can have that discussion if you wish.

          • Karl Parakenings

            Sorry? I said that Yang made an unfavourable comparison from Dishonored to games like System Shock 2 because he makes a comparison to System Shock 2. He uses SS2 and Bioshock as examples of consistent “immersive sims” and then details how Dishonored breaks from that. If that’s wrong, then I apologize, but I must still be not seeing it.

          • Justin Keverne

            I’d initially read that paragraph as an extrapolation of Robert’s specific complains to encompass the entire game which felt misleading. However the more I think about it the more I aware I become of the blinders I’ve been operating with.

            Dishonored does some odd things when it comes to simulation boundaries, that other “immersive sims” do not, which I see now was the core of Robert’s point, and yours. I’d simply not noticed those boundaries during my first encounter with the game, and therefore I couldn’t reconcile the complains about them with the experience I had.

            The way I chose to engage with Dishonored was a way that was largely supported by the game systems. If I’d taken a approach that I had believed to be similarly supported and it subsequently wasn’t I can see how my reaction to the game would have been markedly different. Conceivable a lot closer to your own.

  • Aaron Eades

    My only problems with Dishonored are that it’s insanely boring, far too segmented with really long load-times, horrible combat, overly easy stealth, the fact that it looks like a PS2 game and that teleporting essentially gets rid of any need to use stealth. Other than that it’s still just mediocre.

    • Karl Parakenings

      Is this a “me too” or an objection?

      • Aaron Eades

        An objection to people overlooking the obvious flaws of Dishonored.

  • Kyle Carpenter

    One thing – the definition for “indie” I provided was sort of explicitly not just a 16-bit platformer, although it did allow for that possibility.

    On the other hand, you’ve convinced me to play some Thief – so win.

    • Karl Parakenings

      Sorry – that was me being reductive for the sake of brevity. Most of the examples you used were “platformers with a twist”, so I glossed a little.

  • Eric Swartz

    In your conclusion, you dredge up gratuitously contrarian and unfounded criticisms just to make your argument flow a little better. Dishonored’s setting is easily the most brilliant and original aspects of the game, yet how easily you dismiss it as “just a mashup of the Black Death with not-quite-Steampunk.” Yes, and ‘Dune’ was pretty much just ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ with a Moorish hero and a few laser guns tossed in.

    For the rest, my opinion may be summarized thus: to fault Dishonored for borrowing extensively from Thief and Deus Ex is to look a gift horse in the mouth.

    • Karl Parakenings

      It’s different from Tolkien, granted, but I wouldn’t call it brilliant in the least. It’s Victorian London powered by whales instead of coals, and with very little of the attendant colour that implies. Dune at least has Paul Atreides and Baron Harkonnen and the spice must flow, the spice extends life.. walk without rhythm. Fear is the mindkiller. There’s far more to Dune even at a cursory glance. I remember all that and I haven’t read it since I was 16. In comparison, after a month I remember Granny Rags and the mechanical heart and how “The Game” the Outsider struck me as. Although Dunwall isn’t as derivative as most other fantasy worlds in the offing, I wouldn’t call it particularly inspired. It’s better than crap, but that doesn’t automatically make it good. There’s precious little of the fantastic in our fantasy these days.

      I’m hard to impress and usually pretty slow to like most things, and I admit that. We differ in opinion, but I think the underlying message of “We should take more than the letter (or mechanics) of our inspirations” is something that most can agree on. Whatever its dental work looks like.