thepenofjoel

The Sandbox World: Expanded Thoughts

A World Done Well

I mentioned Witcher 2 as my example of a world done well, and it really is the prime example recently anyway. However I would like to give props to another game that may not have had the greatest story, indeed, the story was rather generic, but the world was a completely different beast. The game is Dishonored and I just want to take a few minutes of your time examining what it got right.
Skyrim and Oblivion served as the whipping boy in the video and I’d like to take them out again for a few more lashes. Often times the politics and racial prejudices observed in open world games are done in a rather ham fisted manner, and Skyrim and Oblivion are no exceptions. Most point to Morrowind as having done the social and political side of the world much better. In Dishonored the nebulous nature of morality and prejudice is portrayed quite well through the different locales you visit in Dunwall. The way Dishonored handled social classes and the ‘morality of technology’ was immensely interesting. Clearer examples of this would be found in some of their marketing material, the series of animated shorts, Tales from Dunwall (which I strongly suggest you watch). The world of Dishonored is not explored through its story, since the story is fairly thin and doesn’t provide anything unexpected other than introduce important characters. Instead the world is fleshed out through audio logs you find in the game, ambient dialogue and the books that you are able to read. The in-game books definitely sets the scene that this is a very small incident in a much larger scheme of things. The mythology surrounding the whales, the unexplored continent are all fantastic elements to build up this world.
Some bank on the Cthulhu style stories sometimes from the fevered writing of a forgotten explorer, others are about those delving too deep into the supernatural element which is left vague and compelling.
What Arkane has done is create such a complex and multilayered society and world that they build hype for the next game which will have most of its lore already established. Dishonored is simply a slice of this massive world. I mentioned the introduction of important characters. Most of the time these characters are only important to Dishonored and the story that it tells, but they not quite so important if you look at the world as a whole. A major exception would be the Outsider, who is very much the epitome of the supernatural in this world.
This is a great way to start off a series. You build up the world from everyday things, and sometimes everyday people, not through long monologues.
I was more than happy with the layered elements in Dishonored and hope more games follow in its footsteps.
If you’d like to see what sparked this ramble you can check out the video below!

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