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Power Member - Level 10
Recently, I finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution and, disclaimer,
I loved the game. Like many, Deus Ex:
HR's fall of 2011 release was eclipsed by Skyrim. 2011's Deus Ex: Human Revolution's Adam "I
wear sunglasses indoors" Jensen and 2012's Dishonored's Corvo "My mask has
gears is in it" Attano are two video game protagonists who weigh the heavy
moral implications of any given decision, except for stealing. Both may ruminate on whether to stab or
strangle the local thugs but neither worries about leaving others destitute or
without their worldly possessions. The
mantra for both games is: If the locker opens, take the stuff. Not surprisingly our two characters share a
creator in Harvey Smith. Granted Mr.
Smith was not involved in Deus Ex: HR but as a character creator Mr. Smith has an affinity for glum heroes who
must navigate a political morass that has worldwide implications and each
action has unknown and potentially devastating ripple effects but our heroes do
nothing without added flair.
Two not so very friendly faces.
In Adam's cyber punk universe the future includes eye
augmentations that are permanent sleek black sunglasses that may be retractable
(where the sunglasses retract to is another question) but Adam is not fond of
showing off his actual eyeballs. He is that
one person we all know who wears sunglasses even in poorly lit basements. In Corvo's steam punk world we see that if we
only had a tad bit more ingenuity in the 19th century we would have
invented terrifying masks with creaking gears that somehow affixes to the face
showing at best a disfigurement and at worst a walking nightmare. Two face hiding heroes who claim a moral high
ground (or low ground) while endlessly engaged in breaking and entering as
petty thieves. Are these design choices
an evolving social commentary or an excuse to design a brothel level in every
game? Let us look at the facts.
A Voice Or A Lack
Pretty difficult to hold a conversation if "that" is looking at you.
Corvo does not speak for himself and Adam has a
monotone. The winner? Admittedly, hearing Adam voice his outrage
even when his outrage is strangely similar to his voice of mild surprise is a
more engaging experience. The only audio
in Corvo's voice is the click of a button selecting his dialogue. Corvo is commonly critiqued for lacking a
personality and having no audible voice contributes to Corvo's emotionless outlook.
Elias Toufexis, the "real life" Adam Jensen and his photo has a beach in the background. He is much more personable already.
However, the NPC voice acting in Deus Ex: HR is passable at
best but at its worst is cringe worthy.
Adam spends time in North America and China. The North American voices are decent including
Adam's complete lack of pitch variance.
In China the Chinese speaking NPCs who are speaking English sound like
an embarrassing and inappropriate English speaking person making fun of Chinese
accents. At one point, my girlfriend
walked through the living room and upon overhearing the voices she was appalled. On the other hand, Dishonored's NPCs are
wonderfully cast. Yes, the in game
animations have Bethesda's trademark cut scenes of wooden talking heads but
listening to the characters talk was a worth the up-close robotic face
animations. Especially, "The Heart," who
is an actual heart and who adds optional dialogue about the background of
characters and environments, I always wanted more observations.
The category winner?
I give the voice acting to Deus Ex: HR only because Adam is a much more
engaging character, even hidden behind sun glasses, with a voice yelling his
disapproval at the world. But take note
Square Enix to never again perpetuate stereotypes with the broken English of the
English speaking Chinese NPCs.
More Than The Average
Adam is augmented with hardware in order to save his life
but without asking him first. Corvo must
accept supernatural powers in order not to only clear his name but to also avenge
the Empress' death and to save her kidnapped daughter, Emily, again without seemingly
without a choice. These are two funny
beginnings for games that are all about choices.
The "Social Enhancer" my first augment! Wait, how does it work again?
In Adam's futuristic 2027, which was only 16 years away at
the date of the game's release, mankind's surgical augmentations have surpassed
the prosthetics that we recognize today.
Quick side note, in the reality of 2013 disability based adaptive equipment
and medications are to provide the disabled with the same use of their body as
the non-disabled not better than. For
example, my hearing aids' goal is to provide me with the same access to sound
as those with hearing so that I can hear and interact with the world around me,
not to provide me with bionic ears for spy surveillance. Maybe one day.
Back to video game reality, in Adam's future surgery has
branched into "improving" all aspects of the human body. The cyber punk theme even offered scientific
explanations behind each augment. Now, I
am not scientist and these explanations left me with more questions than
answers. For example, an augment that makes
others more susceptible to Adam's persuasive skills is pheromone based. Yep, whenever this augment is triggered Adam
emits a odor that induces others to answer Adam's questions, a truth scent rather than a truth serum. What does this pheromone smell like? Is the augment impacted if Adam does not
bathe? Can Adam smell the scent and not
tell a lie? Does this augment require
refillable scent containers like a pluggable air freshener?
A much more action packed set of powers. Let's bend time and not worry about the scientific consequences.
Appropriately, in Corvo's steam punk universe where weapons
audibly grind and hiss his powers are supernatural gifts with explanations
rooted in religion rather than science. He
has magic powers rather than manmade creations.
Therefore, Corvo can teleport, stop time, and possess humans, rats or
fish (there is a choice for you) and we are not awaiting an explanation about
how he shifted the space-time continuum.
Still Corvo's powers bring nothing but questions. Why Corvo?
Does Corvo use stop time to play practical jokes? Why cannot Corvo possess birds? Can Corvo possess whales if we ever see a
live whale in-game?
Admittedly, Corvo's powers are cooler. Teleporting up buildings rather than finding
a nearby ladder or vent as Adam must is a lot of fun. Additionally, Corvo summons rats to devour
the bodies of his enemies or those bodies turn to ash at Corvo's touch. Corvo's powers make him a fluid combatant who
does not lose a fight either from the shadows or head on.
This round is Corvo's.
I stand like this in front of window all of the time just in case a photo will be snapped.
Both heroes spend most of their time in the first person
leaving us to only view their hands holding weapons. Adam switches to third person when in cover
(to best show off his chiseled profile), when climbing ladders (we do see his
back a fair amount), and when emitting an electrical cloud to float down from a
great height (why does the electrical storm not fry his hair?) but Adam is on
display most during cut scenes. In cut
scenes, we can admire his always on sunglasses, the perfectly applied hair gel,
and even when awakening after a three day nap his facial hair is still shaved
in such a way so as to make his chin look as pointy as possible.
The unmasked Corvo loves his long locks.
Corvo however is quite shy.
With in-game cut scenes all we see of Corvo is the putting on and taking
off of his mystical mask. Corvo's mask
is truly from a nightmare but the few depictions of Corvo the man on wanted
posters shows a man who uses even more hair gel than Adam in order to maintain
that windblown, but not messy, look.
Corvo however has a cooler name even if his name is ridiculous but Adam
is a heavy handed biblical reference. At
least have consistently silly names but instead Corvo interacts with Emily, Samuel
Adam has the edgier look if only because Corvo's is nearly
Sad Sack Story
We have two gloomy loners with terribly depressing
backstories who live above and away from others, literally, high in a luxury
apartment and in an attic. Both found
meaning to their lives in the bodyguard profession but are thrown into a
spiraling despondency when the two fail the women they protected after both men
black out while witnessing the demise of their charge. Boo-hoo.
Adam spends a surprising amount of time in elevators but not so much time with Dr. Megan Reed.
To Adam's credit, he does awaken as part Transformer and
that does require time alone to process.
His processing leads him to retribution for the death of his maybe
girlfriend (he seems more into the relationship than she does) Dr. Megan Reed. Uncovering Adam's childhood is a fun series
of side missions but certainly does not make his story any cheerier. Adam's doom and gloom outlook is justified
given his past and present and side quests that show the depravity humans can
be capable of. Anything, even a more lighthearted element to his clothing, some
brightly colored socks, would help lift Adam's dour story just a tad.
Aww a drawing my Emily of the world she sees around her. This will definitely not trigger a parent/child conference at school.
Corvo is blamed for the Empress' death, jailed, and the
Empress' daughter, Emily, is missing. A
kidnapped kid will tug on the heartstrings.
A child at the center of a search is compelling momentum for a narrative
plus Emily is constantly drawing cute pictures with crayons. Corvo's emotional distance is maintained by a
lack of knowledge about Corvo in general and instead the narrative is built
more on the atrocities occurring within the city of Dunwall. Dunwall is incredibly detailed and no matter
what small stories Corvo uncovered I always wanted to know more, except if it
involved more rats.
Overall Adam has a more engaging story but Corvo wins with
the single minded determination that arises on behalf of child in danger. Big eyed waifs are an unfair advantage in a
Or A Nice Strangler
Morality. Adam and
Corvo may swipe any items that are not nailed down but all other decisions
require a consultation with their conscience.
Video games are a great killer of goons but Adam and Corvo refuse to
simply indiscriminately kill thugs just because everyone else does. Yet, no choice is clearly good or bad.
Not easy holding a conversation with one person in sunglasses during the night time but nothing deters Faridah.
Adam is a complex man.
The black and white choices are colored in with pros and cons for every decision
that are neither good nor bad. For example,
Faridah Malik, Adam's pilot, asks for his investigative help as a side quest. Adam's responses are either "Yes" or "No" but
what he actually says is either "Okay, I'll help" or "Malik, I'm sorry, but there's
no time for this." Not "My honor
requires that all wrongs are righted" or "I will eat an energy bar in order to
break your arm and stomp your face in if you ask me another question." Or another side quest presents an option to
allow an NPC to go about his vengeance filled day or to stop him by fighting. Setting him free into the world eliminates
guards patrolling an area Adam must get into.
Fighting him provides two options, one if he is dead Adam receives the
least amount of experience points and two if he is unconscious Adam receives
additional experience points. Plus,
whether or not the NPC should resume his lethal activities is not morally
clear. The constant decision making
balances two consequence types, in game inventory with the philosophical morality
of a decision. Adam approaches each of
these choices with the care he uses to delicately maintain the fade in his
A moral decision will be made and carried out right about...NOW!
Corvo witnesses increased chaos in Dunwall if he leaves dead
guard bodies littered about and must continually decide whether to stab or rock
to sleep the guards. Nonlethal abilities
are largely limited to tranqulizer darts or a chokehold. Adam does have a similar nonlethal arsenal
but Adam's death to all weaponry is not the sleek killing machine of Corvo's. Not using Corvo's "cooler" abilities is
missed whereas lethal gameplay for Adam is mostly a swaying gun reticle. However, Corvo has head scratching "boss
battle" decisions. The nonlethal decisions
for the targets are crueler the lethal option such as death or life in the
slave mines that funded the target's extravagant lifestyle. Corvo is truly judge, jury, and sometimes
executioner whereas Adam's approach is "Die!."
This category is so evenly matched that I declare a draw
wanting Adam to be more nuanced with boss decisions and for Corvo to squeeze the
future of more random NPCs in his hands.
He may steal money but he is constantly making world changing decisions. Maybe we should just give him our money when he walks by.
The winner? Both are
fantastic heroes in great games but, clearly, Adam wins. Corvo may have more magical combat skills but
Adam just needs to get in close enough without being detected and he will punch
Corvo in the face with no fear of Corvo's mask.
Adam's background story at least explains his constantly furrowed brow
leading to a compelling story on the personal level rather than only as a world
changing geopolitical narrative. Corvo
is needs to feel more comfortable expressing his feelings.
We will likely never have a shortage of lone men standing
atop high rises looking upon the city below while the moon rises and the night
wind makes their clothes flutter. Our
cities are safe with these living gargoyles forever acting as vigilantes as
atonement for the horror living in their heads.
Maybe Harvey Smith's next game will invite one of these men off of a
rooftop for some ice cream with sprinkles as a pick me up. After all these characters must smile
Agree or disagree? Who is your winner?
Do you enjoy the lone
wolf hero? Who is your favorite?
What augment or power
would you want most? (I like Corvo's bend time)
Thank you for the read and may your days ahead be awash with
video games as summer begins.