By – Stuart Young

If you’ve had a chance to play Arkane Studio’s Dishonored, you’ll know it’s a game about choice. As royal protector turned conspirator Corvo Attano, you can choose to take revenge on the villains who framed you in a multitude of ways. You can butcher everyone in sight, or leave even your worst enemies alive. You can operate in the shadows, or charge through the front door. You can leap over rooftops or slink through sewers. You can possess animals, or set traps, or freeze time.

But the choices aren’t only present in this richly simulated game world. They’re also in the menu screens. Two of these menus – the ones labelled gameplay and user interface, under the ‘general’ tab – can change your experience with the game enormously. Here’s a handy guide to what each mysterious setting means in practice, along with our recommendations to turn Dishonored into the most immersive experience possible.

 

Show Health/Mana Gauges

What it does:

Displays bars showing your character’s health and supernatural energy at the top left of the screen. There are three options – off, contextual and always. ‘Always’ will have the bars permanently displayed, ‘Off’ turns them off entirely, and ‘Contextual’ only displays them when you’re using/recharging magic powers or being attacked.

Leave it on?

Turning off this important information entirely would  be the choice of a very confident or foolhardy player. However, the gauges take up a big chunk of screen space. We recommend the contextual option for a less invasive experience.

 

Show Objective Popups

What it does:

Displays a notification when you receive a new task or complete or fail one of your goals.

Leave it on?

Definitely. Mostly it should be fairly obvious when a character tells you to do something, but there are a few scenarios where you might be unsure if your plan worked (for example, there is an objective that is completed only when an ally leaves the area) without some feedback.

 

Show Tutorial Notifications

What it does:

Pauses the game with occasional tutorial screens. These range from the helpful (how to render someone unconscious) to the patronising (There are multiple paths in this level! Why don’t you do some exploring?)

Leave it on?

For your first playthrough, yes, but turn it off when you’re accustomed to the basic controls. What everything else does is fairly self-evident. The tutorials can be a bit invasive, as they pause the game, rather than the ‘softer’ hint system in, say, a Valve game. Nice artwork though.

 

Show Interactions

What it does:

Displays text near the center of the screen when you’re pointing at something that can be ‘used’ – e.g. wheels that can be turned or bodies that can be carried. This shows the name of the object and the actions available.

Leave it on?

Yes. There are some situations where tapping or holding the use key will have different outcomes, so it can be helpful. Further, the names of all the bits and pieces you can stick in your trousers are wonderfully evocative. Tin of Brined Hagfish? Don’t mind if I do…

 

Show Focus Highlight

What it does:

Usable or collectable objects in Dishonored have a silvery shimmer effect on them. This setting changes the shimmer to gold if you’re focusing on an object.

Leave it on?

Turn it off. Unlike, say, Bethesda’s RPG games, items are pretty spaced out so it’s always clear what you’re pointing at, and since there’s no weight limit you’ll want to loot everything that isn’t nailed down.

 

Show Pickup Log

What it does:

Displays a text update showing what you’ve just picked up.

Leave it on?

Turn it off. You really don’t need to know what you’ve just picked up, and it’s just more noise on screen. The only potential exception are any keys that you pickpocket, because you won’t have seen the name before you took them (see Show Interactions). However, context normally makes which door they unlock obvious.

 

Show Contextual Icons

What it does:

Displays an icon in the bottom right corner when a space bar action is available. As far as I can tell, this is only used to show you when you can climb onto something.

Leave it on?

Turn it off. Dishonored has the best implementation of first-person movement I’ve seen since Mirror’s Edge. If you’re facing something that looks like you can mantle it, Corvo will invariably be able to do so. There’s no need to have an icon pop up every time you can.

 

Show Player Stance

What it does:

Displays yet another icon, bottom left, to show if you’re crouching (stealthed).

Leave it on?

Turn it off. This hand-holding convention seems to have been imported from Call of Duty and it’s ilk, and may be more useful in a game where you can crouch, run, or go prone. Honestly, if you can’t tell you’re sneaking by your movement speed, weapon position and eye level relative to the ground, I have no respect for you, sir/madam.

 

Show Objective Markers

What it does:

Displays a haranguing arrow constantly pointing to your next objectives, with the distance in metres tagged on if you look in that direction. Discourages the exploration the game seeks to propagate.

Leave it on?

As you might be able to tell, I’m not a fan, and nor are these esteemed writers. If you want to see the best of what this game has to offer, you’ll spend the majority of your time ignoring your stated objectives. Furthermore, when the challenge is to look for someone it rather spoils the fun having a big arrow telling you exactly where they are and how far away you are from them.

 

Show Grenade Markers

What it does:

Indicates where enemy grenades have been thrown.

Leave it on?

Turn it off. Enemies give enough audio and visual feedback for you to be able to tell when a grenade is out – and panic accordingly.

 

Show Awareness Markers

What it does:

Displays little lightning-bolt signs above enemy heads demonstrating whether they’re oblivious, suspicious, or fully alert to your presence.

Leave it on?

Turn it off. Dishonored owes many a debt to the Thief series, and one of the best reused ideas is the tension of listening to enemy chatter and sound cues to figure out just how much trouble you’re in. Incidentally, Dishonored’s plot centers around a plague of oversized, man-eating rats, making that hoary old “must have just been a rat” line far more convincing.

 

Show Heart Markers

What it does:

Early in the game, you acquire a magical relic called The Heart which shows you where other magical treasures are hidden. Leaving this setting on displays the artifacts and the distance to them in a similar way to objective markers – but only when the heart is being held in your hand.

Leave it on?

Yes. Unlike the objective markers, if you’re holding the heart it’s because you actively want to find a magical item, so it’s not pestering you in the same way. If you’re keen on a challenge, you can turn markers off – the heart will only display items as an orangey glint, and you’ll have to gauge distance by the relative size of the object and the heart’s geiger counter-like beating.

 

Crosshair Style

What it does:

Lets you switch between three types of crosshair – normal (different reticules for different weapons), simple (a white dot) or off (no crosshair)

Leave it on?

Leave it on normal. The default crosshairs are really well designed – they look stylish and give you a good idea of the accuracy of each weapon.

 

Crosshair Movement

What it does:

Shows your crosshair becoming wider when you sprint, representing the decreased accuracy of weapons.

Leave it on?

Yes. It’s a useful reminder, but the motion can be a little distracting.

 

Crosshair Opacity

What it does:

This slider controls whether you have a solid, opaque crosshair (100), completely transparent (0) or anywhere in between.

Leave it on?

Adjust to taste. Why would you set it to 0, though? Just turn it off if you don’t want a crosshair!

 

Auto Use Mana Elixir

What it does:

If you try to use a power, but don’t have enough magical energy, leaving this function on will mean the player character will automatically consume a magic potion, if there are any in the inventory.

Leave it on?

Yes. Even the highest-requirement powers don’t use enough energy to make this wasteful – it will top up your energy bar, but not “overfill” it. It doesn’t automatically use the power afterwards, so you can change your mind.

 

Kill Cam Mode

What it does:

Toggles the frequency of totally bad-ass death animations.

Leave it on?

Turn it off. This is a game where killing has weight and consequence, and the fetishization of violence sits rather oddly with that intent. Still though, that dude’s legs just totally came off! Awesome!

 

Auto-Save in Journal

What it does:

Presumably auto-saves when you open the journal. Didn’t work for me.

Leave it on?

Seems to be broken, unless someone’s spotted something I’ve missed?

 

Head Bob Amount

What it does:

Changes the amount your view bobs up and down when you walk and run.

Leave it on?

By default, this slider is set to max, and we suggest you leave it there. For a first-person game, there’s a massive emphasis on physicality and acrobatics, and the slight sway of your protagonist helps sell his relationship with the rest of the game world.

 

Chains Climbing Relative To Camera

What it does:

Toggles whether, when climbing a chain, you climb forward and back in the direction your view is pointed, or up and down relative to the ground and the sky.

Leave it on?

On by default, and I’d leave it there, but this – moreso than most of the settings – is a matter of personal preference. Incidentally, if you’re one of those completely insane nutballs who like to invert the Y-axis, that’s available in the Controls menu.

 

Difficulty

What it does:

There are four difficulty modes – easy, normal, hard or very hard.

Adjustments I made:

I would recommend seasoned gamers attempt a first playthrough on hard – the AI is a little too forgiving and health too plentiful on the normal setting (normal is the new easy).


And that’s all of them. Agree or disagree with our preferences, we hope you have a great time playing Dishonored – the best Thief game since the last Thief game, and the best Deus Ex since the last Deus Ex game. See you in Dunwall!

 

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  • Phil

    This is a really neat concept for a piece – Will definitely consult this when I get around to grabbing this game!

    • Adam Ames

      George did something similar with Skyrim after it launched. Hopefully we can get more articles like this published in the future.

      Especially with a game that has so many options. I have not played either, but I was taken back by just how much control Arkane gave the player.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stuartalexanderyoung Stuart Young

      I’d definitely recommend it. It’s so nice to see the immersive sim make a comeback.

  • Andytizer

    This is an interesting article.

    • Adam Ames

      Thanks, Andrew. Stuart put a lot of work into creating this for us.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stuartalexanderyoung Stuart Young

      Thanks!

  • Tom

    The first time I tried Dishonored it felt like I was playing a modern Thief designed for a very young audience, all those popups & hud elements just had to go.

    Also I imagine one of the main reasons they added the crouch notification is because view height in UE3 is poorly implemented & they probably didn’t want to waste time trying to fix it.

    Good job on the article!

    • Adam Ames

      Reminds me of the first gameplay footage of Human Revolution. Seeing all of those bright yellow markers was extremely off-putting for me. I am glad to see developers giving other types of gamers a choice.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stuartalexanderyoung Stuart Young

      The only thing I wish is that they gave you some kind of quick pre-configured choice at the start

  • bokela

    Thanks so much for explaining interface options. It is not clear immediately what some options suppose to do. And also, providing tips for right way to use options and how to properly setup for better gameplay experience!

    • Adam Ames

      Thanks for your comment. How are you liking the game?

    • http://www.facebook.com/stuartalexanderyoung Stuart Young

      Thanks for your kind words!

  • Andytizer

    By the way I’m not an insane nutball for inverting Y-axis. It’s a habit I picked up from playing flight sims with a mouse.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stuartalexanderyoung Stuart Young

      Just kidding ;)