Corvo’s Voice

I haven’t done a proper Game Pile for Dishonored 2 for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that I felt quite disillusioned about reviewing or writing about games for a while there, but as I return to writing here I realise that a large part of the allure of games reviews for me was a regular piece of content to create. Something as simple as ‘what’s my opinion of thing.’

With that in mind, let’s complain really quick about a thing about a game I really like (and I do really like it (and the people who say it’s too much like the original can suck it)) which I think was a mistake, and talk about Corvo’s Voice.

Corvo in Dishonored didn’t talk. As some of you may remember I had the theory that his muteness was not a simple videogame choice ala Gordon Freeman’s protracted, almost comedic silence, but was a byproduct of trauma from his time being tortured in Dunwall Tower. In Dishonored 2 they put a kibosh on this theory (though not completely) because they prove that Corvo can talk – suggesting that his silence wasn’t a byproduct of having, say, his tongue cut out (which I know is a Bit Extreme).

The voice of Corvo in Dishonored 2 is Stephen Russell, who you may know if you look these things up as the voice of Garrett from Thief. Now, I’m not going to lie to you, for all of my playing of Dishonored 2, I haven’t actually played Corvo that many times. I mean, why would you. The thing is, every time I’ve done so I’ve been struck quietly by how the voice of Corvo just feels like a slight mismatch.

I’m not trying to talk down to Russell’s work or anything; he’s a fine, competent actor, and I know he can do voice acting I quite like. But Corvo’s voice in Dishonored 2 isn’t a problem in who does it, or even how, but that it’s done at all.

I feel, in part, that I kind of liked that Dishonored‘s Corvo wandered rooftops without talking to himself. I liked that he was actually silent – for one reason or another. The shift from Corvo silent to Corvo speaking feels like one of the few things between these two games I really wish they’d done differently.

I think in part it would have served to highlight a character difference, but also, suggest a lineage of continuity between the two games that has been slightly marred by this addition. It begs the question of why Corvo speaks in 2 and not i n1. And he talks a lot – about random things he passes by, about parties he’s getting near, about his thoughts of each of the targets as he inspects their homes – it’s quite reasonable to assume it’s inner monologue, or dramatic imposition on the story, and it’s fine, but it is… striking. It is distinct.

Think about what you’re doing when you add a feature you were formerly missing, and ask yourself what it changes about the thing you’ve created.

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