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The Magic of Dishonored’s Blink

Blink and you’ll miss it.



The Magic of Dishonored's Blink

Movement Matters

Movement can mean the difference between a good game and a great game. Pixel-perfect graphics certainly make a game pretty to look at, a well-written story and three-dimensional characters can keep players invested, and snappy, satisfying combat may keep that serotonin flowing, but good movement can really make a player feel like they are truly embodying a character. Where laggy or lackluster controls or movement can prove a frustrating barrier to enjoyment, intuitive, responsive, and precise movement can tear down the screen between gamer and game, and truly allow them to lose themselves in the moment.

When thinking about games that do movement well, one may think of those that empower the player. Games like Marvel’s Spider-Man, where swinging through Manhattan feels at once beautifully simple yet immensely satisfying, or the Batman Arkham series, in which gliding around Gotham and swooping down like a shadow on unsuspecting bad guys is unrivaled in its execution. Both games grant the player the means to truly become a superhero and experience that heady rush that must come with actually donning the suit. Or one may think of those games that make movement the core experience of their gameplay. Games like Journey or The Pathless, both of which throw mastery of movement front and center–one floaty and atmospheric, the other a fast-paced rush. Both, once the player has fully grasped their mechanics, become almost transcendental with the dreamlike speed and floatiness they offer.

Dishonored, however, with its Blink ability, succeeds on both accounts.

Image: Arkane Studios - Quick, quiet, and deadly, Dishonored's Blink is the only power you'll ever need.
Image: Arkane Studios – Quick, quiet, and deadly, Dishonored‘s Blink is the only power you’ll ever need.

An Otherworldly Gift

Arkane is a studio known for its experimentation and systemic worlds–games which grant players access to a treasure trove of special abilities and unique weapons, and say “have fun!”. In their titles, every level is carefully designed, every NPC and enemy deliberately scripted, so that every action the player makes has a consequence. Throw in the fact that almost every mission has but one main goal and one hundred different ways to accomplish it, and these games become endlessly replayable. But it is Dishonored, the studio’s third game and first in the stealth genre that truly set that ball rolling, and remains the most iconic title in their repertoire. And for their first real foray into this style of game, Arkane truly knocked it out of the park.

The magic of Dishonored comes from, well… its magic. Upon his meeting with the mysterious and otherworldly Outsider, protagonist Corvo Attano is granted access to a whole host of supernatural abilities, and it’s the fusion of these superpowers with classic stealth mechanics that really elevates Dishonored above the competition. And while there are all sorts of dark and devious powers at the player’s disposal, it’s Blink that rises to the forefront.

Blink is a sort of short-range teleportation akin to X-Men’s Nightcrawler and his teleportation ability. The player need simply hold down a button, select a nearby destination, and release to be almost instantaneously “jumped” there. It’s easy to get to grips with, fast, and versatile enough to allow skilled players to pull off all manner of insane maneuvers and complicated trick shots, but more than anything, it’s just so fun to use.

Image: Arkane Studios - Blink's precise nature means players can navigate the rooftops of Dunwall in any way they see fit.
Image: Arkane Studios – Blink’s precise nature means players can navigate the rooftops of Dunwall in any way they see fit.

If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a truly supernatural ninja, a silent shadow that can materialize anywhere and at any time to dispatch their unwitting target, or ever dreamed of being able to launch yourself to the other side of the room in the blink of an eye, then this is the ability for you. No other video game movement mechanic feels as precise–letting the player choose exactly where and when to teleport–or as empowering–the freedom such a simple power provides is unmatched. And despite being in first-person, the visual design and iconic sound effects really sell the sensation of vanishing from one spot and reappearing in another in a heartbeat.

Very quickly, Blink becomes most players’ go-to form of travel. Why crouch or sneak when Corvo can zip over walls and across rooftops before the guards below have even finished the first leg of their rounds? Crouch walking is still useful in places, but like The Pathless, movement becomes more of a freeform challenge. How can I get from A to B in the shortest possible time and without alerting the guards or touching the ground? Or, I know that guard has a key to the back gate, but is there a way up to that skylight on the roof? Players begin to take risks, comboing Blinks with expertly timed jumps over guards’ heads or daring leaps of faith over yawning gaps. And when it works, it feels amazing. There’s a reason why speedruns of this game boil down to carefully choreographed blurs of Blinks interspersed with the occasional stabbing.

And where games like Marvel’s Spider-Man and the Arkham series keep their movement and combat separate, Dishonored marries the two. Like Thief and the other stealth titles the game draws its inspiration from, direct combat often results in Corvo’s swift demise. But combine combat with Blink, and the results can vary wildly. Players can stick to the rooftops, Blinking in and out to cut a guard’s throat and pick each one off one by one. Or, skilled players can mix magic and swordplay together in an elegant dance of death–Blinking between enemies to dodge incoming swings or bullets, or instantly closing the distance for the killing blow.

Image: Arkane Studios - Blink in and out for a quick kill and an even quicker getaway.
Image: Arkane Studios – Blink in and out for a quick kill and an even quicker getaway.

Multi-Purpose Teleportation

But Blink doesn’t only cater to the expert; it’s the perfect tool for those new to stealth or those still finding their feet. Most stealth-focused titles necessitate slow, considered movement, and lots of crouch walking. This is great for giving players the time they need to strategize and form a plan of attack, letting them feel in control of the situation even though they are on the back foot, but the slower pace can feel tedious.

Blink allows for quick bursts of silent, near-unseen movement that grants players the ability to zip from shadow to shadow without ever having to step into the light. This still takes timing, positioning, and practice to pull off, but even if a player messes up, a few quick Blinks back to the rooftops can reset any situation. The best part is, the city of Dunwall is the perfect playground to experiment and hone one’s skills in. Every location is meticulously crafted with dozens of different ways in and out, and countless ways to outsmart the hapless guards on patrol. Beginner players may opt for the simplest and easiest route, and Blink will still leave them feeling like a badass. Whereas those who dedicate a little more time and patience may discover new routes and solutions that not even the developers themselves had foreseen.

And that is what makes Blink so special–it has a low barrier for entry but a high skill ceiling.

Image: Arkane Studios - Or teleport through the shadows and take out your prey with no one the wiser.
Image: Arkane Studios – Or teleport through the shadows and take out your prey with no one the wiser.

Blink Again, and Again… and Again

It’s no surprise that Arkane brought Blink back for Corvo’s route in the sequel Dishonored 2, or introduced the functionally similar Far Reach for Emily’s playthrough. Nor that they brought an almost identical version of it back for Deathloop and renamed it Shift (an ability that never left my side during my playthrough of the game). Blink is just so fun and versatile that once it’s been introduced, it’s impossible to leave behind.

Other games have moves inspired by the same concept and visual design, but none come close to that Dishonored feeling. Shadow of Mordor has the immensely satisfying “Shadow Strike” ability, which allows players to instantly teleport to an orc they’ve just impaled with a spectral arrow to quickly finish the job, and it can even be chained to off an entire group. But executing orcs is all it’s good for, and it can’t be used for any meaningful movement across the map. Bloodborne’s“quickened” dodge ability, and Elden Ring’s “Bloodhound’s Step” Ash of War both turn the player character invisible as they sidestep enemy attacks, which looks visually impressive and makes them momentarily invincible, but again, the skill only has that one use.

Dead By Daylight’s Nurse monster comes close with her Blink-aping “Spencer’s Last Breath” ability allowing her to fling herself across the map in pursuit of her terrified targets. This ability teeters on the edge of Dishonored’s Blink for diving in and out of combat and harm’s way, but the lack of any verticality hampers the overall fun of it as a movement mechanic. Infamous: Second Son maybe comes closest with its varied abilities (smoke, neon, video, and concrete), namely the “Smoke Dash” ability that sees hero Delsin disappear and reform in a cloud of smoke and sparks, or the “Light Speed” neon power that allows him to zip across streets and up walls as a blur of light. These dashes allow for some slick and stylish traversal, while also giving players more maneuverability when in combat.

Image: Sucker Punch Productions - Second Son's Light Speed comes close, but still doesn't hold a candle to Blink.
Image: Sucker Punch Productions – Second Son‘s Light Speed comes close, but still doesn’t hold a candle to Blink.

It’s a shame, really, that so few games have “borrowed” Dishonored’s Blink – in the right hands, such a power could be game-changing. So, it’s a good thing that Dishonored is so darn replayable.

Max Longhurst is a keen gamer, avid writer and reader, and former teacher. He first got into gaming when, at the age of 8, his parents bought him a PS2 and Kingdom Hearts for Christmas, and he’s never looked back. Primarily a PlayStation fan, he loves games with a rich single-player experience and stories with unexpected twists and turns.

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