Dishonored remains one of my favorite games for worldbuilding quality. Firstly, I’m a big fan of blending steampunk aesthetics with magic so any attempt already has my attention (see also: Malifaux) but Dishonored, through its books and various overheard conversations, etc… does a particularly fantastic job at immersing you in a world of deep, disconcerting mystery.
The whole of the game’s action takes place in a single city overrun by a plague (‘the doom of Pandyssia’ it appears to be referenced as at one point) which feels expansive and living, not confined as it, in reality, is by the needed mechanics of the game. This place feels large and important enough to convey the gravity of the story but is in reality, very very small. The whole chain of islands that the multinational empire resides upon is tiny compared to the vast continent of Pandyssia, though they’re often drawn as comparable in size in maps. I think the creators must have drawn some inspiration from early explorers in the age of the sail. Unexplored continents, strange customs of local peoples, lost civilizations, curious artifacts, mysterious creatures and deadly new diseases. The sense of dread when you find that the place of your birth is so very small.
I think it’s interesting to convey this in stories. Dishonored does it by inconsistent and incomplete reports as well as the disconcerting murmurings of arcane artifacts and practitioners. I love this notion. As a game, Dishonored’s scope is limited and if you don’t take the time to read the various books and written accounts as you play you’ll miss most of the scant information offered on Pandyssia. This is a luxury a more interactive story, like a video game, can afford, novels or visual media might prove more challenging if you apply the Chekhov’s Gun rule of not wasting material that remains unused in narrative. Pandyssia and the many rumors surrounding it lend to the mystery of the game, and weight to the setting.