Or, Who The Hell Is Corvo Attano And Why Can’t I See His Face?
I’ve written a lot about Corvo, both in fic and in meta, but I’ve never fully articulated why I like him or why I write him the way I do. Corvo’s a deeply frustrating character. He’s really hard to get a bead on. He exists in this odd liminal space between a fully blank-slate character like the Dovahkiin and a fleshed-out one like Ezio Auditore or even Commander Shepard. He doesn’t talk, he doesn’t have opinions; he’s passive. We don’t seem to know a lot about him.
The backstory and lore in Dishonored is an iceberg; it’s 90% under the surface, and you have to squint your eyes and use the Heart and dig a while to get to it. We actually know a ton about Corvo. And what we know is incredibly fascinating. I find Corvo so interesting precisely because he goes against all our preconceptions of what the protagonist of an action-heavy first-person videogame is supposed to be. He is kind, devoted, alone, confused, drifting, reticent, obedient, codependent, Type B, and a massive pile of understated pain and fail. His status as an ill-defined pseudo-blank-slate actually makes perfect sense for the story he’s in.
Corvo is an amazing character. He’s just very quiet about it.
Let me explain what we know, and what we can infer. I’m frontloading this essay with a lot of pure, hard evidence. Let’s begin with some broad points, shall we?
(Fair warning: this essay wound up being 4k words long. Grab a comfy chair)