Dishonored is one of those games that will entice you, intrigue you, and make you laugh. It offers multiple ways to play the game so you never really feel like you’re getting the same song and dance. Teleporting, stabbing, shooting, climbing, and rat summoning, are just some of the many ways you can choose to reach your objectives. Granted, the game isn’t exactly what I wanted it to be but never the less, Dishonored is one of those games that you’ll invest time into, so much so that you won’t want to put the controller down.
You’ll play through the game as Corvo Attano, personal bodyguard to Dunwall’s Empress Jessamine Kaldwin. The game opens with Corvo returning from a six month trip to neighboring regions to seek aid for the devastating rat plague that has torn Dunwall apart. Upon his arrival, he witnesses and is framed for the Empress’ murder, accused of kidnapping the Empress’ daughter, and heir to the throne, Emily, and thrown in jail to await his execution. Quite honestly it felt like I was playing “The Count of Monte Cristo” because the story almost seemed to match that of the great adventure book written by Alexandre Dumas.
Of course you don’t stay locked in jail long, as you escape the day before your scheduled beheading and soon finds yourself working with an underground resistance to the Lord Regent, who believe that restoring Emily to the throne will bring peace back into the world. Of course this requires the resistance to get their hands dirty, so what better way then to have you do all the dirty work right?
Revenge is an emotion that is easy to play with, easy to present because we see it all the time in movies, in the news and certainly you feel it as Corvo is betrayed in the game multiple times. The great thing about the story is that it’s reasonable; it fits the setting, yet doesn’t stray to far to being unrealistic well aside from certain powers I suppose.
Graphically the game is for what it’s worth quite breath taking. While this isn’t Skyrim, with mist and fog rolling in over the mountains, you do get the feeling of a dark, infested world. A world that has characters who breathe life into the story and help move the plot along, and with many buildings and pathways to explore. It’s clear somebody on the dev team had a real eye for detail.
While the game isn’t an open sandbox such as Fallout or The Elder Scrolls, Bethesda still gives you much to see and do, giving you a first-person action-stealth experience that leaves you wanting more. At first, I felt sword combat was a little difficult and awkward, however once you get timing for blocking and the counter mechanic, the game feels more natural and smooth. Aside from a sword, Corvo has a wide variety of weaponry at his disposal including a pistol that can be upgraded to fire explosive rounds, a crossbow which can fire sleeping darts should you wish to be stealthy, sticky grenades and my personal favorite, the spring razor, a trip mine that whips around razor wire and cuts enemies to pieces. Clearly, if you choose what I call the “death and destruction” path, there are many ways to dispatch your targets. Of course, the more you kill, the darker the game’s outcome becomes, whereas the less you kill, the lighter the games outcome becomes.
The real feature of the game however isn’t in the combat itself but rather the wide variety of powers that Corvo can obtain. For my first play though, I decided to go silent, non violent and stealthy. This was a huge challenge, one that would require many save files but in the end the reward feels justified. While in my second play through, I opted to go the “death and destruction” path using most of the powers you can obtain in the game. A wide variety of powers are at your disposal including, procession, which allows you control a animal such as a fish or rat or even a human for a short period of time. While under the control of a human, you can only do simple tasks such as moving past checkpoints you otherwise wouldn’t be able to or accessing switches. Being able to see through walls so you can better plan your next move helps in the stealth department, you can summon swarms of rats to eat unsuspecting enemies or even stop time to zip past guards. Quite honestly the combinations are endless, all equally satisfying and not only encourages creative thinking but rewards it too.
To help fuel these powers, you’ll be on the hunt for bones and charms, two rewards that help obtain more powers and features. Bone charms grant you passive abilities like getting more health from eating food or white rats, or even giving you greater power with your abilities, where runes allow you to upgrade your special abilities. While it’s possible to unlock all 10 abilities, you won’t be able to upgrade them all to level 2, so you’ll have to decide which of them suits your playstyle. How do you find these items you ask? Well you’ll be given an item; a heart that will beat faster as you get closer to said collectibles. When you use the heart, it will show you the location and distance of bones and charms in your area. Even when you aren’t near a charm or bone, you’ll still get a random heartbeat every now and then to give you an indication of how close you are, which can be a tad annoying, but serves as great motivation to collect them all as fast as you can. Blueprints can also be collected to further advance your weapons that you can give your craftsman Piero in between missions. In shot, there are lots of incentives to explore every nook and cranny you can find in each area.
I really only had a few small issues with the game however, such as using the power Blink which allows you to teleport yourself a short distance. This can be used to your advantage when you need to get someplace higher, attack a target quickly and quietly or move to a location you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to reach. Several times however, it doesn’t seem to extend as far upwards as it does outwards, which can be confusing when you can’t jump to a ledge that doesn’t look more than 15 feet above you but you can jump to a ledge that is easily several times the distance in front of you. It’s a very minor issue, and one that can be easily forgotten but one that certainly does cause some annoyance.
My other issue comes with the AI itself in that it seems to be inconsistent. One minute guards will appear to be aware of what’s been going on with things you’ve done and are more alert, the next they are casually walking around as if nothing has happened when one of their own has been killed. Granted I suppose it would be easy to forget when there isn’t a body to see (assuming you hid the remains of said guard) but you’d think one would take notice if per say, you were talking to a guy one minute and the next he’s gone without so much as a scream. Or how there isn’t any response or action when four guys run straight into an Arc Pylon (disintegration beam/gate) while one guy stands back and watches. Teaming up to take you down however does work well and the AI will throw a variety of strategies at you to keep you on your toes. They will use everything from guns, swords, dodging to even throwing items at you such as bricks, rocks and grenades to keep you guessing.
Dishonored certainly delivers as a great action-stealth game, incorporating many elements you will have seen from other titles such as Bioshock, Thief, Deus Ex, and even Assassin’s Creed. It should come as no surprise considering the talent over at Arkane Studios have worked on many of aforementioned titles. Despite minor flaws that can be easily overlooked, the element of creativity is there; a promise made by its creators. A game in which truly offers you multiple ways to play depending on your play style is rewarding. So if you feel like partaking in a story full of action, torture, adventure, revenge, stealth elements and getting lost in a hypnotic world with engaging elements, then play this game immediately.
Editor’s Note: Dishonored was reviewed using an Xbox 360 copy of the game; however, we also played the PS3 version, and found no differences. If further investigation reveals any differences between the 360 edition and the PS3 edition of the game, this review will be updated to reflect those differences.