It seems that in the past year there have been less and less original ideas for games as almost every second title is either a sequel or franchise reboot that no one really wants. As a result, I am always a little excited to try games that at the very least try to walk the path less travelled.
Dishonored is set in a fictional English town, Dunwall, which has become overrun with plague from rats and infected humans. You play as the mysterious Corvo Attano, the Empress’ bodyguard framed for her murder. Your goal is to exact revenge upon those who have framed you for the crime and rescue the Empress’ daughter from captivity.
Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (Reviewed), Windows PC
Genre: Action-Adventure, Stealth
Release: (AU) 11th October 2012, (EU) 12th October 2012, (JP) 11th October 2012, (NA) 9th October 2012
Overall, there are nine separate missions in Dishonored. At the end of each mission you are given a report card detailing things such as the amount of people you killed and collectables found. The game emphasizes and encourages you to approach each mission with the consequences in mind. Each mission is designed to give you freedom and sense of choice because even your main targets can be neutralized without resorting to killing but ultimately the choice is yours. The only guidance provided is an in-game marker which indicates your distance from the objective but not how to reach your goal. I enjoyed the challenge presented from attempting to not kill in missions. The only problem I had is that no matter how hard I tried, it would seem that my missions would ultimately devolve into a bloodbath with no life spared.
The quick save and quick load function are welcome introductions to this game as some of the latter stages provide deadly challenges and having to constantly reload at the beginning of a stage would have been infuriating. I found that I was constantly spamming the save button at almost every corner or empty corridor I would face, an experience which is more preferable to constantly facing the same parts over and over again which is quite prevalent in games that utilize a checkpoint system.
To assist you with attempting to be stealthy, early on in the game you are bestowed a set of supernatural abilities from the mysterious Outsider who brands your left hand with a mysterious symbol that allows you to access these abilities. There are a range of abilities you can learn and it seems that while some are definitely designed for killing and some for stealth, there are those that either play styles can utilize. For example, the basic ability to “Blink” which allows you to teleport up to ledges or across roof tops can be used to sneak through the game or allow you to get up to your target quicker for the kill.
Most impressively, although the game does seem to skew towards emphasizing the stealth aspects, the combat mechanics are also quite solid which makes it ever so tempting to engage in combat. You can experience a wide variety of decapitations, dismembering and stabbings which are all equally disturbing. While the killing experience is exceptional, the trade-off is that the Corvo is not able to withstand huge amounts of punishment which can make some battles with overwhelming numbers impossible, so you really need to pick your fights.
There a variety of ways to kill in Dishonored and not all of them are by your own hands. In Corvo’s right hand, his blade will always be available and in his left, there are a myriad of options to select from. You are able to use a gun, crossbow, disposables (such as grenades or razor traps) or supernatural abilities from his left. Each weapon is distinct and gives you options if you do need to resort to killing.
Shortly after receiving your supernatural abilities from the Outsider, a mysterious being, you also receive a heart shaped device that assists you in locating Runes or Bone Charms. When equipped, the heart will highlight the Runes or Bone Charms to find in each location you come across.
Runes are the currency used to upgrade your supernatural abilities. As mentioned above, there are a variety of abilities to choose that will either be passive or require spiritual essence, the game’s version of mana. The abilities are all upgradeable to level 2 and there is a noticeable difference in effect when you do upgrade.
The bone charms you come across will all provide a unique perk. Corvo is able to carry up to 6 different charms at once. The charms range from food having a greater effect to giving you faster climbing ability. There is a wide range of perks to be gained from the charms but most importantly the additional perks were very minimal and did not ruin the balance of the game. In addition to collecting Runes and Bone Charms, you are able to search for valuable items which are converted to coin. The coins are used to purchase upgrades such as crossbow range, capacity and the amount of ammunition you can carry.
Visually, Dishonored provided a mixed experience. The models were impressive as they are unique enough to give each character a cartoonish vibe while maintaining each character’s humanity. Also, the look and design of the city manages to capture the feeling that Dunwall is a city besieged by plague. However, there were several occasions that I noticed some very ugly textures but this did not detract from my enjoyment of the game as the overall experience compensated for any visual flaws I came across.
As a whole, Dishonored is an extremely impressive game that offers between 10-25 hours of gameplay. Even after finishing the game, I still felt I needed to go back to experience what impact my actions would have if I had chosen not to undertake certain tasks or if I had not killed a certain character. I would recommend Dishonored to anyone who enjoys old school games.
8.5 – Great. An enjoyable experience, fans and newcomers of the genre will be entertained. Any noticeable flaws are largely outweighed by the positives.