Sometimes a game comes along that you weren’t expecting, but after seeing and hearing about it more and more you become interested; you become intrigued as to what kind of new experiences this game can offer. For me, that game was Dishonored as after researching and looking into the title I became infatuated. So does Dishonored live up to the hype that it created for itself or is this title best left to be rat food?
Dishonored places you into the shoes of Corvo Attano – guardian of the Empress within the city of Dunwall. Having been framed for the assassination of the Empress, Corvo must escape captivity and prove his innocence all while when trying to help rebuild the once prosperous city. During the course of the game you meet all kinds of characters you can interact with and even kill if you choose to. You’ll meet the mystical being known as ‘The Outsider’ who grants Corvo mystical powers activated by ‘Runes’. Those same stones are used to upgrade abilities split into two distinct categories ‘powers’ and ‘enhancements’.
Powers can include the ability to see through walls and gain vision over the enemy’s line of sight, the ability to teleport short distances and even control a swarm of flesh eating rats to name a few. Enhancements on the other hand are passive skills constantly in effect; abilities such as increased health, increased jump height and the ability to reduce enemies to ash once slain. The active powers, along with weapons and gadgets, can be mapped to the d-pad for easy access. Back at the resistance’s home base of ‘The Hound Pitts’, you can interact with Piero at his workshop to have him craft new tools of death and upgrade your already blood-stained weaponry – if you already started to walk that dark road. Certain items can only be made once you find the blueprints for them however.
Dishonored is broken down into ‘missions’, which take you to various areas in the city of Dunwall. You always start out in the resistance’s base – The Hound Pitts – and are able to interact with the various characters, all meaningful & essential to the story. One of the great aspects is the story is that it’s so unsuspectingly engaging; you learn to care and interact with every character during each return to the base. None of them are simple NPC characters that are put there to take up space, they all feel meaningful and belonging in the world. Some will give you optional objectives and others will engage you in conversation and speak of your heroics to others. All of the voice actors also do an amazing job as the game also has an all-star cast to back it up. The city itself is full of character too as Dunwall is modeled after 1800s London and is brimming with life every mission. People, rats, and even insects habitat the environments of every mission plundering for food in the once prosperous city.
The gameplay to Dishonored is one of choice and from the beginning you’re spoiled. Your primary goal in many missions are to eliminate a target, then as you interact with more people around your base or at the mission area itself you will find optional objects to complete. In many ways Dishonored is like Deus Ex – and that is a very good thing. You’re given the hard choice to play out: the story as an act of revenge played out as a silent assassin who is never seen, one who is pure of heart; or it’s an act of revenge played out as a vengeful bodyguard on a mission for blood. This is determined by a silent tally dubbed Chaos. If at the end of your mission you exceed a high number of enemies or civilians slain you are garnered with the high chaos rank. Sadly, it does not take much to get this, and in the end it determines one of the few endings you will get as well as how allies and enemies will see you.
Another great aspect of the Chaos is that it also controls how the rest of the game is realised in the world. A high Chaos garners a world ridden with Weepers (people infected with the plague) and rats are more common. Fans of games like Splinter Cell or the Hitman franchise will enjoy this element as it encourages stealthy playthrough but does not punish the player for going it how they wish. The beautifully crafted AI (in some aspects, as it is not perfect) can realistically see your player if they are close to you, even if you hide in the shadows, and if you’re in their peripheral vision. When the AI is in the ‘alert’ stage they’ll search the surrounding area and even wander away from their original post to find you – as well as notice things like guards not at their post and so forth.
Exploration is something you will do as the environments of every mission are broken into segments and each segment has a lot to offer with different ways to travel within them. The ‘Blink’ ability which allows you to teleport short distances also helps you climb on rooftops or reach air ducts or even fire escapes hanging off a building. Exploring the area will net you various goods and items as well as discovering optional missions or even backstory by collecting notes, reading books, or listening to audiographs. Collecting Runes and bone charms can be helpful to your character as bone charms give certain bonuses to Corvo, however only a set amount can be equipped at a time. Runes and bone charms are easily found when used in conjunction with the heart that The Outsider grants you, it allows you to see where they are on the map when equipped. Weapons come in many varieties such as cross bows, a gun, spike trap, grenade, explosive tipped arrows and even sedative arrows. Most of the time players will find themselves relying on their trusty assassin’s knife which has a few awesome kill animations depending on how you take on your enemy be it from behind, slowly, quickly or even from above with a dive kill.
The point I am trying to get across in this review is that Dishonored is a game of choice. It allows you to go about the story of Corvo Attano any way you so wish to, complete with the ability to steer the twists and turns however you see fit. As you play you develop a caring relationship with those you have met and a hatred for those who have shamed you. One prime example of this choice lies in one of my favorite missions – one that takes place in the latter half of the game at a masquerade ball. You’re given the mission to uncover the target by asking party guests, sneaking around or, even playing the old guessing game. The choice is yours; and, if you are so inclined, you can even kill everyone attending the party.
Dishonored offers a unique experience unlike anything out on shelves currently. It succeeds with flying colors as a game that draws the player in. Corvo Attano becomes you and suddenly the living, breathing, creature-filled world around you comes under your wing. Arkane Studios have crafted a wonderful world which is both beautiful to look at and brimming with life around every corner. The unqiue ‘Chaos’ element just adds to replay value to a game that was meant to be enjoyed in multiple playthroughs. Many initial playthrough will be done in around ten or more hours depending on how you decided to play and if you completed optional objectives. The hope of downloadable content looms as this game looks to only get better as you replay it.
Dishonored stands out as a game I not only didn’t want to end, but in the back of my mind found myself planning my second playthrough as I had yet to complete my first. This is the kind of unique gameplay that Dishonored encourages with open arms, and for that, I respect and admire its creators. It may not win any Game Of The Year awards as it releases within good company of many titles releasing this fall but it certainly deserves credit for what it has accomplished and for the chances the gameplay takes. Dishonored should be on everyone’s short list this holiday no matter the platform of choice.
Audio/Visual – 5/5: Unique environments populate the amazing atmosphere and it’s all encapsulated with great voice acting from an all-star cast. Graphically sound with an art style of its own.
Gameplay – 5/5: You can play multiple times and still manage to find things you may not have noticed in a previous playthrough. Paths, items, new environment or even a new way to get to your target are all things players can stumble across accidentally which keeps the gameplay fresh.
Innovation – 5/5: Stealth has been taken to a new level within Dishonored, with multiple routes and ways to dispatch of the target. The overall bearing it has over the story and the world is amazing.
Value -4/5: Encouraging replay and, with the various endings and outcomes to the world around you, many will return to Dunwall. However, the lack of any other additional modes is a small hinder on the overall purchase for those expecting more than a single-player affair.
Final Score: 5/5