Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
The single aspect of Dishonored that Arkane Studios loved to emphasize most prior to release was the extreme amount of variation that the game had to offer. Indeed, this is probably the best part of the game, giving the game a great deal of replay value as well as allowing the player to explore as many different and creative options to achieve objectives as possible.
Dishonored begins by taking the player through a prologue of sorts, wherein he or she gets to experience the assassination of the Empress and the subsequent framing of Corvo – all through Corvo’s own eyes. The next thing the player does is escape from prison. From there, players will be taken to the Hound Pits Pub, the headquarters of the Loyalists and the base of operations. As the game progresses, the player will then go back to the city on different missions.
While the Hound Pits Pub area is a safe haven and a place to rest and restock, the city is full of dangers and has very few places where you will feel safe. Whether you barrel through the city, dealing death left and right, sneak around and explore every nook and cranny, or just run along the rooftops to each new place is entirely up to you. But whatever style you choose to play with, each new street, courtyard, and alley will present a fresh challenge with treasures and obstacles hidden everywhere. That’s the magic of Dishonored, and it keeps you coming back for more.
If you choose to be in-your-face violent, you have a variety of weapons to choose from: crossbow, pistol, sword, grenades, spring traps, and more. Although most of these have a limited availability, you will always have your trusty sword. There are also some powers that you could use, including one ability that creates a meter for you to fill and then allows you to unleash devastating melee attacks.
On the other side, if you would prefer the sneaky route, there are many powers that allow you to sneak around undetected, including one that you automatically get near the start of the game: blink. Blink is useful for crossing great distances without have to move through them yourself. It’s also useful for making quick escapes and for darting from cover to cover. In addition to abilities, you can throw objects to distract guards, or drop them with sleeping darts from your crossbow. Or, you can always just sneak up behind them and choke them into unconsciousness.
Just like guns and crossbows, however, powers are limited in their use. Each power costs mana, something that doesn’t exactly grow on trees in the world of Dishonored. I really like the way that mana works in the game. If you use abilities quickly in succession, it will drain your mana a lot faster, preventing you from spamming abilities and making over-powered combos all the time. Though your mana regenerates at a decent rate, it will only refill to a certain point and that point lowers as you use more powers until you’re forced to use a mana potion. Mana potions aren’t too rare, but they’re scarce enough that you can’t just use them willy-nilly. In this way, players are forced to think about the cost of the powers when planning their next moves.
Now, there has been an increasing trend over the past few years toward games with multiple endings that play out as a response to what a player did in the game; the consequences, if you will. In Dishonored, this concept is taken one step further. As you play the game, the consequences of your actions begin to unfold as you progress through the game. You can do whatever you want, it’s true, but if you choose a more destructive path, the world around you will reflect that. Along the same theme, another aspect of this game that I really liked was the fact that if you made a mistake at all, you could easily end up dead. While this might sound like it would be frustrating, I think the sheer number of options you have in doing everything in this game prevent it from being so. Instead, you simply feel chastised – “Yeah, I messed up…” – and then move on.
Aside from the engaging gameplay, the world of Dishonored is rich and full of detail. There are letters and books scattered about, which you can read to gain more information about the game world. But even if you ignore all of that, the world is still very well-defined. The Overseers comprise the religious faction of the world, imposing their will on the general public. They are also in direct opposition to the Outsider and his followers, who wield mystical powers, which the Overseers condemn as witchcraft. And on top of all of that there’s the rat plague, which has been killing hundreds of citizens and turning some into zombie-like creatures called weepers. Regarding the plague, there are conspiracy theories, corrupt government officials that use the plague as an excuse to eliminate unwanted people, rival cures/medicines, and an overlying element of fear to the world.
Yet, despite all of the detail of the game world itself, the plot isn’t the greatest. The story isn’t what kept me playing Dishonored – the gameplay did. While the story isn’t bad, it is a tad simplistic and somewhat contrived; as though it exists only to enable the gameplay (which I didn’t mind, because the gameplay is fun).
While Dishonored isn’t the most realistic-looking game graphics-wise (especially when it comes to the characters), it has an undeniable visual style to it. The steampunk Victorian-esque setting, combined with the exaggerated character design lends to a gritty, dark atmosphere for the game. The visuals are also combined with good sound effects and music that provide a steady amount of tension to the gameplay, which keeps the player on edge. I hated the sound that preceded official government announcements, as every time I heard it, it made me think I had set off an alarm.
One of my few complaints about the game is that you don’t have a map. Now, you have arrows that you can see through buildings, etc., that show how far away you are from objectives, but you’re on your own as to how to get there. While this makes for a more challenging (and perhaps realistic) experience, it’s also extremely frustrating when you get lost and start going around in circles. Furthermore, sometimes the distance expressed is only the distance to the next area, and not how far you actually are from your goal, which can also be annoying when you think you’ve finally made it to your destination only to see the distance reset to another 100 meters.
All in all, Dishonored is a fantastic, engrossing game that provides hours of fun and plenty of variety. I would recommend it to most people, but I must admit that its mature themes and violent nature would render it unplayable to some.