Dishonored was released in North America on October 9th by developer Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. It features some of the best elements from several titles, yet stands apart from the crowd to create a totally different sort of game.
At its heart, Dishonored tries to be a stealth based action game. Not quite a first person shooter, but it is as fast paced as you want it to be. In the story player takes the role of Corvo Attano, Lord Protector of the Empress Jessamine Kaldwin of the City of Dunwall. Dunwall, a city state mostly isolated from the rest of the fictional world, is suffering from a plague reportedly carried by a rat infestation. Corvo is returning from a tour of neighboring nations, when the Empress is murdered, her daughter taken hostage, and Corvo himself framed for the crimes.
The opening scenes deal with discovering that you are the scapegoat for the two main conspirators, taking the fall for the crime, and ultimately will be executed. With the heiress missing, the Spymaster declares himself Lord Regent, and takes control of the city. Corvo finds aid from an unlikely source, and secures an escape, embarking on a crusade to clear his name, return the throne to the proper heir, and put a stop to the machinations of the the conspirators.
The world that Dunwall inhabits is a rather interesting mix of 18th, 19th, and early 20th Century periods. This seemingly jumbled dichotomy of views and technology throws you off at first, until you accept that Dunwall and the world around it are not meant to represent anything on Earth, but rather a fictional world where the basis for the economy and technology is derived from whaling. Whale oil fuels the majority of technological devices, which can be anything from rail cars, to automatic sentry turrets and even energized barriers which will kill you if you touch them. Still, Corvo’s main physical weapons is a sword, complimented by a hand crossbow or a flintlock pistol (capable of shooting explosive rounds, mind you). Add to this mix the supernatural abilities granted Corvo by The Outsider, a mysterious being whose exact motives are unknown.
The Outsider serves as sort of an occasional guide, or conscience. Whether you choose to take the bloody path or the path of righteousness, The Outsider is there to point you to the fork in the road. To me, this helps show the player that there are multiple choices available. Just as little hints in the beginning of the game inform you that there are multiple approaches to a single destination, so does The Outsider’s narrative point out that there are multiple choices available to you to obtain a specific goal. Don’t want to kill the target, but just get them out of the way? Listen to The Outsider, you might just get a hint.
As much as I liked the story from the point of the start of the game, to the particular ending my style of play brought, I wish there was a little more background. A simple cutscene describing the world that Dunwall inhabits might go a long way to explaining the motives of some of the characters, and certainly would explain why a flintlock pistol is able to shoot explosive rounds. The implausible might become slightly more acceptable, if Arkane were to take that extra step. I am aware of several trailers which did provide some of this background, and that could have been an excellent addition in the start of the game as well.
Utilizing the Unreal Engine, Arkane does a decent job on the graphics for Dishonored. I am almost reminded of games such as Borderlands and Rage with the way this one appears. Ultra realism gives way in favor of a comic book style in the manner of a decent graphic novel. However I did notice collision issues throughout the game with many of the NPCs, where a sword would suddenly meld into a hip. I also noticed that certain background terrain features would magically appear, growing spontaneously as the character enters a scene. Minor issues to be sure, but it would be nice if one day a developer actually made an animation to show a hand grabbing an object, rather than seeing the magical levitating bottle. Another issue I noticed was that certain NPC opponents, namely the Tallboys, would get stuck and seem to walk in place as the AI would not recognize that it needed to go around or over a certain terrain feature. While I will say that the style of the graphics works well for this game, there are a few things I thought could be better.
One of the things I enjoyed the most was the cinematic kill sequences. Jumping off a high object to eliminate a Tallboy with a sword, slowing time to take a headshot, or simply plunging a blade in the enemies chest; it’s the little things that keep us smiling, the bits of happiness and good cheer…
A number of well known actors lend their voices to Dishonored, which both helps and hurts the title. While it is cool that you can hear the voices of people you may recognize, I feel that developers could better spend the money required to get these actors to work on the title to bring a little more to the game. Still, the voice acting, music and effects are spot on. There is nothing to disappoint you, and you can really tell that Arkane did a fine job.
As I mentioned earlier, not only are there multiple approaches to specific destinations on the map, but multiple approaches to your style of play. Dishonored rewards players utilizing stealth or non lethal techniques by providing little perks throughout the story, perhaps a special item or some extra money spent on gear. Folks like me, who choose to kill everything that moves, find the game a little more difficult. More death brings more rats and zombie like plague victims. The story too takes on the style of play, with characters reacting to your past events. The ending is dictated by your choices and actions.
One of the many tools available to the player is the supernatural powers granted by The Outsider. Whether you use Blink to teleport behind an enemy for a non lethal takedown, or summon a plague of rats to devour the bodies of the ones you kill, using these powers is a key to overcoming certain points of the game. Both your powers, and your gear are upgradeable during key points, so spend your money others commodities wisely.
Personally, I like the direction that Arkane took here. I am not the stealth minded person, but I like to sneak around in game every now and again, and it certainly made things easier at times. A number of side and optional objectives kept me on my toes, and the choice to assassinate or simply neutralize an objective made for some really difficult choices. Sometimes if you are too slow, the action happens without you, while charging in like a bull will cause you to miss certain key story points.
This is a hard one. Dishonored is a single player game; you can return to earlier missions in order to beat your previous stats, and perhaps you would like to see how a different style of play will affect the outcome, but there is not much gained beyond a sense of personal achievement. A multiplayer or even a co-op element would only take away from everything. Let me make this point though, I liked Dishonored a lot, but I see little point in playing the same missions over again for a slightly better rating or different ending sequence.
Here is the major hit I would give the game, at 60 bucks there is not enough content to justify that high of a price, in my opinion. What is there is great, but when I compare games of a similar release price and genre, the others took me several weeks to finish a single playthrough, and I still came back for a second or third. I finished Dishonored in about four days of play in my spare time, and don’t see much point in doing it all over again. I realize that the direction of prices is going in the exact opposite most of us would like, but I still feel that for sixty dollars, you should receive a little more for your money.
I had a good time with Dishonored, the combat system was great while the different approaches available to a character make the game challenging and immersive. The game is entertaining, but over all I felt that it could use just a little more. Dishonored is on the cusp of being in line for Game of the Year; the developers did really well, but needed to reach just a little further.