Dishonored is a first-person stealth action adventure game, which really encourages you to make the use of your environment and arsenal of weaponry to achieve RPG-style objectives. The first thing that catches my eye — so to speak — is the attention to detail. The story is that you are Corvo, an assassin/bodyguard who is framed for the murder of the queen and the kidnapping of the princess.
Assisting you are a group of loyalists who task you with using your skill set to benefit their cause, and bring the princess back into power. All this is set in a city where an outbreak of the plague has left a majority of the city dead, while the rest of the population lives under strict military command. Now obviously, the plague is spread by rats, so what do the designers do? Create swarms of rats. Everywhere. In fact, there are so many rats in the game, that there is an option in the graphics menu called “rat shadows” which can be toggled on/off.
In addition to this, many areas feature alleys full of dumped corpses and discarded family members, really setting the scene. This isn’t enough for Bethesda, however. They go the extra mile by creating a whole bunch of coughing, spluttering, sneezing, and general sick animations that afflict many characters. Still not satisfied? Good. In many missions, there are also small scenarios where, for example, a guard may have been hiding symptoms of the plague from his comrades, who then confront and kill him.
Hearing a guard with a cough plea for his life is quite gripping. I went so far as to kill his murderers for him in a noble act of vengeance. The voice acting in this game is pretty phenomenal, and features the likes of Carrie Fisher (Leia, from Star Wars) and Brad Dourif (of Chucky fame). It really is satisfying and refreshing to hear animations who are supposed to be people, actually sounding like people. One thing that may bug some players though is the fact that the protagonist is silent.
Personally, I think this is a good thing, as I have seen many a game ruined by a protagonist with a terrible voice acting or a dodgy script, which can make the game unplayable (Chaos Wars, anyone?).
Dishonored aims at giving you choice. You choose your method of completing missions, you choose how many baddies to kill (if any), and you choose how to kill those baddies. Fans of the Hitman series will appreciate this game because of these factors. Be warned though; this is a stealth game. In my experience, it is nigh on impossible to brute force your way through a game, killing everyone. You can however kill everyone if you pick them off one by one, using the environment and stealth to your advantage. A little subtlety is always necessary, and makes the game much more fun.
What makes Dishonored even more fun, is the addition of abilities. On top of selecting weapons sch as crossbow and pistol in your offhand, you can select and upgrade a range of magicky powers, from teleporting short distances, to seeing through walls, to possessing animals. In order to unlock these powers, you have to collect runes, which are found all over the place. You are conveniently given a heart, which, when equipped, shows if a rune is nearby.
What pains me about this is that despite having this heart, you are still notified (at least in normal mode) if a rune is in the area, and told to equip your heart. To me, this is just spoon feeding, and this is not the only occurrence of this sin in Dishonored. Sometime during the development of Dishonored, a couple of guys sat down and thought, there’s a fair bit of story at the start of the player’s game, how can we let them know that, politically, things are a little uneasy? I know! Lets have a guy saying “We’re living in uneasy times!”.
Unfortunately, this is exactly how Dishonored opens. Sure, it gets the job done, but after the superb attention to detail in the art and sound, it seems lacking. Further shoving the spoon down your throat, is the poor implementation of the mission notes. Say for example you find a piece of paper with an official looking wax seal on it. You press “f” to read it.
It gives a handy clue for your mission. In a turn of events that is eerily reminiscent of MS Word’s old helpful paperclip, a notification saying that you have a new mission clue will beg you to read it (again). What also annoyed me was the travelling between large rooms. If I’m spending half an hour sneaking around to get to the next massive area, I’m pretty sure if I approach the door to it and hit “f”, I don’t want to be presented with the choice to then stay in the room I’m already in.
For all this though, the gameplay has a fluidity and realistic feel that Assassins Creed would envy. After completing a mission, you are presented which a page of statistics on enemies killed, optional missions completed, collectibles found, and the like.
This adds huge replay value to Dishonored, for all those hardcore players who want to finish the game in “Ghost mode”, and not kill anyone. Dishonored impressed me most when, after being notified of a nearby rune and discovering it in a wealthy man’s house safe, after you get past the man by killing or sneaking, the safe is locked with a combination code. From here, you can see a piece of paper that says “the secret is in the paintings”.
If you walk around the house, you discover three paintings that have hidden numbers in them, the combination of which will unlock the safe and get you your precious rune. This sort of thing is the make and break of games, and turned me around after previously being frustrated with some aspects of Dishonored.
Dishonored is a game that I would recommend to anyone who had the slightest interest in stealth games, with brilliant art and sound, great gameplay and a whole lot of suspenseful fun once you get over the spoon feeding. Dishonored is available on PC, Xbox360, and PS3.