In Dishonored, you take the role of Corvo Attano, the former bodyguard to the Empress. When she is killed and her daughter kidnapped, you must find and punish those responsible in order to set things right and clear your name. Corvo moves through the decaying-plague ridden city of Dunwall with a collection of supernatural powers and bizarre gadgets. It’s not a perfect game, but it’s certainly one of the more compelling and interesting titles to be released this year.
Dishonored is a first-person stealth-action game. In one hand you hold a blade, and in the other you hold a gadget or magical power. The powers and gadgets are a huge part of what makes Dishonored such a unique game. The blink ability, which allows you to more or less teleport, deserves special attention as it makes Corvo much more mobile than most characters in first-person games. This is key because the city of Dunwall is very vertical, and each mission has a huge variety of entrances and exits. Blinking makes exploration and stealth much faster and enjoyable than it normally would be. It’s a sign of the game’s quality that this ability doesn’t completely destroy its challenge, and levels are designed to take advantage of this fact. Other powers include the ability to stop time, possess humans and animals, summon a swarm of rats, and more. Your path through a level can change drastically depending on how you use these powers. Unfortunately, the gadgets are a little less creative than the powers, because they are pretty much all combat oriented, though they are still very useful. The crossbow can be used for silent take downs with a variety of darts, the pistol helps you defeat the guards if you raise the alarm, grenades take out groups of enemies, and traps help you lure soldiers to their doom.
Dishonored’s main draw is the multiple paths that you can take through each level, much like Dues Ex. For each mission you will be dropped some distance from your target. You will make your way through the city and eventually reach the target location. How you get there and how you dispose of your target is up to you. It is possible to play Dishonored without killing a single person or raising the alarm, though this is very difficult and requires you to explore each level quite thoroughly. Simply completing a level in Dishonored is pretty easy, because even if you get caught you can almost always fight your way out. Playing this way can still be fun, but the game is at its best when you are hunting undetected in the shadows. The game’s story and levels will change depending on how you play the game. The more people you kill the darker the game will be.
Artistically Dishonored goes for a more unusual style. Its base aesthetic is Victorian England combined with some mild steampunk elements. The steampunk is mostly limited to the technology and some of the enemies, with most of the architecture being fairly realistic depictions of old European styles. It’s not the sort of aesthetic that you normally see in games these days, which is great, but occasionally Dunwall looks a little too much like your standard grey war torn city rather than the unique world that it can be. After all, one sewer looks much like another, regardless of time period.
Many of the character models are highly stylized. Many of the men are bulging with muscles and their arms are a little too long, and most of the women are thin as sticks. It may not be for me, but a lot of effort and detail clearly went into making this world and the quality speaks for itself. The game stumbles somewhat when presenting its world too you. On the Xbox 360 the textures are flat and occasionally blurry, and lighting is pretty boring and not very effective. The game has some pop-in as well, which isn’t surprising as it runs on the Unreal engine, but it’s not too bad. The PC version looks pretty close to the Xbox version is terms of fidelity, but the lighting is much better.
I had a lot of fun playing through Dishonored. The basic mechanics are very satisfying, and I can see why someone would be encouraged to play through this game multiple times, though that isn’t the way that I enjoy games. It’s unfortunate that the game lacks a new-game-plus mode, especially because you spend so much effort in the game finding runes and bone charms to make Corvo more powerful. The campaign is a decent length, it took me about eight to ten hours to complete.
It can take a lot longer if you try for the nonlethal play-through because it is both more difficult and more involved. The game’s story and the world are very intriguing, and the books and audio logs scattered around the world are well written and do a lot to give a sense of place and identity. There a lot of great characters as well, especially the semi-benevolent entity known as the Outsider. He gives you a mechanical heart that you hold in your off hand. Not only does it let you find out where runes and charms are hidden, but it also tells you secrets about locations and characters. It’s some great grim stuff. Sometimes your choices will have effects that don’t really make a whole lot of sense, but for the most part the plot moves well and you feel like you are playing a key role in shaping the world.
Dishonored is a really great video game. I enjoyed the gameplay a lot and the story and world are interesting, if occasionally flawed. It’s certainly one of the more interesting games released this year and everyone should at least consider picking it up.