Review: Dishonored will feed your hunger for revenge, and satisfy it
Life is good for you in the city of Dunwall. You’re the personal bodyguard of the empress, she and her daughter are both very fond of you, you’re well respected in the empire, and overall you’re pretty damn good at what you do. With a title like “Dishonored,” you can easily guess that you'll be stripped of all these things very early on. As Corvo Attano, you seek revenge against all those who wronged you and stop all the conspiracies rising in Dunwall.
As far as that plot goes, it sounds pretty generic at first. With the aid of some loyalists and magic powers given to you by the ‘Outsider,’ this game becomes everything but generic. Sure it’s a first person stealth game, but with a steam punk, 1850’s London-esque city setting, infested with plague, caught in trying times… you have yourself one memorable environment. The combination of tech that seems too advanced for the time period mixed with magic is am absolute win for me.
Dishonored works off the model of ‘playing the way you want to play.’ What this means is that there is never just one way to do anything. If you want to kill every guard, civilian, and animal on a map – go for it. If you’d rather sneak past or knock out guards, that’s possible. If you want to set up elaborate traps and use magic to kill or escape, that’s allowed. If you want to wait for someone to shoot at you, stop time, possess the person, walk him in front of the shot bullet, resume the flow of time again so he commits suicide – that’s a thing as well.
There will never be a point in the game where you can’t continue because you unlocked the “wrong” ability. There is even an achievement / trophy for never unlocking any power except Blink which you’re forced to learn. The more powers you have just mean more options for getting where you need to go. To get in a building you could jump and blink to a high window, possess a rat and take a tunnel, fight your way through the front door, or find a sewer entrance. The amount of possibilities is quite staggering.
There are a set number of Bone Charms and Runes in every level that show up when you equip the ‘Heart of a Living Thing.’ Each power costs a varying amount of Runes and each power has two levels. Bone Charms can be switched out at any time and give you slight boosts to abilities and stats. At the start of the game you can wear three at a time.
Despite popular belief, the game is not open world. Each mission takes place in a set area separated by instanced loading screens; so one mission could be in four different areas that you’ll have to load into. With that said, these areas are huge and still offer a large array of options. Between most missions there is a safe place you go that you can talk to NPC’s, buy and upgrade your gear.
I also felt that there was a good amount of variety in all the missions. Each mission wasn’t just a 'go here, sneak in, kill this guy, and leave' affair. My favorite mission involved visiting masquerade party, finding out who your target was, find what outfit she is disguised in, and then take her out. It's the attention to detail like the option of signing the guest book which not only adds to the immersion, but makes you feel like a total bad ass. There is always a nonlethal way to take out your main target. If you choose, you can play the entire game without killing a single person, which I found to be a pretty unique design choice to an assassin game.
One of the more interesting aspects of the game is the Chaos System. Every action taken during missions affects this Chaos System. You’ll never see a meter telling you where you fall in chaos except at the end of every mission where it will say that your chaos is either high or low. Generally, the more nonlethal you are the less chaos you’ll have and vice versa for playing lethally. Chaos determines how NPCs perceive you. A high chaos will mean more guards, more security systems, more weepers (plagued zombie like civilians), more rats (hordes of animalistic killing machines), and the final outcome of the game. Playing more stealthy however rewards the player by making the levels slightly easier, since it is more difficult to be nonlethal than to murder every living thing you come across.
Something that I feel needs to be mentioned is the great voice acting. Carrie Fisher, Susan Sarandon, and Chloe Grace Moretz to name a few did an amazing job. You know the story is written extremely well, when I found myself glued to my controller. I couldn’t even go to sleep without finishing the current mission I was on, because I needed to know what happens. I honestly expected a dry uninteresting plot and I was delightfully wrong. Dishonored does an excellent job in really making you feel like you’ve lost everything and continuously kicks you when you’re down. I found myself wanting revenge.
There were a few design choices that the developers went with, which somewhat decreased the amount of immersion the game had to offer. The first thing is guards not reacting to opening or closing of doors. If a guard hears or sees a door open, it does not alarm them in the least. If I was guarding an important figure and knew an assassin was coming, saw a door open in front of me and no one was there, I’d become very concerned. The same goes for deactivating security systems. If you shut down equipment, the guards don’t react at all and don't even attempt to get it back online. When a watch tower stops rotating or the light wall stopped sparking, I’d suspect foul play.
Hands down most frustrating thing is when you sneak behind a guard, try to perform a nonlethal take down, see the icon saying you can do so, but instead just block until the guy you’re trying to take out sees you. This is actually a huge deal when trying to play the game completely stealthy, especially when working towards the 'Ghost' achievement / trophy. This issue happens more than it should and is extremely frustrating when take downs have to be timed very precisely. Needless to say, I had to reload my game more than I wanted to due to this issue.
I was hyped for Dishonored. While my initial reaction to the game was iffy, and didn't completely suck me in, it was about midway in the third mission that I became enthralled. I think it was a combination of acquiring a bigger variety in abilities and the plot getting more exciting. At that point I was hooked though. Now that I’ve finished the game I can honestly say there is a good amount of replayability. The game isn't short by any means and should take around 20-25 hours to beat your first time around if you are taking the nonlethal approach. Definitely pick this up if you’re a fan of all things steam punk, stealth, or assassin.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]