This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360
Typically, the first thing I look for when I start playing a Bethesda game is how long it takes me to find a game breaking bug. It usually takes me no longer than 10 to 15 minutes to get stuck inside of a wall, or kill some poor soul and watch them flop around violently on the floor, or talk to someone 10 feet underground. For those who enjoy bashing Bethesda for creating games with horrible flaws, Dishonored would be a great disappointment; however, the rest of us will find this dark tale quite enjoyable.
You are Corvo, bodyguard turned assassin, accused of being responsible for the death of Empress Jessamine. After escaping from Dunwall Prison, you and your rescuers hatch a plan to rescue the kidnapped Lady Emily and restore her to the throne by killing the Lord Regent, and anyone else that gets in your path. Your tools of assassination and your ability to use arcane magic pale in comparison to your greatest weapon of all: your thirst for revenge.
Created by developer Arcane Studios, Dishonored takes place in a world similar to that of a Victorian-era England; however, it is far more technologically advanced than our own real world is in some ways. This sci-fi-style world relies on a power source fueled by whale oil to operate machinery ranging from the mundane such as lighting and doors, to fantastic contraptions such as stilt-walkers (towering simplistic mecha, piloted by soldiers that are just as deadly as they sound). Your character, as well as some others, also has the ability to use arcane magics. The clash of technology and magic creates a surreal setting in an otherwise normal looking Victorian-era city that works exceptionally well for the story that’s being told.
Unlike most first-person shooters, Dishonored concentrates on stealth gaming as the preferred method of traversing a level. Granted, you could go in guns blazing, but you’ll find the game to be more difficult if you take the path of violence over that of furtiveness and cunning. Multiple paths exists for you to choose from, each with their own challenges, and most of which require you to have certain paranormal skills unlocked. The most commonly used is Blink, which gives you the ability to teleport short distances. This allows you to get up to high ledges, so you can make your way out of the sight of those on the ground who would do you harm.
Blink is the initial power that you’ll be granted from a mysterious spirit only known as The Outsider. The Outsider in the story takes an interest in your fate and acts as a spirit guide to you. Along with the Blink ability, he also gives you a living heart, which is used to help you locate Runes and Bone Charms hidden throughout the game. The Runes can be used to purchase additional paranormal powers, as well as to boost your stats such as agility and vitality. The Bone Charms are essentially perks that give you active abilities such as Rat Smell, a charm that masks your scent so the plague rats infesting the city will pay no attention to you – unless you get too close of course. Only three Bone Charms can be active at a given time, but there are many that you can collect in the game.
Many of these Bone Charms and Runes will have side quests attached to them, requiring you to interact with some of the NPCs in the game. These side quests can range from the mundane, such as a simple “go fetch” quest, to the more morally questionable quests such as using plague rat viscera to infect a whiskey still (that granny still gives me the heebie jeebies – You’ll see). A good amount of time can be spent collecting all of these little extra goodies and adding quite a bit of longevity to the gameplay. Of course, the carrot on the stick is that you’ll want to go out of your way to collect these Runes and Bone Charms in order to boost your character as much as possible early in the game, so you don’t have many issues towards the end.
While Charms and Runes might help you hone your supernatural skills, your blade, firearm, and crossbow need to be tended to as well. You’ll be able to purchase ammunition, grenades, potions and tools in exchange for gold scattered throughout the game. You can also purchase upgrades for these weapons to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of your weapons. While some of your weapons are designed for the dirty kill, you also have tools available to minimize the death toll such as crossbow bolts laced with a tranquilizer, or the ability to turn anyone that you assassinate from behind into ashes so as not to alert guards or innocent bystanders in the area of your presence. Furthermore, with the game being in a first-person perspective, a cover system would be too unwieldy, so instead Arcane has opted for a system to allow you to peer around corners undetected. Another interesting mechanic is your ability to peer through keyholes in order to get a layout of the immediate area of an adjoining room. This along with powers that you can acquire to see through walls ensures that every tool that you can possibly think of (short of an invisibility cloak) is available to help you stay in the shadows undetected; how effectively you use them, of course, is the key.
The game definitely doesn’t skimp on the macabre. Everywhere you turn; dead bodies fill the streets, many being devoured by packs of plague rats. Some of the most disturbing moments came as I watched from my various perches around town and saw bystanders, minding their own business suddenly attacked by a mass of rats and reduced to nothing but bones and cloth in minutes. Even more disturbing are the moments that you catch where ‘bodies’ are being disposed (usually from high places down to the sewers below) and hearing cries for help coming from the body bags, pleading to be let free and suddenly stopping with a crunch as the bag hits the ground below.
Equally disconcerting is the music, or at times the lack thereof. It’s reminiscent in a manner to the game Limbo, where the music comes and goes at just the right moments to add some extra tension to the mix. A lonely violin playing here and there really brings out the tone of the entire game, at times making you want to look over your shoulder to make sure there’s nothing behind you. Arcane Studios’ mastery of creating these distressing overtones to Dishonored do a very good job of attacking the gamers’ psyche instead of going for the cheap thrills of an overabundance of blood and gore.
The disquieting atmosphere extended into the visuals even more, not only into the dingy, unsanitary conditions seen everywhere that give a sense of living in a darker time for humanity, but in the color palette as well. Colors that you would expect to be vibrant are muted or washed out, making the game’s look and feel grittier. Everywhere you turn you get the indications of an urban city rapidly decaying under a runaway industrialization at the cost of the populous. Arcane has done a commendable job of creating a world that feels very real and very, very dark. Furthermore, I was amazed at how solid the construction of Dunwall is; try as I might, I didn’t run into any clipping issues or graphical glitching that’s been typical of a Bethesda game in the last few years, with only a bit of chop from framerate drop during certain cutscenes.
Arcane Studios not only does a fantastic job of creating a striking world to explore, but in their storytelling as well. It’s a tale full of mystery, intrigue, loss, and revenge that would make for an excellent book. The voice acting is rather superb too, which is no surprise considering the triple-A talent brought into the game to bring it to life. Susan Sarandon does a spectacular job of portraying the ever-so-creepy Granny Rags, while John Slattery persuasively portrays the character of Admiral Havelock, leader of the resistance with whom you are aligned. Other notables include Chloë Grace Moretz (Hit Girl from Kick Ass) portraying Lady Emily, and Brad Dourif (the ever so creepy Wormtongue from LOTR) who assumes the role of Piero, an inventor who supports you with upgrades, weapons, and sometimes rather interesting conversation.
Each act unfolds just a bit more of the big picture as you go along, with many of your decisions affecting the world around you as you progress. Taint the elixir still and more of the population becomes infected with the Rat Plague (subsequently making you have to deal with more deranged attackers, known as Weepers, on the street); destroy a gun tower, and you have to deal with more foot patrols and assassin’s on the rooftops. Ultimately, the decisions that you make will affect the endgame of Dishonored, so choose wisely.
The story does contain some predictable elements and there might be a bit of framerate drop here and there; however, the overall package is exceptionally well put together, creating an engrossing experience for those looking for more than just another FPS. Dishonored combines the sneaking action of Metal Gear Solid and throws it into a world akin to Gotham By Gaslight to achieve a game with a great story and solid gameplay elements that will keep you playing for hours.
Dishonored receives a 4.50/5.0.
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