Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Arkane Studios
Release Date: 10/9/2012
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The stealth action genre has been in a real slump lately since the last Splinter Cell and everyone is waiting on Thief 4 and Hitman: Absolution. Dishonored displays a wonderful story, convincing world, and excellent level design, but the most important thing is the superb stealth mechanics this game gives us. You play Corvo who is a protector of the royal empress. There is an assassination plot and of course, you are framed. You join an underground loyalist group to bring the empress’s daughter back to power. In the meantime, you are assassinating higher-ups so Havelock can gain power and restore order, but there is a huge plot twist halfway through that will throw you for a loop. These kinds of twists are what I miss in games, and Dishonored not only does this but incorporates random ideas that just make sense. There’s a rat plague that everyone is being locked down from, these rats can actually attack you. Whale oil is used to power machines, sorcery gets involved, and guns. Man, this game is just so freaking entertaining. Well worth the $60 purchase.
Let’s talk about this (I consider) revolutionary stealth system. The game does something that I have been waiting for since I first played Metal Gear Solid, Arkane Studios worked around the infamous movement issue that all stealth games suffer from. Let me indulge you here. When you learn an enemy pattern and you sneak up behind them usually turn around and you are spotted. Dishonored not only allows quick saves, but you can use your magic skills to counter-attack the stealth genre quirks that frustrate so many fans. I used my ability to see through walls, leaning, and blinking so much that it just made the game not easier, but smoother, more intuitive, and I felt completely in control. That is the beauty of Dishonored. Want to go up on that rock that most games have invisible barriers on? Want to use that rock to go up and over the spiked fence that most games wouldn’t let you do? How about going into that vent using those pipes and that awning? Go ahead. Dishonored lets you by using Blink (teleporting a certain distance) and being able to see through walls made me feel like I was the predator and completely in control.
You are probably thinking to teleport and seeing through walls is cheating right? Not at all. The way the level design is done (which is genius by the way) allows you to take advantage of these naturally laid out areas. There are so many ways to approach an objective. You can go completely non-lethal with sleep darts and choking enemies unconscious. You can carry their bodies and still use your crossbow as well as powers which most stealth games make you completely vulnerable when moving bodies. Or you can use your sword and pistol and just fight your way through but isn’t as rewarding. Along the way, you can pick up runes to upgrade abilities and bone charms which are perks. You are also a thief so you need to steal items and money to afford these upgrades or you will have a very hard time.
This is how the natural feeling of the world comes in. While you’re advancing toward your target you can steal things for money, eat food for health, and find mana potions for magic. You can even deviate sometimes for a few side quests which can be really fun. Unlike most stealth games I never felt lost or frustrated because you always see your objective marker so the game doesn’t even need a map. That is purely genius-level design.
At the end of the day, this is all there is to the game, but the story missions are varied enough that you will never feel bored, but I feel is one of the weaker points of the game. Sure you can say the game is repetitive because you run across the same enemies over and over and the occasional plague victim and a group of rats or spitting plants. The plague victims and rats that appear reflect on how you play. Kill people all the time and you make the game harder on yourself. At the end of each level, you will see a score sheet that tells you if you were spotted and how chaotic you were. The game is so much fun and immerses you like no other recent stealth game can.
On top of all this, the art style is phenomenal and beautiful, but it is the attention to detail that draws you in. This steampunk art style looks fantastic, and even the voice acting is top-notch and well delivered. My only complaint here is that the graphics, technically, are a little dated. The game was designed for consoles so Unreal Engine 3 is naturally used. The PC version looks a tad better with some better lighting effects, better FOV, and anti-aliasing, but in the end, I would have liked to see some DirectX 11 effects here because this game would look amazing with it.
In the end, Dishonored is something fresh, new, and exciting that fans of the genre have been waiting for. The storytelling is similar to Half-Life with exciting stealth and thievery that reminded me of the Thief series. Dishonored is definitely a game of the year material and is something that will keep you busy for a weekend or two. I just wish the game was longer and had a little more mission diversity, but other than that there’s not much else to complain about.