Dishonored is that gaming experience everyone wants; that game that comes out of nowhere and takes our breath away. Every year, gamers are treated to a game that is somewhat under the radar, but shows huge promise. More often than not though, we [the gamers] receive productions that don’t quite reach those lofty heights we so desire. However, I can say that with Dishonored, the community is finally treated to this year’s great sleeper game, and quite simply: it is most excellent my friends.
For those who have not kept up with Dishonored, it is a game about pure revenge. You are Corvo, the Empress’ bodyguard. You have just returned from a mission to seek out information on a plague that is corrupting the city of Dunwall. Upon return, you report your findings to her majesty when (in typical game fashion) all hell breaks loose. The Empress is dead, and the murder is pinned on you. You are jailed for six months when opportunity to escape finally presents itself. But your Empress is dead and the city is driving itself into the ground. The question then becomes: “What are you going to do about it?”
Choice is crucial in this game. While you are extracting your revenge, you are given options to as how you want to go about getting said revenge. However, do not misinterpret the choices you make as actual “prompted” choices, like those in the Mass Effect series or Dragon Age, because this game is about your actions, and only you can decide those. And as stated before, you are deciding the actions of one’s said revenge driven individual: Corvo.
Let me just put this out there right now:
Corvo Asano is a bona fide badass.
Get those words to sink into your head because he may very well be the best new character to jump into the gaming universe in quite some time. He joins a long line of silent protagonists that have defined some the best games; I am talking about Link, Chrono, and of course, Gordon Freeman. The beauty of silent protagonists is their ability to suck you into the world they inhabit, and when done properly, allow you to live vicariously through those individuals’ experiences. Like many S.P.s, Corvo is going to experience some strange and awful things throughout the duration of the game, and through the choices you make, it will shape you and Corvo together into a peace-driven guardian of the city, or a revenge-driven monster bent on killing everyone who did you wrong. Deciding one or the other will ultimately decide the outcome of the game.
As I stated before you live vicariously through the actions of Corvo and in this game, you control all of Corvo’s actions. For instance, through the entirety of my first playthrough I killed fewer than twenty people and never killed my final assassination targets. I am a fan of stealth games that allow me to do everything without killing a single soul, unless the situation is so dire that I must. However, that is my style of play, and its only one of many! If you so desire to kill everyone in said path, it would be difficult, but definitely doable.
So the next question would be, how would you kill them? I opted to be a pacifist, however I did have second go at some of the earlier missions. While my normal choice would be to disarm the alarms scattered around the vicinity, I decided to rewire Wall of Lights (you also just deactivate them) and agro enemies on the other side so that they would walk through. Needless to say, the outcome was hilarious. But not everyone will jump through; some will take notice of the obvious deathtrap. The AI does a great job of adjusting according to the situation in many instances similar to this.
In addition to the many tools of an assassin, Corvo is granted serval supernatural powers to use throughout the game. For example, “Blink” will allow you to instantly slip past enemies or cross great distances both high and low. There are several to be used, all catering to the play style of your choosing. When paired with the tools of the trade, the number of choices for tackling a mission grows immensely. It makes every playthrough unique and fun, and a sparse few games can make that claim.
The sense of choice does not stop there. While Corvo may be the best primary silent protagonist, there is a second. The city of Dunwall is a character to behold in it and of itself. While gorgeous thanks to the wonderful oil painting art style, it is its brilliant level design that stands out above everything else. The choice that Dunwall presents is staggering; I could go through the roof tops, the sewers, go from house to house, use ventilation ducts, or even the streets if you’re careful! I have never played in a city that actually made sense design wise quite like this. In addition, the city itself give you back story to world of Dishonored that simply no other character can. Clearly, the designers took great strides to makes this city one of its most important characters alongside Corvo. The duo stands up there toe to toe with Jack and the world of Rapture, or Gordon Freeman and City 17.
The voice acting that does occur in the game is praise worthy, including two new faces (yet notable) in the video game voice over industry: Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking) and Carrie Fisher (Star Wars). All the characters give convincing performances and play their part in the story well. This sound editing is fantastic across the board, but the game is at its best when things are quite; true stealth is a rarity these days and where other miss the mark, Dishonored soars.
Something that really stands out throughout the game as well is the art. Oil painting art styles may not sound appealing on paper, but the outcome is something truly unique; I would be hard pressed to find a game that compares equally in term of art direction. It was bold, and it may turn people away from appreciating the character designs, but as a whole, it is quite impressive. I wish more game would approach different art styles more often because Dishonored really shines in this category.
I have praised many facets of the games game play and even the atmosphere; however Dishonored is not without its gripes. The story is potentially short depending on how much time you decide to put into it. If you don’t care about the back story or studying its obvious themes, you may find yourself beating it roughly six hours. That doesn’t fit with most people’s idea of $60 worthy, and that is fine, but if you a willing to play level multiple times to get a greater sense of the city of Dunwall, the reward is great and the knowledge is satisfying to say the least. The missions themselves can be lengthy if you try and completely every objective, but this game prides itself on choice; said objective will only make your end goal more within your grasp, it is by no means necessary. My other small complaint is that I didn’t always want my sword out when I was casting my powers, I would have much rather have had two spells equipped, but it’s understandable why that is if really explore into the black magic that corrupts your left hand.
I enjoyed Dishonored immensely; much more than I thought I would. It is a testament to those that believe true single player experiences are dead by combining some of the best ideas from the some of the best games out there today. It would be near impossible to not recommend this. This is a game that everyone should play, not once, not twice, but as many times as there are ways of tackling a mission. Whether it’s to find more about the city of Dunwall or for the sheer enjoyment that comes from repeating story missions, this is a game that will be remembered as an instant classic that few people can really say there were looking forwards to.
Jaime is a aspiring video gaming editor, and he trains to become one by writing long reviews. He plans to review Zero Escape, AC3: Liberation in the following weeks so follow him on Twitter @RTBL1990 stay tuned @AnalogAddiction.