You will hear many comparisons made about Dishonored’s influences and play style. Assassin’s Creed meets Bioshock, if Tim Burton did Thief, a Steampunk Deus Ex. It is of course all of these and more.
Set in the fictional whaling city of Dunwall and based on London and Edinburgh in the 1800s, you play Corvo, a disgraced bodyguard framed for the murder of his Empress. Martial law and plague hamper your journey as you seek revenge for the false accusations made against you and to free your city from the tyrannical rule of those that sized power.
Rather than a truly open world, Arkane Studios have created a series of smaller, linked open missions that allow you freedom to complete, but control the flow of the story. Each mission, as any good story should, has a beginning, middle and an end. The beginnings and the ends are your linier links to each open level.
How you complete each mission is up entirely to you. It is a fairly simple procedure to blast through the game head on, on normal, powers and weapons blazing and you could finish it in a day, but a quick look at the achievements encourages a different story. Top achievements are earned if you complete the game, without being spotted, without killing anyone and without using powers. Played that way, it offers a considerable challenge and will take a substantial amount of time on your first play through.
A revenge assassination game might be confusing if there’s encouragement not to kill anyone, but there are non-lethal options to every mission and most guards can be choked into unconsciousness or knocked out with a sleep dart from your crossbow. The hard part is getting into a position to achieve either of these without being seen.
If you choose to go head on through the levels with a mix of stealth and offence, your options are again many. Corvo’s pistol, crossbow and sword can be upgraded along with the supernatural powers available to him, which can all be upgraded once after first purchasing them. There is not an upgrade system the likes seen in most action roleplaying games, but that’s not the idea here, perfecting and mixing are encouraged, not looking for the next weapon power upgrade.
There is something very satisfying about blasting through a level having spent many hours avoiding the guards and this is where Dishonored lets us down. After completing a mission, it is available to play again from the main menu, but only from the point in the game when you started that mission. If you missed a charm or a side-quest, a restart of the entire game is required. In a game such as Dishonored, multiple play throughs to see and achieve everything are essential and a better system of managing this would have helped. It doesn’t mar the enjoyment or the overall quality of the game, but it is certainly a mark against it.
Something must be said about graphical style of Dishonored, the city is beautiful, in a miserable and disturbing way, and many times I found myself on rooftops simply looking out of the city. My style of play meant that inside buildings or in the streets I had very little time to marvel at the scenery, but even unconsciously as you’re rushing through a building before a guard returns, you can take in the level of detail that has gone in to Dishonored.
There is a minor issue of a fiddly system of interacting with surroundings, which can be frustrating when trying to remain unseen as you move around waiting for the right prompt to appear to blink up a level or close a bin. I did notice on the few occasions I was spotted that the guards give up the merry chase without much persuading and their means of dealing with you is to surround you with as many guards that are within ear shot, but when your aim is to kill or avoid them, you rarely notice this.
There’s no multiplayer or stats comparing system to speak of, but that is not what Dishonored is about. Dishonored is about you, immersing yourself in the city of Dunwall, taking your time across each carefully constructed mission and finding the ending that suits your play style.
Dishonored is a beautifully constructed, highly enjoyable game that offers much to many. Fans of stealth action will love it, unconditionally. Players who blast through it with no regard for stealth will find it short, but will hopefully discover more on further play throughs. It will offer anyone who plays it their own unique story to tell, as rarely will two gamers have exactly the experience.
4.5 out of 5 Nerds