Having received over 50 E3 awards globally, Dishonored has surpassed all expectations and even managed to snag Spike TV’s Video Game Award for ‘Best Action Adventure Game of 2012’ as well as IGN’s award for ‘Best Overall Action Game of 2012’. Hosting a unique water color art style and played from a first-person perspective, this unparalleled experience is meant to be tailored to each player’s preferences and moral compass.
“My dear Corvo, what a sad hand fate has dealt you, the beloved empress dead and everyone thinks you’re the killer.”
-The Outsider communicating with Corvo.
The game begins with Corvo, the Empresses bodyguard, returning to the palace after a long and cumbersome journey. Before he’s even able to take a breath of fresh air, he witnesses the assassination of the Empress, Jessamine Kaldwin. Framed for the empresses murder, Corvo is forced into the art of assassination and will stop at nothing to get revenge on those who conspired against him.
With the help of the loyalists, a resistance group fighting for justice and the Outsider, a mysterious stranger that is described as a mixture of god and the devil, Corvo sets out on a quest to rescue the kidnapped Emily Kaldwin and bring her back as the rightful heir to the throne.
As you play through the story you’ll encounter numerous memorable characters such as Piero the inventor, who supplies you with all the gadgets and weapons you need and a very memorable side story arc that has you helping what seems like a frail, helpless granny. (You should follow through with her quests… You’ll see why).
Have you ever had the urge to unleash a swarm of rats upon your enemies? Have you ever wondered what the world looks like from a fish’s perspective? Have you… I could go on forever but you get the point. The gameplay is where Dishonored shows its true colors and shines as bright as… well, the wall of light itself!
I’ll start by saying that Dishonored is not an open world game, but it might as well be. The only linearity of the game itself is that you have to complete missions in a specific order. Apart from that tiny spec of a detail, each mission offers a different environment and aesthetic allowing you to traverse each area as you see fit, be it from high atop rooftops or confined spaces such as rat infested gutters and even a strip club dubbed ‘The Golden Cat’.
How you play through each mission is completely up to you. This is where player choice and decision making kicks in. For example, if you enjoy stealth-based gameplay, you can play through the whole game without killing anyone (And get a nice little trophy as a bonus) or you can go in the completely different direction and kill every living soul you set your eyes on.
With the outsiders mark imprinted on Corvo’s hand, he is imbued with supernatural abilities such as the power to freeze time, control a swarm of rats and even blink (teleport short distances), allowing Corvo to reach areas that would normally be impossible to get to. Passive abilities also exist and mostly allow for stealthier gameplay. For example, enemies turning to ash upon death to avoid detection.
The Outsider also equips Corvo with a mechanical heart that is used to find runes and bone charms. Runes are decorated whale bones that are cleverly scattered throughout each area and allow Corvo to purchase and upgrade any one of his abilities. Bone charms, also hidden in the nooks and crannies of each area are randomized passive bonuses like basic health and mana bar increases to bonuses like increased movement speed in stealth mode.
The combat of Dishonored is precise and responsive but most of all extremely enjoyable. When you start the game, you are equipped with Corvo’s signature retractable sword and crossbow. These weapons alone are enough to satisfy even the most bloodthirsty gamer out there. With guns, grenades, traps, gadgets and dozens of unique upgrades for each item, there are literally hundreds of ways to dispatch anyone who dares oppose you. From simple drop assassinations to more thought out processes such as using the wind blast ability to reflect incoming projectiles or the careful placement of a spring razor trap for multiple kills.
The Hound Pits Pub acts as the central HUB for Dishonored and is where most of Corvo’s preparation takes place. As the story progresses, you will gain access to previously inaccessible parts of the area that will allow you to look for more runes and bone charms scattered throughout. Piero’s workshop is also accessible from here and you will be able to purchase new weapons, upgrades and a plethora of ingenious gadgets. Also acting as the the loyalists headquarters, you can expect a lot of story related content and progression from the area.
In addition, I would like to add that Dishonored is quite a challenging game, even on the easiest difficulty. The few times I got frustrated with the game are only when I carelessly initiated an attack and groups of enemies swarmed towards me, but then again I only have myself to blame. It’s the type of game where if you don’t plan out your moves carefully and incorporate different weapons and traps in your arsenal properly, you will die. Quite a few times. However, that’s the magic of Dishonored. The game gives you such a wide spectrum of choices that you’re inclined to think about your every move. Having said all this, It’s understandable why some gamers that want an easier experience might find this off-putting and tiring. On the other hand, players looking for a challenge can select the very hard difficulty option that is guaranteed to push even the most hardcore gamers to their limits.
Inspired by 1800 to early 1900s London and Scotland, Arkane studios have done a magnificent job bringing the plague ridden city of Dunwall to life through a unique and twisted steampunk look that’s almost impossible to find elsewhere. Weapons, traps and abilities are also very well done with each ability hosting a unique animation. Especially powers such as ‘blink’ and ‘possession’, which use the motion blur technique perfectly. The only minor problem I could distinguish between the different formats of the game is that shadows sometimes manifest differently on the PS3 version while the Xbox 360 version has a few unnatural splashes of color on certain surfaces.
Whoever has seen the trailer for Dishonored, will undoubtedly remember the eerie modified rendition of the sea shanty “Drunken Sailor”. The rest of the beautifully ominous, violin-heavy soundtrack is provided by Daniel Licht and fits into the mood of the game exceptionally well. Voice over performances are also carried out brilliantly by the talent of actors and actresses such as Chloë Grace Moretz (Emily Kaldwin), Susan Sarandon (Granny Rags) and John Slattery (Admiral Havelock). Corvo is cleverly kept as a silent protagonist, allowing players to project themselves and their personality onto him. This was a brilliant move by Arkane studios as every player can relate with Corvo in their own way, which builds a deep and meaningful relationship between protagonist and player.
I genuinely can’t find anything that’s majorly wrong with the game. Being a stealth gameplay fan myself I thoroughly enjoyed scouting every area in each mission and carefully planning out my moves. On the other hand, the game does have a few bugs here and there (Most of which have been resolved by patches) and on multiple occasions I noticed a few frame rate inconsistencies on the PS3 version. Having said all this, do not let these minor issues affect your decision in purchasing what truly is the best action adventure game of 2012. With a wide range of challenging trophies to obtain, the ‘Dunwall Trails’ DLC already available and more story related DLC to follow in early 2013, Dishonored is sure to keep gamers on their toes for the foreseeable future.
Remember, “Revenge solves everything” – (In-game words to live by).