• Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Developer: Arkane Studios
  • Platform: PS3, Windows, Xbox 360
  • Release Date: October 2012
  • Version Reviewed: PS3

Following the release of an absolutely stunning debut trailer in April of last year, I’d had my eye on Arkane Studio’s Dishonored for quite some time; so when Christmas of 2012 rolled around and I found myself with a copy of it clutched in my turkey grease-smeared fingers, I was understandably eager to play it.

(Not pictured: turkey grease)

The game opens as skull-masked Corvo Attano, the Lord Protector of Empress Jessamine Kaldwin, returns to the city of Dunwall; however, soon after, mysterious figures appear out of nowhere, killing the empress before vanishing into thin air.

One job, Corvo. You had one job.

Anyway, moments later the Lord Regent arrives, charging Corvo with the murder of the empress and locking him away in prison to await execution, before proclaiming himself as ruler of the nation. During his incarceration, Corvo learns of a plot by a group of loyalists to break him out in order to clear his name and overthrow the Lord Regent in place of Emily Kaldwin, the rightful heir to the throne. As Corvo, it’s then up to you to escape the prison, and join the loyalists in their attempts to restore some sort of semblance of balance to Dunwall.

One of the wonderful things about Dishonored is that despite being Supernatural Assassin Extraordinaire, you can choose to play through the entire game without killing a single person. To the lowly guards and such, this may be a simple case of sneaking up behind them and rendering them unconscious, but when it comes to the main assassination targets, each has their own individual non-lethal method of pacification. Some of these methods may seem a little needlessly convoluted, but this is one of the ways in which Dishonored stands apart: the solution to each method is there within the level, if you look hard enough. In this sense, it harks very much back to the point-and-click games of the early ‘90s; which is rather uplifting in this era of video games in which everything seems to be spoon-fed to the player. It gives a chance for the player to work things out for themselves, which in turn makes the game a lot more engaging (and consequently a lot more rewarding).

Scattered through each level are ancient runes that you can use as currency to imbue Corvo with a number of different supernatural powers, each tailored to allow the player to approach the game in a number of ways. You can choose to try and remain as stealthy as possible, opting to upgrade Blink (your short-range teleport spell), and Dark Vision (an ability that allows you to see enemies through walls), for example; or you can choose to go into all-out berserker mode by upgrading Blood Thirsty (increasing your melee skill) and Vitality (increasing your health), amongst others. I opted for the former during my playthrough, trying to attract as little attention as possible throughout the game. Interestingly enough, both approaches are likely to unlock different endings: the world of Dishonored operates via a Chaos system that affects the outcome of the game. The less attention you attract, the lower your Chaos level; the lower your chaos level, the smaller an impact you will have upon the game-world. If you choose to leave a trail of death and destruction wherever you go, it manifests through a number of different ways (not least via more guards being present towards the latter part of the game). This certainly increases the replayability of Dishonored: it’ll be fascinating to explore Dunwall with a high chaos level to see how much changes.

Part of the pure fun of Dishonored comes from simply exploring; working out which buildings are scaleable, eavesdropping on conversations, trying to find the best way to approach a room. In fact, if you’re anything like me, you’ll often find yourself loading and reloading a particular moment just to enable you to get from one door to the next without being spotted. There’s an odd sort of choreography that arises from moments like this, as you work out the movements of the guards on their patrols.

Arkane have crafted an astounding landscape in Dunwall that just begs to be parkoured around. Part plague-ridden slums, part soaring opulence, its oil-fuelled, electro-steampunk aesthetic manages to check a number of familiar tropes without ever seeming to replicate one particular style. Augmenting the reality of Dishonored’s world are a myriad of books, notes, ledgers and tomes; each containing diegetic fiction and non-fiction alike. The histories of Dunwall, Gristol and Pandyssia are fascinating, and it’s only through a number of playthroughs and a number of approaches that the player will get a full idea of the extent of its lore. Clearly inspired by Industrial Revolution London, the appearance of folk songs such as The Drunken Sailor help ground Dunwall in some sort of reality.

The large majority of the voice talent is incredible, with the likes of film veterans Susan Sarandon and Carrie Fisher helping to bring each character to life; however, the dialogue of the ambient characters has a tendency to suffer from the Grand Theft Auto III effect, seeming both repetitive and disjointed throughout. (I think ‘Shall we gather for cigars and whiskey tonight?’ is going to be the new ‘We’re going to Aruba!’)

Of course, it’s not all perfection. Playing through on Normal difficulty, I felt almost too overpowered for the game; upgrading the Dark Vision ability enough grants Corvo the ability to see key objects with a blue overlay – they may as well be captioned ‘Use This to Win’ in bright neon letters. The AI have a tendency to be a little stupid too: it’s almost as though they suffer from a form of short-term amnesia that prevents them from fully remembering suspicious activity. I’d be interested in seeing how that changes on tougher difficulties though.

All in all, however, Dishonored is a fantastic game that I thoroughly recommend picking up.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

One Comment on “Dishonored”

  1. Matt Blythe says:

    I agree unreservedly. It is a fantastic game.

    I too am a stealth lover (the Tenchu games have kept me happy for many an hour… um… week).

    One of the things I really noticed during my extended ledge perching, is that the unsuspecting minions of the uber bad guys don’t have a set path. They have areas that they wander about in. But, for the most part, they don’t walk a fixed path. Yes, some do. But the further you get through the game, the less likely they are to be predictable. I loved this!

    It is seriously much fun. You can do the ‘steam in and kill everything’… But I do feel that the game was designed for the anal, sneak about feeling smug player (i.e. Me!).

    If you buy into that idiom, you could do a hell of a lot worse than spending your hard earned on this game.

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