In an age where game sequels reign surprise, it’s refreshing to see a new IP come along that’s a blast to play.
Dishonored, from Arkane Studios, is a story of revenge. The game tells a standard story of revenge after Corvo Attano is framed for the assassination of Empress Jessamine Kaldwin and her daughter, Emily, is taken. To prove his innocence, Corvo sets his sights on some of the biggest and most corrupt names in Dunwall to take down to try and restore everything to normal.
Dunwall as a city is interesting in itself to explore. The city is ravaged with a plague transferred by rats, and depending on choices made (which will be explained later) can become a lot worse off.
The game, at its core, is a stealth game. You get a sword in one hand early on, and the other will switch between a gun, crossbow, traps and even magic granted by an Outsider. Unfortunately, a small complaint I have with the Outsider is that his motives seem to never be fully fleshed out.
The gun and crossbow can get different types of ammo to use, like tranquilizer darts, explosive ammo and more, while the traps can be set to kill or knock out enemies, or even rewire one of their traps, like a wall of light, to use against them. The magic, though, is some of the most enjoyable features in the game to me.
There’s a handful of different abilities you can unlock throughout the six-10 hour campaign, including seeing through walls, summoning a swarm or rats to attack people, using blasts of wind, taking over the body of a rat or enemy and, my favorite, Blink. Blink, which the Outsider gives you when he first introduces you to magic, lets you teleport short distances in the world. The ability is great to get to the rafters or quickly behind an enemy to either bypass them without a fight or kill them.
The abilities do remind me quite a bit of the Plasmids from BioShock, but aren’t as varied. I feel that more could have been done here, but there’s still plenty to keep you occupied without feeling overwhelmed.
In addition, abilities can be upgraded by finding runs throughout levels using a heart given to you that beats strong when near. The heart can also give you a bit of background to the world by listening to it. Upgrades can give you a longer teleport distance, more heath and, a personal favorite for someone trying to kill and stealth at times, turning enemies killed to ash.
Another thing the heart can show are the locations of bone charms, which give some passive abilities to Corvo when equipped. You can only equip a few bone charms at a time, although you can purchase the ability to equip more with cash you find in levels. Cash can also be used to purchase upgrades to gear as well, such as letting your mask zoom in. You can also purchase ammo or find recipes to make items to buy such as health potions.
While the game certainly gives you plenty of abilities to kill with, there’s also a way to be a pacifist through the entire game. All enemies, including your assassination targets, can be dealt with in other ways. You may be able to blackmail them or just psychologically break them down instead of just killing them. Or, you could just go in slashing and shooting to take out everything in your path, the choice is yours.
What may be just as fun as trying to figure out how to take out the main guy of each mission is choosing how to escape. You could always try to rush out like a badass, killing anything in your way and rushing to the boat. Or, you could sneak your way out just as you snuck your way in, never alerting anyone to your presence as you silently sail away.
Personally, I took a balanced approach. I tried to sneak around what I could, but didn’t want to spend a long amount of time analyzing exact paths. If I ever thought it would come down to that, I started Blinking behind enemies and assassinating them before dragging their bodies to a corner to hide them. This seemed like the optimal way to play. While both the stealth and combat systems are good, neither one seems to be overpowering. You can play as stealth only, but be prepared to fully use your environment and enemy paths to succeed.
Killing a lot of enemies or being detected a lot can also raise your Chaos rating, a rating that is calculated behind the scenes and shown when a mission is complete. The rating raises when a lot of enemies are killed in a level, although it can lower by doing good deeds for citizens or by completing objectives in non-lethal methods.
It should also be noted that, while knocking out enemies doesn’t count towards your overall Chaos account, if they’re discovered by a rival group, rats or the zombie-like Weepers they can still be killed, making it count against you since you were the reason they couldn’t fight back.
A higher Chaos rating actually does affect the world around you. As the Chaos rating goes up, more aggressive packs of rats or Weepers can start roaming the streets. In addition, the wealthy in the world will start becoming edgier about always thinking that Corvo is around, making it harder to get to them. Conversely, not killing anyone can make the world can make the world a bit easier to go through.
For those worried about the six-10 hours I said the game would take to beat, don’t be. There’s a decent amount of replay ability in the game. There are side quests that can be done in many missions, and missions can be replayed for better ratings. In addition, the entire game can be replayed different ways to see what effects stealth and killing can have on a level.
Probably the worst part of the game is actually the graphics. The world and steampunk feel is actually a great visual idea and interested to see, but the graphics themselves just feel dated. You’ll sometimes see blocky areas pop up in the world, or character animations can start looking choppy. It’s not game-breaking by any means, but it’s something you will notice.
The sound is also nicely done in the game. The soundtrack really fits the range of areas in the game, from the a city filled with little hope to the wealthy enjoying their lives, and the voice actors do a great job in their roles.
- Blend of stealth and action is done greatly.
- The story, while seen before, is excellent.
- Abilities in game are fun to use.
- Graphics look a bit old.
- It feels like abilities could be fleshed out more.
- Some may feel the campaign is a bit short.
Dishonored looks like it will easily secure the title of Top New IP of 2012. The gameplay is solid and story is entertaining. While the graphics may drag the game down a bit, don’t let them stop you from enjoying what is a great title, whether you play it stealthy or guns blazing and sword flying.