When I first heard about Dishonored a couple of years ago, I actually was not that impressed. The hype for it amongst gamers came relatively quick, but everything about it sounded like a big budget mash-up between Bioshock and Assassin’s Creed for me, which happened to be a mutual opinion shared over the internet. Stealthy killings, supernatural powers — everything smelled of what’s been done before. As more and more information about it was released, I became a little more interested in the game and how it was growing into its own. The thought of first-person throat cutting made me a little excited, but only just a little. Then about a month ago, I found myself more hyped for this IP than any other game in recent memory. It all seemed to come together in a way that made sense. A bodyguard on the run and forging his own path through a series of remarkably designed and intricate levels housing their own marked men for taking down? Sign me up.
You take control of protagonist Corvo Attano, a bodyguard of the empress and her daughter in early 1900’s London. As you return back to your job/home, things quickly go awry. In a traditional and very predictable fashion, the queen is assassinated, the rightful heiress is kidnapped, and it’s up to you to right some wrongs. Throughout your time with the game, there will not be much in terms of narrative to keep your attention. You can see twists coming a mile away and even the shocking moments are just worthy of a “cool” said softly to yourself. That does not mean this game isn’t brilliant. Your opinion of a game does not come after you have completed it, but rather the adventure and what you felt during your playthrough, and in that, it shines more than any game released this year. Silent murders dispatched on your enemies are adrenaline-rushing and utterly satisfying, combat is personal and the amount of magical abilities is just the right amount to compliment and aid your melee and ranged combat. Setting up all the pieces just right on your targets only to watch them fall for every trick, and deceiving bit of evidence you’ve left behind makes for an experience that is unrivaled by today’s games.
During your time with Dishonored, you will come across some uncommon relics referred to as runes and bone charms. Collecting enough runes will allow Corvo to up his game with some interesting and useful abilities such as the much-discussed blink talent, the ability to possess creatures and humans alike, and one that allows him to bend time around his will. My favorite was easily the passive skill for the enemy turning to ash if you succeed in killing him unaware, getting rid of the bother that comes with hiding bodies. The bone charms add little permanent boosts to your character’s attributes like faster climbing and increased stealth. Little things like that do well to make you feel like more than just an assassin. You are one, but you’re badass, and you’re becoming exponentially more badass as you progress through the story. That’s a great feeling.
One of the aspects about Dishonored that really did it for me was the amount of freedom the game grants you. You don’t have to kill any one person if you choose not to. In the Golden Cat house of women, you are assigned to take out the owners of said brothel, the Pendleton brothers. You can make it to the sexy time house and do the dirty work yourself, or in my case, you can do a favor for an underground kingpin and he can take care of the rest for you. There are always multiple paths to everything that requires player choice. Everything feels balanced, even the stealth. The option to lean in and out of cover to keep an eye out for potential wondering eyes feels fluid and intense. Nothing is handed to you in this game. If you want to get something done, like poisoning a target or staying out of sight from everyone you come across, you have to work at it. The only complaint I have about the game, (and it is very minor) is the controls. While jumping from building to building and taking down guards 100 meters away is easy to a joy to perform, things like blinking to a ledge and expecting to climb up it immediately or actual melee combat are a bit slow to respond, but with time, you get used to it. The majority of the gameplay is trial and error, which helps you become a more efficient assassin as the game goes on.
In terms of graphics, well, that may be the only disputable aspect of this title. Some (including myself) like the art style that includes dreary watercolor-esque streets and buildings with caricature NPCs. Others find the visuals a bit dated and are let down that they do not provoke the same mood as the gameplay intended. I have no problem with the choice of art style used. It definitely makes the game feel like another place in another time, all while giving you a glimpse into this alternate past time. A game does not succeed solely on visuals anyway, so it was nice to see Arkane Studios create a game that cannot be traced to another title based off appearance.
When it comes to music and ambient sounds, Dishonored pulls no punches, which my ears welcome with open arms. For those who care about the audio, start getting excited. Every little muffled footstep, sewer rat, and everything else under the sun is gloriously generated and pulls you into the world of an assassin. Executions sound particularly brutal and are sure to bring a smile to the macabre.
It’s hard to fully describe Dishonored; a game that pays homage to the things that made other big-hit games big, all while maintaining its own individuality and attitude. Even though the game itself runs the same length as traditional games today -about eight hours- it does not feel like a short game. You can take on as much as you want, collecting relics, completing side quests, and leveling up your magic to increase time, but you’ll have a smooth and very fun time along the way. Impressive graphics, sound, solid gameplay in every way truly feels like you’re getting the most out of your money, which cannot be said for the majority of games being pushed out this year. It isn’t often I have such a drastic change of heart over a game, the last one being Splinter Cell: Conviction’s debut, but I am more than glad I did. Sure, nothing in life is perfect, and Dishonored is no exception. What makes it such a blast to play is that it does everything it sets out to do, and very well at that. If you have not already decided on whether or not Dishonored is worth your time, trust me. It is.
[+Impressive audio and visuals] [+Damn near pitch perfect gameplay] [+Badass assassinry] [+Not overly challenging] [+Totally not Bioshock or Assassin’s Creed] [-Some control issues]