I had been looking forward to Dishonored for quite some time, my interest first piqued when the initial batch of concept art was released last year and further heightened with the commencing deluge of gameplay trailers and my hands on experience of the game at the Eurogamer Expo. When I came to play the full game, I feared I would be let down, I wasn’t. This review is as spoiler free as I could make it, apologies for anything I do spoil.
Alright, I will admit that a few bits slightly grated on me. The first bit of action where you are escaping from prison wasn’t all that enjoyable, it felt very linear and confined. This is down in part to a lack of deep understanding of how the game works, but it was a bit of come down after the brilliant opening with the assassination of the Empress and compared to what happens when you get into the game proper. But once you get through this opening sequence and into the missions proper, things become much more open and exciting.
I also had a few bugbears with how guards spotted you or totally ignored your clear presence. At times I thought I would be spotted when passing a guard in the open but wasn’t, while at times I was hiding in a bush yet a Tallboy still managed to locate me and launch an assault. I felt the system was a bit hit and miss at times, but it did enable for easy sneaking around which certainly was fun. I can’t forget to mention the River Krusts, acid spitting plants which are outright annoying and no fun at all to come across. Unlike rats and Hagfish, you can’t possess them for your own means; they just sit there trying to kill you.
At the end of the day though, these are minor annoyances as Dishonored is a great game. It is one of the few games which I will be pretty much going straight back into playing. I want to see how things work out when I take different actions with various characters and how things differ when playing with a high chaos rating.
Your chaos rating is determined by your actions in the game, if you proceed as I tried to by taking a stealthy approach with limited kills and taking non-violent options when presented, you should get a low chaos rating which can alter how levels and some conversations play out. The final mission for me was clearly signposted as being a Low Chaos version so somewhere out there is a High Chaos version, one which I intend to experience on my next playthrough.
Some of the choices I made during the game which struck me most weren’t the ones regarding the main story, they involved two side characters; Granny Rags who is linked with the Outsider who plays a G-Man role and crime boss Slackjaw. They way their stories intertwine and involve Corvo are brilliantly laid out, and they provided me with some moments where I was extremely uncertain how to proceed. In the end, I think I made the right decisions at the end of the game with them, but I wonder what might have happened if I did things differently earlier on in the game.
Coming to the main missions in the game, there are just so many different ways in which to carry them out it is quite formidable at first. When you open your Journal and see your main mission is to eliminate so-and-so, you might be tempted to go straight to the target and take him or her down. To do that though would be to miss out on the joy of exploring the levels which are deep and extremely rewarding to explore.
This sense of exploration is best shown in the massive Flooded District mission. At one point during my exploration I came across a scene where I had to make a pivotal choice and was rewarded with a key I didn’t know I needed at the time. Others who have completed the level have informed me that they were given a mission to secure the key necessary to continuing with the level.
Exploration is made possible with the Blink ability which gives you the freedom of vast swathes of the levels. Of course, there were some invisible wall situations where you physically can’t move past a certain point, or where your Blink ability won’t let you get to. They are nowhere near as bad as in other linear shooters, but it is worth noting that you can’t Blink up every rooftop you see.
When you do Blink and climb around the levels you find so much to do, side missions crop up and stories about how the people of Dunwall are coping with the Plague and the death of the princess add so much to the world you are in.
I loved the simple fact that you have to enter combinations on locks yourself after finding the combination written on a note in a room on the other side of the level, or by stitching together clues left in a note with answers kept within a seemingly innocuous book. The game doesn’t automatically open these locks for you, you have to spin the dials yourself. This had me panicking at one moment when trying to open a safe underwater as I misread the combination and oh so nearly didn’t make it back to the surface with the loot.
While sneaking around one mansion I heard a maid and a guard talking about their upcoming marriage, other times guards talk about the latest developments in the politics of Dunwall or unknowingly give away hints on how to proceed with your mission. The interaction between your various allies plays out brilliantly with various layers of deceit and love playing out before your eyes.
The various aspects of the game all fit together so well, the voice acting is largely superb and adds great layers of character to people like Samuel the Boatman, Sokolov and Slackjaw. There is some wonderful music and combat is tight and rewarding whether you proceed quietly or aggressively. Finally, the story weaves a glorious tale of revenge, love and power. Even if the ending and final mission fall a little bit flat, everything leading up to them is brilliantly crafted.
As I write this I feel drawn back to the game once more, but before I do, I will say this. Go out and explore the game, turn off some of the HUD elements and see what the city of Dunwall has to offer you. Don’t treat it as another corridor shooter, Dishonored deserves much more than that. I truly feel that Dishonored is a must buy, and despite playing through with a press copy, I am glad I bought a copy as well. The team at Arkane should be applauded for their work, for while Dishonored might bring together elements of Bioshock, Half-Life 2 and the Thief series, the combination of them all is something to be savoured.
Verdict – Red Mist
Platforms Available – PC, 360, PS3
Platform Reviewed – PC