Summary [8.0 out of 10]
Following an assassin who is falsely accused of murder as he tries to clear his name through…murder…Dishonored is like if Bioshock and Thief somehow fell in love and had a child. With intense melee and ranged combat as well as heavy stealth elements, both enhanced by special powers to help the assassin, Atano, achieve his objectives. The player can choose to stick to the shadows or launch an all out assault on the game’s enemies. The method the player chooses determines not just the ending but also how the character is treated throughout the game by NPCs and how many of particular enemies start to appear. The game throws a lot at you but also gives the player the tools to answer with as creative a way as possible. The game runs into problems with how it deals with peace vs chaos and the player is ultimately punished if the game is played for action instead of stealth, but still Dishonored is a lot of fun which is fairly exciting for a new IP.
What’s It Like:
Bioshock: As mentioned above, the game shares a fair amount with Bioshock from the art style, power structure and intriguing plot. The game also plays a fair amount like Bioshock which is not a bad thing given how good that game is. It is pretty impossible to play through Dishonored and not notice the similarities between the two games but that is not a knock against Dishonored, the influence is a good thing.
Thief: The stealth elements in Dishonored feel a lot like Thief although Thief’s stealth felt a lot more elegant and less haphazard.
Graphics: Dishonored is absolutely beautiful with graphics that are elegant, detailed and sharp. Backgrounds and environments are lush and detailed with just the right tone for the feel of the story. Animation is fluid and never stiff. Just a gorgeous game all around.
Art Style: Much like Bioshock, the art style here is very distinct and period. The heavy steam punk element is augmented by the over all look of the graphics which resemble a moving oil painting. The art style really shows the influence of Bioshock but it fits the environment and story perfectly so it can be forgiven for being a bit derivative.
Choice: Dishonored offers the player more choice than anything since Skyrim. This isn’t about missions or gameplay variety, although those are certainly offered, but rather the ways that you can complete your missions. There are a multitude of pathways through each mission and they don’t follow repetitive patterns. The amount of options open to the player is staggering and the creativity of those options is equally impressive. More that almost any other game I’ve played, if you get stuck using one approach there are several others to try that are likely to be more effective. This is nice as it cuts down on potential frustration stopping the player in their tracks. There is always something else to try.
Story: While the twists and turns of the story are not terribly complex, the texture of the character interactions and side missions make the world feel alive and vibrant which builds up the story in a way a straight narrative would not. The amount of intrigue that these details pack in make the experience a much fuller one. The main story line itself, while simple at bottom, is still satisfying and feels complete.
Controls: While there is a bit of a learning curve in terms of how to move around the environment particularly when it comes to platforming, the controls are intuitive and easy to manage. With the primary right handed attack mapped to the right trigger button and the secondary left handed attack mapped to the left trigger button there is never any confusion in heightened situations about which thing you want to do or hitting the wrong button for the wrong effect. The UI is fairly elegant and allows for quick transitions between weapons and powers with quick selections mapped to the D pad. The controls are pretty much spot on and make doing the things you need to do simple. There may be some frustrating deaths in the game but they won’t be because of the controls.
Powers: A lot of games give you a variety of spells or powers to play with that range in uses but Dishonored offers up a relatively small batch of powers that offer unique applications. It is kind of amazing how useful some of these can be and how creative you can get with them. From the short range teleport power Blink to the truly awesome Possession power that allows the player to inhabit the bodies of animals first and humans eventually to take control of them, the powers are generally pretty useful and creative. This adds a ton of layers to the game and ensures that each time through the game is going to be different.
Replay: Due in no small part to the powers mentioned above, Dishonored has a pretty decent amount of replay. There are just so many choices and solutions for challenges in the game that you are unlikely to ever play the same game twice. Add to this the changing landscape of consequences and you have something that will keep on delivering every time you play it.
Combat: The combat is surprisingly solid. A lot of FPS games that specialize in melee combat ends up with some sketchiness but here, the combat works very, very well and makes for some exciting moments. The character’s primary weapon is his short sword which is highly effective at decapitating enemies and taking them out quickly and makes for some fun fights as it is not even close to useless. The projectile weapons are equally effective and swapping between them according to need is easy and flawless. Without the right combination of powers, fighting groups of enemies can sometimes be annoying but in general the combat works enormously well.
Balance/outcome: This is a weird point but it is kind of important. The way the game’s morality system is set up, the more missions you do without killing people and utilizing steal then the more peace you will have and people will generally like you more. The more people you kill the more chaos grows and the more rats you see running around and the more zombie like enemies start appearing. This also affects the endings you get and chaos builds pretty quickly. The problem is that combat is way more fun than stealth in a general sense and the penalties for playing with that style are pretty harsh. Conceptually it makes sense but in practice it is annoying to be penalized for playing in one of the specifically designed styles. For a game that offers so much choice it is surprising that it then penalizes you for making one of the primary play style choices offered. It is kind of annoying to know that if you want to mix it up with the enemies and cut loose then you are going to be get shafted with a worse ending and a harder time of things.
Conclusion [8.0 out of 10]
Dishonored is a very well put together game with a lot going for it. The problems it has are not enough to take away its excellence and it is surprisingly sharp for a new IP. The game does borrow heavily from other games but it takes those borrowed elements and puts them together into something unique and awesome. In a christmas season packed with more of the same, you could do a lot worse than Dishonored and would be hard pressed to do too much better.