Note: Originally posted on Manic Expression on December 19, 2012.
One of the most notable non-sequel games to be released this year, Dishonored won several E3 awards prior to its release and was heavily anticipated by critics and gamers alike. Many were intrigued by the concept of the game and the unique setting. Naturally, there were high hopes for the game and it would be easy for the game to be a disappoint. Fortunately, by many accounts, it was anything but as critics really liked the game and it sold well enough that it has already been confirmed by Arkane Studios that Dishonored is due to become a franchise. How does the gamefair amidst all of this praise and attention heaped on the game?
In the industrial city of Dunwall, the bodyguard of Dunwallâ€™s Empress, Corvo Attano, becomes framed for the Empressâ€™s murder while the Empressâ€™s young daughter, Emily, is kidnapped. Set to be executed for the crime, Corvo escapes from the prison where he is being held and is helped by a group known as the Loyalists. The Loyalists enlist Corvo to help them in taking down the Lord Regent and the conspirators that work for him.
The story is very predictable with plot twists that you will see coming a mile away. This is not helped by the fact that the characters only serve to move the plot forward and give exposition and little else. While the scenes with Emily are surprising well done, they are few and far between. The world building is also surprisingly good and the world itself does have an interesting history but it is unfortunately wasted on a story that we have seen dozens of times before without bringing anything new to the table.
One of the defining elements of the gameplay is the ability to choose between going on a killing spree and going through the missions in a very stealthy matter. How you play the game determines what ending you get and how much the plague from the rats spread. Instead of the typical good and evil morality system, your actions are instead tracked by the chaos system with more chaos coming from killing more guards and assassination targets and vice versa.
In between missions, you are in the central hub of the game, the Hound Pits pub. Here, you can talk with allies, get mission briefings, and convert loot found in missions into upgrades and new equipment. The hub gives an RPG element to the game that helps make it more immersive and cohesive as an experience.
During missions you use various gadgets and abilities to help you though them. For example, Blink allows you to teleport in order to get through missions with as little attention from guards as possible. Dark Vision allows you to see enemies and their line of sight. Possession allows you to temporarily inhabit rats and fish and these are just an example of the abilities used in missions.
There are also runes and bone charms. Runes are used to upgrade your abilities such as being able to possess guards to being able to teleport to a farther distance. Bone charms, on the other hand, grant the player perks such as being able to possess rats for a longer period of time. Using your abilities require mana which can refill when you use less mana-intensive abilities like Blink and Dark Vision but require more mana for spells such as Possession. Mana potions are required to replenish mana.
When going through the gameâ€™s nine missions, they will be filled with guards that you can either fight head on or sneak past them. You can use Blink, Possession, or Dark Vision to help sneak past the guards. However, you can also fight the guards head on with your sword, crossbow, gun, and grenades. In order to sneak around them, you need to take advantage of the environment and abilities.
One of the best things about the game is the fact that the game gives you the ability to go though the missions in a multitude of ways, including giving you optional objectives and different ways of getting past guards. Another great thing about the game is that you really feel like your actions have an impact on the world and your experience as a whole.
Even with all of those positives said, Dishonored does have minor issues. One is the while the A.I. for the guards is good for the most part, the rare times that the A.I. fails to work the way it should, mainly that youâ€™ll be in a guardâ€™s line of sight but they act like youâ€™re not even there, is incredibly jarring and does take you out of the game. Another problem is that the ending is disappointingly anti-climatic with the low chaos version of the final level being disappointingly straightforward.
While the modeling and textures are well done and respectable, the real attention getter as far as visuals go in Dishonored is the art design in the world. The way that the environments are portrayed in showing a world in chaos is very impressive and go a great job of immersing you into the game. The setting really benefits from the memorable and inspiring art direction.
The soundtrack is very ambient and is complimentary to the game. It does its job well of bringing out the setting and giving the game a nice dose of atmosphere. The sound effects more than do their job with the little details like being able to eavesdrop of conversations as well as the well done sounds from the weapons and powers during missions which help bring the world of Dunwall to life. The voice acting is decent enough but is wasted due to the fact that the characters are given nothing to do other than give mission briefings and exposition. You also have to wonder why you need to hire big names like Susan Sarandon to voice a character whoÂ doesn’tÂ even appear that much in the game.