Dishonored is Arkane Studio’s first console game since Dark Messiah of Might and Magic back in 2006. In between they worked on Call of Duty: World at War‘s multiplayer as well as Bioshock 2‘s level design. I feel Arkane definitely pulled a lot of essence from the Bioshock universe to build interesting gameplay elements into the wonderfully crafted world that Dishonored hosts. That being said, I am not going to hold Dishonored on a pedestal like many other reviews have done as of late. Dishonored is good, to an extent, even great, but it is not the best game out there like some reviews have said.
Dishonored’s story revolves around Corvo, the royal bodyguard to Empress Jessamine Kaldwin and her daughter Emily in the sudo-steampunk industrial land of Dunwall. Corvo has just returned home from a voyage to another land seeking help from a deadly plague that has infested Dunwall. Tragic events occur, Emily is kidnapped, Corvo is framed and then he is thrown into the local prison dishonoring his name.
As the plot went on, I found it got easier and easier to predict what was going to happen. This was pretty disappointing to me because I love the setting of the game and felt there could have been a much deeper side to the story. That being said there are some things that are relatively unpredictable, but overall it made the experience kind of boring for long gameplay sessions. With Dunwall being such a cool setting I only wish that they didn’t make the story as generic as it is.
Luckily, Dunwall itself makes up for the problems with the story. Dunwall is such a brilliantly crafted city. It’s an industrial city that feels like a steampunk environment, but it really isn’t. It’s its own thing, featuring ruthless street thugs, plague infested man-eating rats and plenty of citizens in distress to offer you side-quests. Dunwall’s technology is diverse, using Whale Oil as a fuel, which adds to the lore and gameplay in multiple ways. Not only is this a land of ever-evolving machinery, it’s also a land of black magic. In the game you gain access these abilities, but it’s not your typical magic missiles. The powers you acquire are along the lines of possession, bending time, teleporting, summoning a rat swarm, etc. Dunwall is also fighting political corruption, as well as a deadly plague that creates Weepers. Weepers are sick people, who have lost their minds from the disease. They aren’t just blank empty zombies though, they’re still alive and a cure is a possibility. Because of this, killing Weepers always made me feel guilty despite that sometimes I had to.
The actual graphical design, however, is hit-or-miss in many locations. The muddiness of the graphics is complementary to Dunwall to a point, but sometimes I just thought “okay, that’s not muddy, that’s just untextured.” Sometimes, it really does look ugly which is too bad because that’s the only downside of Dishonored‘s environment. The locations and level design actually gave me a Halo: Combat Evolved feel. The missions are about the same length (give or take side-missions) and it plays out like a mission-based shooter with statistics at the end based on how you faired. This works really well with the formula that Arkane Studios has aimed for and compliments the overall game very well.
The city streets are designed with many different gameplay paths to choose from, which is my favorite thing about Dishonored. The game gives you the perfect amount of direction, a waypoint and an objective, other than that you’re set to find your own way to play it out. You could rewire the guard’s traps to work against them, possess a rat and crawl through a tiny hole to get past an obstacle or you can play “ghost” sneaking by every single guard in the game without ever being seen. Of course, you could also run in with a gun and kill everyone and everything in sight. This is why I liked Dishonored, because player choice is more important than almost anything else in the game.
The biggest bummer is that the guard A.I. is VERY predictable and they are not smart AT ALL. They don’t recognize that their numbers are dwindling or that they are even being watched when they clearly are. Compare that to other games, like Batman: Arkham City where they at least realize that they are being hunted, and then it becomes quite less stellar. Despite this flaw, the game still manages to bring the player into a truly realized world complete with player choice and fun gameplay overall.
I also, for the life of me, cannot remember any music from Dishonored. I know it was there and that it wasn’t bad, but nothing was memorable. The sound effects were pretty standard and served their purpose. The squishing, stabbing, slashing, shooting, landing and everything in between was all standard and is in no way special. Not a bad thing, since many action games now have pretty forgettable scores, but also not a good thing, since some have amazing scores.
The controls are solid and feel good. The button layout is on par with other big titles and I never once had a problem with figuring out which button did what. They offer a convenient hot-key system for your favorite weapons and abilities, which really helps cut back on menu searching. Once in a while I felt they tried a bit too hard to immerse you with head bobbing effects and other implemented movement effects, but they are easily toggled on and off in the options. If you’re an avid first-person player, you will have absolutely no problem with the controls or camera effects of this game. It may even feel second nature to you, like other games from that niche may.
Overall, Dishonored is a good game. They offer you many ways to play and so many alternate routes that you’ll often play through a level a second or third time thinking “Man, how did I miss that before? That’s cool!” You can fight through the legion of guards with your clockwork pistol, sword or offensive magic attacks. You could also sneak by them assassinating them one by one, planting traps, rewiring their weapons to work against them, use the environment to kill, knock them out and hide the bodies, manipulate how the guards react, etc. Dunwall is a magnificently crafted city, and I really look forward to seeing if this builds into a franchise. If the textures were a bit more pretty, the story was better and the A.I. was smarter, I would say this is an absolute must play for everybody, but instead I offer this: If you are a fan of Bioshock, stealth games, shooters, even RPGs to an extent, you will definitely want to check this game out. It’s an awesome and fun game, despite its flaws.
*Genre-Blending (Stealth, Action/Adventure, Role-Playing)
I give Dishonored a 3/5.