I finally got around to playing and beating Dishonored, a game many people where telling me I should play. The same amount of people also told me the game was just ‘okay.’ After playing it, I find it to between the ‘MUST PLAY’ and ‘OKAY’ recommendations I was hearing. The game play makes the game worth it but it falls flat in several other areas. The game was published by Bethesda Games, who if you know me, I am not a fan of theirs. However, it was developed by Arkane Studios who had worked on Bioshock 2 previously and it shows because this game feels a lot like a Bioshock. Dishonored is a first person super natural stealth action game that gives the player freedom of how to go about the game’s missions. Honestly, I did not like this game at first however, after figuring out ‘how to play it’ exactly, it suddenly turned to a lot of fun. But the game is still weak in certain areas. Let’s take a closer look.
STORY: In Dishonored, you play as Corvo returning to the island city of Dunwall. The city is being ravaged by a plague, Corvo, the head royal protector of Empress Kaldwin, was sent to neighboring islands to find a cure. Returning with no cure, things go bad when they are suddenly ambushed by assassins killing the Empress. Corvo appears to be the killer when the rest of her guards show up and there are no witnesses. Framed with the empress’s murder, Corvo must escape prison and set out with a resistance movement to restore order to the city and clear his name. The story is cliché and nothing new we haven’t seen before. The big plot twist in the middle of the game is predictable and I could see it coming from a mile away. I was underwhelmed by the story. The game does have multiple endings that vary on how you play the game. You get the best ending if you get through the game without getting noticed much or not killing very many people. The worst ending happens if you kill lots of people and can cause lots of chaos. I’m not really sure which ending I got. I watched both on youtube and neither one was very good to me. Both seemed like standard 2 minite game endings that quickly wrap up everything like in 90% of games these days.
The game’s characters do not help much with the story. I found almost all of them rather uninteresting and like the plot, cliché. Corvo could have been an interesting character if he wasn’t a silent protagonist. I’m not too big a fan of these types of main characters that you usually see in first person games. I understand if the character you play as has no background, establishments or a face as they are supposed to be a role you, the player, can step into and make your own. This works for some games, not for others. Here, it didn’t work for me.
While I did not find much interest in the story and characters, I did find the setting really interesting. Dunwall is a grim and depressing city to say the least. There is death all around with plague victims dead and dying in the streets, rats are everywhere, and the oppressive government raping its people. If you could smell this game, it would smell of death. The game has this early 19th century look to it but has some advances like War of the Worlds like walkers and other futuristic security devices. It’s kind of like steam punk but everything runs on whale oil so I guess you’d call it… Whale... Punk? I don’t know but it is definitely one of the more unique things about the game.
GAMEPLAY: Here is where the game shines most. While the levels seem linier, they are filled with all sorts of paths to take to complete your objectives if you explore the areas. Like I said, the style in which you play effects the ending and knowing that really bugged me and hindered me from really enjoying the game at first. Sneaking around or rather the way I was trying to sneak around was not working and, more often than not, I would get spotted and have to kill everyone in the area before I could move on. I was still using the stay low and hide behind things method of stealth from Far Cry 3 though. Making use of the magic powers you get is the most important aspect in this game. I usually tend to be conservative in using magic powers like these in most games and usually save it for bosses or whatever so in the beginning I kept forgetting I even had magic and was not using it. But I should have been using and experimenting with the powers the whole time. Once I got this down, I started having much more fun. Your magic powers include dark sight which lets you look through walls to spot enemies and objects, brink which lets you teleport and is the most used power so best to master it, rat swarm which conjures a swarm of rats to attack and devour someone (by the way, if you have a fear of rats, you will not like this game), the ability to slow down time, possession which lets you enter the body of animals or other people to gain access to places you usually wouldn’t, and tornados you can shoot at people. In addition to this magic, Corvo also has a variety of conventional weapons to use like his neat switch blade short sword, pistols, cross bow, grenades, traps, and can even turn the enemy’s weapons against them by reprogramming devices.
Experimenting with all of this is fun once you get the hang of it. Since the game has multiple endings and different ways that parts of the game can play out, the game warrants multiple playthroughs. There is a level set at a masquerade party that has lots of possibilities. I really enjoyed that level. However, most people will tell you that trying to get through the game unseen is ultimately a very frustrating experience. I don’t doubt it can be done but you’re a more hardcore gamer than I if you can. Sneaking up and killing people unseen is more exciting than sneaking around and not killing anyone to me. But I guess that’s the beauty of the game play.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND: Another game that I’m sure looks a lot better on PC but as for the consoles, Dishonored is nothing too special to look at in terms of visuals. I like the look of Dunwall but the textures have nothing too eye popping about them and there is some texture pop-in. During some fights, I encounter some fairly dramatic frame rate slow down but this wasn’t often. Much like with Far Cry 3, if graphics really matter to you, play this on the PC. The character designs look like something from a graphic novel which is fitting but it doesn’t translate too well into 3D. Main thing that stood out to me was how big men’s hands were compared to their heads. I didn’t really care of it. Also one of the characters looks like a caricature of Hugo Weaving. Corvo looks alright though with and without the mask on. The mask he wears kind of creeps me out but is really cool at the same time. Some people might like the character design; I didn’t really care for it.
In terms of sound effects the game generally sounds great. I noticed some reused sounds from Bioshock like the sound of eating food and collecting items. The sounds of combat and killing people sound brutally great especially when stabbing someone from behind. The sounds of rats devouring bodies are degusting and great at the same time. The unsettling ambient sounds of random screams in Dunwall add to the dark feeling of the game. The game’s music is another story. It’s hardly there. When it is, it’s fitting but nothing special. There is a song over the game’s end credits that is pretty good but it cuts out half way through the credits just leaving us with silence. Usually another song would kick in. I find this rather lazy. The voice acting sadly does not help the already uninteresting characters at all plus poor dialogue writing. Most of the characters just sound monotone and barely trying. I was surprised to find out that there were quite a few Hollywood actors cast for rolls in this game like Susan Sarandon, Brad Dourif, Carrie Fisher, John Slattery, and Chloe Grace Moretz to name a few. Moretz is the only voice actor worth mentioning as she plays the daughter of the Empress and it’s her first time voice acting in a video game and she does a good job. No one else seems to give a damn and that’s kinda sad. Also I feel it would have helped if the characters had European accents. They all sound American in this setting that has a very European feel to it. It’s kinda off putting.
Overall, Dishonor’s core game mechanic is solid. The ability to make use of some really cool magic to sneak around and assassinate people or not is a lot of fun. All the multiple paths to take in a stage to reach your objectives add a lot of replay value to the game. Dunwall is a really dark yet cool setting that makes for an excellent atmosphere. However, the story and characters are weak and fall flat. If that really matters to you, you will be pretty disappointed in most of this game. Some have complained that this game is very short, especially for something from Bethesda but considering the multiple endings and replay value, I think that it works in its favor. It’s definitely not for everyone and I would wait for it to come down a little more in price to play it if you haven’t already. This is still a better assassin game than Assassin’s Creed 3.
Now that that is out of the way, I will start writing up my Top 5 Games of 2012 list. Look out for it within the next week!