Well here it is, the game that will more than likely be my game of the year, Dishonored, and it deserves every bit of that praise. Dishonored is what you would get if BioShock, Dark Messiah, and The Thief Series got into one bed and had an unholy three way, so it was said and so it was as Dishonored has come out and it is literally the perfect fusion of those three games. I really do not think I would be overreaching myself to say that Dishonored is the greatest stealth game since Thief 2.
You play as Corvo Attano, the Lord Protector of the Empress (her bodyguard and heavily hinted to be her lover), and as the game opens you come to the port city of Dunwall. Dunwall is an industrial city akin to London in the 1920s and 30s, and while it would not be correct to call it a true steampunk city as all the technology is fuelled by whale oil, it strikes a nice balance between technology that really used to exist and some more fanciful steampunk like elements in the tech on display. The clothes that the characters wear runs the gamut from that of World War II to that of the Gilded Age (1870-1900 for our non-historian readers). The politics that the story centers around is more akin to what you find in the European nobility around World War I, to this end the Empress is assassinated and Corvo must avenge her death (there is also a major plague going on that is pivotal to the story, more on that later).
The ways in which you enact that vengeance are as varied as there are gamers out there and that is where Dishonored truly shines. Corvo is a complete blank slate as a character, leaving your play style to define him. You can complete the game without killing a single person (there's even an achievement for doing just that), or you can cut a bloody swathe to your target. Conversations with people in the world will change depending on which route you take, as will some of the ambient dialogue as well.
The game keeps track of how many people you kill via a tally called the chaos meter. Namely the more people you kill results in more guards in later missions, more plague rats wandering around, more Weeper enemies (zombie plague victims), and an overall darker ending. I find that I like to try and get through without killing anyone as it requires the use of the stealth elements and adds a little extra challenge. However you decide to play the game is perfectly designed to accommodate all options, though it should be mentioned that if you try to just Rambo it and gun your way in is very resource heavy, so the use of some stealth is advised.
For those of you who want to kill no one, not even the main targets, this can also be done but requires you perform extra side quests to pull off. A perfect example of this is during a mission where you are infiltrating a bathhouse you have to different targets wandering around and they can be eliminated either by killing them, or by performing some extra side quests where they end up getting kidnapped and being forced into slavery in their own mines. The non-lethal kills for the main targets in the game typically have some form of poetic justice attached to them relating to their involvement in the coup d'Ă©tat against the Empress.
The mechanics are designed in such a way that there are many options for solving just about any problem, these are featured heavily in the moment to moment gameplay such as with the "Wall of Light", which is a giant electric gate that fries anything not authorized to pass through it. To get around this obstacle you could posses a rat and run through a drainage pipe, teleport around the thing, turn it off completely via removing the fuel source, possessing the Tall Boy enemies (the ones on the stilts in the trailers) and stroll on through, or my personal favorite, hack the security system so you can wander through and guards will be incinerated on doing so.
How you tackle the games different situations depends wildly on how you upgrade your various powers. The games ten different powers can be purchased in any order save for Blink which you receive via the story. There are objects hidden throughout the world called runes which serve as the currency for upgrading your powers, these scavenger hunts range from the easy to the frustrating depending on how thorough you are in the hunt. I myself focused on upgrading Blink, Possession, and Dark Vision.
Blink is a short range teleport thatâ€™s useful for moving from cover to cover, getting the jump on enemies and scaling buildings. Possession lets you posses any living creature in the game and this is full body possess not just throwing your mind into the being in question, and Dark Vision lets players see enemy movements through walls, and also highlights other important objects in the world. I choose out the powers that aided a non-lethal approach, but some of the other powers you can acquire can do things like summon a swarm of rats (of which you can possess), slow down time, make enemies turn to ash when you kill them so you don't have to hide the body, and so much more. You also possess more conventional weapons as well: crossbow, pistol, grenades, spring razor, and a sword that are upgradeable through the more traditional method of cold hard cash.
There are nine missions in Dishonored and they are distinct from one another. You'll do everything from attend a society gala in disguise, infiltrate a bathhouse, escape a prison, and stalk through the flooded slums trying to avoid plague victims. Each mission follows the BioShock/Deus Ex: Human Revolution method to level design, which is to that each is a mini sandbox in unto itself just begging for you to discover secrets and reek some havoc. One thing from the level design that could be leveled against the game is that as the game possesses no boss fights, taking out the final targets can be a little unfulfilling as they possess no more difficulty in dispatching them then the hundred guards you went through to get to them. This is a game that you will constantly need to save and reload (if you're like me) if you want to pull everything off perfectly.
This games has one feature that most haven't mentioned, but as a service I'll give it away for free: the super hard mode in this game is fun and satisfying. It requires literally perfect execution in every action, but it is oh so satisfying when you pull it off just right. The game does falter a little in its story as it is a little by the numbers as a coup d'Ă©tat story goes, but the gameplay makes up for any shortcomings it might have in this arena.
For all the praise I have delivered there are some negative points worth mentioning, how much these bother you are a matter of personal taste. There are some minor control issues, climbing ledges when getting out of water is sometimes a little spotty and the block button is the also the silent takedown button for non-lethal kills, so if you try and perform a nonlethal kill you can sometimes accidently expose yourself by blocking if you try it too early. While the game does make use of excellent art design and lighting, the textures are a little subpar. It is made up in a real attention to detail in the environment and an expert use of color and contrast, this game looks like an oil painting come alive. That being said, while the character modeling is excellent, the facial animations could use some work and the hands of all things are a little unnaturally large.
There are no framerate dips to speak of, though you may experience some screen tearing if you don't have the v-sync option selected on your PC or if you are playing on a console.
Overall, Dishonored is one of the best, if not the best, games released this year, and is easily the best stealth game by a wide margin since Thief 2. Hopefully, this isn't the last we've heard from this new ip.
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