Dishonored has been hyped up for a while now, the latest game from Bethesda, developed by Arkane studios formed of dev’s from one of the most beloved games of all time, Deus Ex. That’s a lot to live up to, to create a modernized version of a, fun to play, stealth action RPG god knows what else mash up of beauty. Here is the good news, Dishonored matches up the challenge step for step. That’s not to say it is without faults, but regardless of what I say, you should try this game.
The game seems to start off like a movie, a movie, a slow intro scene over calm waters, a touching sequence involving a child, a short hectic battle sequence, followed by a moving death scene and a statement of mission. Overall this little intro seems like a marvelous indicator for the rest of the game. It shows us the main plot line, and frankly it’s a pretty weak one. The intro seems to want to draw you in to the game’s universe and perhaps leave you with some attachment to some of the primary characters, and here is a hint, it doesn’t work very well. Frankly it leaves you with a vague sense of flat characters and a very weak plot. The game has little cut-scenes that thankfully gives you the option to skip because they frankly seem to serve no purpose. I hate to draw to strong comparisons between games but this has to be said, Deus Ex dealt with character background through conversations, where you were constantly kept active doing something, here the reigns are ripped away from you and you have to follow the dialogue and plot with only the camera given to you.
But oh my god! The game play more than makes up for this lack of freedom. You’re a given a perfectly crafted sandbox, and set loose to complete your task whichever way you want, and here comparisons can’t help but form between this game and Deus Ex, and I can’t stress enough how much they mirror each other. You get the same feel form both games, of a world created not to give you ridiculous options but real world ones, and that seems to mold itself around your playing style offering multiple ways to complete even the smallest of tasks. You can see it simply based on view, everywhere in this gorgeously rendered steam punk world you can see pathways and rooftops, pretty much all of which are accessible, and the game pulls this of perfectly. The pathways take you where you want to go without any searching as if the game itself seems to be bending to your will.
The powers you are given seem to accentuate this, allowing an even greater freedom, which is remarkable in itself, and more importantly making you feel like a bad-ass without making you over powered, at least at the beginning. The main powers revolve around, teleporting, slowing time, possession, and summoning among other things.
The first of these truly is a game play changer, blink. It allows you to teleport to any location within a certain range instantly. And here the possibilities open up yet again, you dodge from cover to cover avoiding the watchmen that lurk everywhere, or access entirely new areas that would be previously closed off. Arkane keeps it down to earth by making it so that you can only move to places where you could actually reach, so not through a wall or metal bars.
The slowing time and possession work likewise, allowing you to do things that were previously impossible. You can use rats and fish to access areas that would be previously inaccessible, or you can slow down time and weave your way through enemies. All of them combine perfectly, creating an incredibly balanced playing experience that gives you unparalleled freedom.
And all of this exists in a beautifully rendered world, which never seems to let you out of its compelling grip. The setting itself is essentially steampunk, complete with the Victorian age houses, mechanical creatures, flint-locks and the wonderful, wonderful extravagant outfits. I kid you not each main character is beautifully designed, and has something to define them, ranging from fancy orange clothing to large remarkable guns. And by characters I mean the world itself too, with each locale or mission portraying a different feeling. One of the earliest missions has you tasked with assassinating a man within his religious complex, and you can see the contrast, of guards and concrete outside too the hard wood panels and display boxes lining the inside.
Sadly the same cannot be said for the plot which is definitely weak. You develop almost no emotional attachment to the characters, but it is the vague cut scenes that really bother me. It seems like the dev’s are trying to give a sense of story but it seems to be lost in the air, leaving me bored at best and skipping them entirely at the worst. But Arkane, almost but not quite, makes up for this with a lovely feature that yet again from… you guessed it Deus Ex. There are little notes left around the world, journals, diaries, accounts, catalogues, letters and each and every one of them is unique. This shows the love and care put into this world, that some developer out there spent his time devising these little tidbits of information only because they might make the experience a little bit better. I once found a letter between Overseer lovers, and it made me recognize them as more human not something just to be killed or bypassed, they took on a whole new light and I wondered if I had killed one of the little lovebirds.
Still though the overall effect of the plot leaves you a bit wanting, with it existing in bubbles of Extremely Good and Horrid.
Our Verdict on Dishonored
The Gameplay is the real star of the show here, with everything else taking a back seat. It is obvious that a lot of time and effort has gone into the development and I simply have to state, it lives up to the promise of Deus Ex. For people who have played both the ties between it are obvious, for those of you who know the 2001 Ion Storm game, that comparison should say enough, for the rest of you. It means, you are given freedom, it means you are lost within a beautiful world, it means there is endless things to discover, there is choices that have permanent impacts, and you will be pushed. It means above all that this is a beautiful game, if not an entire art package. It shines though even in its flaws and is easily one of the best games of this entire year.
We give it a 9 out of 10, “Extremely Good and Horrid”