Dishonored is a first person stealth action game developed by Arcane Studios and published by Bethesda. The game is set in a fictional city called Dunwall. Dunwall is part of an empire led by Empress Jessamine Kaldwin. The player takes the role of Lord Protector Corvo Attano. In Dishonored the player has access to many supernatural powers granted to them in the beginning of the game by The Outsider, a supernatural and omniscient immortal that narrates parts of the story. The scoring system for this review is 1-4 lowest to highest.
Revenge Solves Everything
In the beginning moments of the game a boat is returning from a visit to the neighboring cities. Corvo Attano has been sent to request aid in combating a deadly rat plague that has diseased the streets of Dunwall and the inhabitants therein. The story kicks off when, just moments after returning to the empress atop her tower, assassins attack and kill her in spite of the fierce intervention brought by Corvo. As the assassins retreat with the empress’s young daughter Emily in their grasp, the Royal Spymaster Hiram Burrows along with High Overseer Thaddeus Campbell enter hurriedly to discover the empress dying within the arms of the Lord Protector, covered in blood. After being imprisoned and sentenced to execution Corvo manages to escape, with some help, to the sewers. His goal is to find and protect Emily and clear his name.
The world built by Dishonored is a pretty intriguing one, but much of the good stuff is found in books across the levels in the game. This means that you have to pursue the story if you’re interested in knowing more. This can sometimes distract the player, but if you enjoy learning the backstory and searching for it isn’t a problem then you’ll be pleased with the delivery of the story here. You can also find little pieces of information and story in the form of dialogue from an item called the heart.
3–The story is interesting and worth at least one playthrough.
Gameplay is a very big part of the enjoyment of Dishonored. The gameplay is reminiscent of another game from Arcane Studios called Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. Other comparisons can be made to Styx: Master of Shadows. The Dark Vision power is similar to Amber Vision for example. There are several play styles in Dishonored and each one has its own challenges. Corvo obtains many weapons and tools as well as supernatural powers to use to complete his missions, some brutal and some nonlethal. The combat and stealth are both very fluid and well executed. Combat in Dishonored may seem basic, but there are many things to learn and try that make it really rewarding to play that way. There are not as many options for stealth as you only have the choice to either choke an enemy or shoot them with a sleep dart (or avoid them). However, the powers that facilitate stealth are really cool sometimes. Powers can be combined in creative ways and are all pretty fun to use. Some of the powers you get include the ability to slow time and possess other living creatures. Powers are upgraded by collecting runes hidden across the levels. The heart can help find runes as well as bone charms that also enhance Corvo’s abilities. The game doesn’t seem to favor any play style over another. This helps the game’s replay value quite a bit.
4 – Gameplay is the draw for Dishonored. Outstanding mix for a stealth action game.
The controls of Dishonored are pretty well thought out and work well enough. They are easy to use but may take a bit of time to get used to. Part of the problem is the field of view (FOV). The FOV is not very high and might take some getting used to. This is important in a first person game and can be a big problem for some consumers. The PC version of the game does have adjustable FOV. Most of the problems with the controls, at least on the Xbox are with the controller itself. The game is acceptable on controller, but the analog sticks can be annoying when looking and aiming. However, the look sensitivity can be changed in the options menu. Another controller problem is the lack of customizable control schemes. There are four available hotkey spots on the controller, but the need for the weapon wheel can be annoying and kind of interrupt the gameplay. Part of the problem is that you can’t hold anything but the sword in the right hand. This is especially annoying when playing non-lethal because the sword is basically useless.
3 – Controls are responsive and intuitive to use. May take some time to get comfortable.
Graphics and visual style
The visual style of Dishonored is very distinct and unique. The art is Victorian and steampunk inspired and has an eerie quality. The environment contains kind of a smudged water colored texture throughout with some bright colors that contrast with rich browns and dark blues. This really contributes to the atmosphere of a once brilliant industrial city now plagued by rats and filth. The graphics have aged fairly well as a result of the design decisions. There are occasional visual problems like loading textures and bodies clipping into walls. The Xbox version also has occasional freezing and frame rate problems.
3 – Distinct and pleasing style with good performance overall. Some minor issues that don’t get in the way.
Music and sound design
The music and sound in Dishonored fit very well with the atmosphere that the rest of the game builds. The background music is not overt and isn’t ever very obvious. This actually helps build to the moment when something happens and the music starts up while you decide to fight or flee. No matter what’s happening the music fits well. The pizzicato strings in the background set an eerie and sneaky mood while dissonant chords spark an instant reaction when the guards have been alerted. This isn’t the kind of soundtrack you would purchase and listen to on its own, but it definitely fits the experience of playing Dishonored.
4 – Well designed sounds and music that help build the atmosphere of the game.
Level design is an important aspect of any stealth game. It’s important to have branching paths and different way to get to, and complete, the objectives. There have to be enemies with somewhat predictable paths and AI and ways to avoid encountering them. Dishonored succeeds here and delivers intricate and detailed levels that allow you to explore while not feeling lost. Not only can you explore the areas in the game, but it always feels worth it to go off course a little. There is often loot and collectibles hidden in the alleys and secret rooms, or sometimes an alternate route to the objective. Another aspect of the levels is the puzzles that must be solved using gadgets and powers. However, these puzzles are fairly similar throughout the game and aren’t the main focus of the levels.
One of the most valuable powers when it comes to exploration and puzzle solving is blink. Blink is a teleport that allows quick travel across a short distance. Blink helps traverse some of the more vertical levels as well as hide in the rafters and light fixtures while indoors. It also simplifies the platforming of the game. Blink is a very versatile power and really helps the levels feel open and full of opportunity. There are a few levels that are visited several times in the game, but it helps to see some of the impact choices have in the game.
3-The levels are intricate and worth exploring across playthroughs.
The character designs in Dishonored look distinct and fit the setting well. The character’s personalities could be more developed as there are only a couple characters that really shine and feel like they have a unique place in the world of Dishonored. Granny Rags and Slackjaw are interesting characters found early on in the game and can be followed throughout the story. The relationships between characters could also be more emphasized. Piero and Sokolov seem to have a unique relationship that the player can only read about. There is DLC that tells the story of Daud the Empress’ assassin. Other characters such as enemies are well designed, but not very diverse. There is some contrast between the classes within Dunwall. The aristocrats live in brightly colored clothes and have personalities to match. The game could use more enemy variety, though, as you see the same handful of enemies throughout the games levels and they are all introduced pretty early on.
2 – Some likeable and interesting characters. Could use more diversity and development.
Dishonored is a great stealth action game that has done quite a bit to define and popularize the genre. I’ve played through the game at least half a dozen times and it remains enjoyable for me. This game is certainly worth a look if it’s the kind of game you would enjoy. The game can be found at a decent price in stores and online and the sequel, Dishonored 2, is set to release on 11 November 2016.