New IP’s are a huge risk at this point in this console generation, right now gamers are mostly looking for sequels that they have come to know and love, while some of us are itching for something new, something original, something out of the norm to give us a breather from the Call of Duties and the Assassins Creed’s. Arkane studios is here to give us that something new. It is called Dishonored, a first person stealth action game that feels like something between Bioshock, Splinter Cell and Assassins Creed. With the Wii U, Xbox 720 and Playstation 4 just over the horizon will Dishonored be a sneaky success or will it leave us hoping for the new console generation to leap out of the shadows soon?
You play as Corvo Atano, Lord Protector of the Empress of Dunwall. As Corvo arrives from a business trip he was sent on, he is approached by Emily, the Empresses daughter and future Empress of Dunwall. Emily tells you that the Empress needs to speak with you, as Corvo is speaking with the Empress Emily see’s a dark figure in the distance. Corvo immediately draws his sword and gun as he knows something bad is about to happen. You fend off a couple of the assassin’s, killing them with the accuracy of your gun and swiftness of your sword but one man can only do so much. Two more assassin’s leap down, one paralyzing you with his powers and the other shoving Emily out of the way and grabbing the Empress thrusting his sword into her stomach while all you can do is watch. The assassin’s then grab Emily and vanish, leaving you to stumble to the ground over to the dying Empress as she pleads “find Emily, protect her, you’re the only one who will know what to do”. The guards then show up, of course, as you are clutching the dead Empress in your arms then being blamed and taken into custody. It’s a very well played out and emotional opening scene that will get you excited to begin you’re path of justice and revenge.
Corvo is then thrown in jail and after a few months of captivity you escape with the help of an anonymous source who knows you are innocent. This is where the game kicks off as you escape prison and join up with some loyalists who know you are innocent and want to bring justice to the men that framed you. The story is pretty much just as simple as it sounds. You are accused of the murder you did not attempt, then you seek revenge on the people that framed you and took power over the city. There are a few twists in the story but unfortunately they are fairly predictable. However the game is a joy to play from beginning to end even though the story is not that original.
The characters make things a lot more interesting as they are wonderfully acted and voiced. The relationship between Emily and Corvo is done well, as you can tell that Emily see’s Corvo as a father figure and close friend, and at the same time you can tell that Corvo truly cares for Emily even though Corvo is mostly a silent character throughout. Piero is the master inventor and the one who supplies you before your missions with whatever you need. Piero is very subtle and kind of strange as he speaks very softly and slowly. Others think he is creepy but as the game goes on you just realize he is misunderstood and simply has bad people skills. While some of the characters are plain and generally boring, most of the characters are genuinely interesting and you’re understanding of them will change as you get to know them. You will meet many different characters as you are set out on you’re quest for revenge.
The game is set in Dunwall, a fictional city based on a Victorian age London. The city thrives on new industrial technology that runs on whale oil. The rich and powerful rule the city while the poor live on the rat infested streets only to become victim to the rat plague which eventually turns people into walking corpses known as weepers. Despite the overall dark tone of the game it’s an absolute pleasure to look at throughout, and you will notice that from the moment you start. The graphics style could be described as an oil painting in motion. You feel a sense of depression and bleakness as you roam the lower parts of the city where you see mostly grey and brown. Then once you get to the upper parts of the city the colors are vibrant and varied.
Each section of the city is set up as a sandbox type environment which allows you to tackle missions and seek out your targets through many different paths whether it be under the city through sewers, on the streets through alleyways, through dilapidated buildings, or prowling on the rooftops. This provides many options of choice and forces players to think outside the box instead of a linear path that holds your hand like many games do these days. Also once you find you’re target after much investigation, listening in on peoples conversations and doing side missions to help you with you’re quest, the main target can be disposed of through several different means. Sure you can bust in and shoot everybody in the room then stab you’re target in the face if you want. But there are always other options as well. For example one mission gives you the option to poison the targets drink, another gives you the option to knock the target out, strap him to an interrogation chair and brand his forehead with a heretics brand getting him banned from the city forever. There are some truly creative options at you’re disposal here and you will want to eventually try them all to see what happens. This brings up the option of multiple playthroughs as the second time you play a mission can be totally different depending on the path you chose to reach your target and the method you chose to dispose of said target.
The environment isn’t the only aspect of the game that gives you options. The gameplay is very choice driven as well. Throughout the game you will have many different options to take down you’re enemies with. Corvo has magic abilities that are given to him by the outsider, a being that is said to be neither good nor evil, that chooses to grant people special powers for the right reasons. Throughout the game these powers can be unlocked and leveled up as you find runes and bone charms in hidden areas within each setting. There are many powers such as dark vision, which allows you to see through walls, blink, which allows you to teleport short distances making it easier to sneak past guards and onto rooftops, and swarm, which summons a swarm of rats to devour you’re enemies skin right off their bones. As you play through the game you will unlock many other cool powers to satisfy you’re killing needs.
Corvo is also equipped with a sweet looking sword, which can be used to take down oblivious foes with a swift stab to the neck, dispatch enemies quickly if you are surrounded, and it can also be used to block incoming attacks and if timed right can send the enemy stumbling backwards, which obviously you take advantage of with one of many gruesome finishers. Corvo also has two ranged weapons, one a crossbow which is used to take out enemies from a distance more stealthily. The other a pistol, which is used for quick close up kills. Finally Corvo also has a few gadgets at his disposal, such as grenades, spring razors (which act as bouncing betty explosives) and re-wiring tools that can be used to re-wire things such as security doors known as walls of light to hurt you’re enemies instead of you. All of these combat options are available in a wheel that is brought up by holding down the right bumper just like in Bioshock.
The gameplay is extremely fun once you get the hang of it. I would be sneaking through an area (or simply not sneaking at all, whatever you choose) and get spotted, all the sudden being surrounded by 5 enemies at once. I pull up my combat wheel and select stop time (another one of the cool powers) right before one of the guards fires his gun. I move behind the enemy that just fired the gun, time starts back up I watch the guard that was previously behind me get blasted away by his buddy, I slit the guards throat that I am now magically behind, I pull out my pistol and shoot the guard to my left, turn around and windblast one of the guards to my right causing him to fly backwards onto the ground then parry the incoming strike of the other guard to my right and brutally slicing off his head, finally stabbing the other guard on the ground before he can get up to attack me. All of that being performed faster than it took you to read it. That is when Dishonored is at it’s absolute best, when you perform every move perfectly and come out of a fight truly feeling like a legendary assassin.
Which also brings me to the games two biggest flaws. It takes a lot of time with the game to become that good at it. It took me quite awhile to completely get the hang of things. At the beginning I found myself often switching to my gun instead of a certain power because guns and powers are both used in Corvo’s left hand and triggered with LT. Therefore if you are hiding behind cover and wish to use dark vision so you can see who is on the other side, you might accidentally select you’re gun and hit LT, firing the gun and giving away you’re position. Even after hours of play when you know how to use everything, you can find yourself doing this because the powers and weapons are so close to each other on the wheel and it can be very frustrating.
Another flaw, which I think is the biggest flaw in the game, is that the game is much more fun to play the way I described above. It is way more satisfying to be able to use all of the tools at Corvo’s disposal because everything he can use to kill people with is pure fun to use. Every fight can be played out a little differently by mixing up you’re combat and like I said that’s when Dishonored is at it’s best. However the game strongly encourages you to be stealthy, and even punishes you for not being stealthy and killing a bunch of people as opposed to knocking them out. If you finish missions with high chaos, which is what happens when you kill a bunch of people, the city will become darker and more infested with rats and weepers. Essentially making you’re playthrough a little more difficult. Also if you’re an achievement whore like I am, most of the achievements are based on being stealthy and not killing people, so I missed out on all those achievements.
Now, this would not be a big problem if being super sneaky and knocking people out was just as fun as killing people, but its not…not at all. The only two ways to render someone unconscious is to sneak up behind them and choke them out or shoot them with a sleep dart…and that’s it. If you’re thinking well that doesn’t sound nearly as fun as the combat described earlier, you’re exactly right it’s not as fun. This is a big problem because their are different possible outcomes for being sneaky and generally not killing people but it simply wasn’t as fun as being on the warpath of vengeance and killing everyone I saw. Especially when you get good at it. Now don’t get me wrong it’s still fun to be sneaky and finish a mission without anyone even knowing you were there. In one particular mission at a masked mansion party, I was sent to identify and kill one of three sisters. As I snuck all the way to the mansion without being detected I came across a guest book. I thought hmmm can I sign this? Sure enough I picked up the pen and signed Corvo Atano at the end of the list. The man that was supposed to be hung for killing the Empress signed the guest book at a party he wasn’t invited to, and disposed of the crooked sister without anyone ever knowing he was there. So sneaking through missions can make you feel like a supreme badass assassin as well, it’s just not amazing like it is when all the gameplay elements are clicking.
As a whole Dishonored is an extremely fun and interesting game. It is filled with wonderful characters, settings and missions that you will almost certainly want to experience all over again right when the credits start to roll. The end outcome is a little unsatisfying but everything throughout the game is well worth experiencing to get there, and with it’s tremendous replay value it is most definitely worth you’re 60 dollars. Just remember, revenge solves everything.
Final score 4 out of 5