Dishonored (PlayStation 3)

dishonored

A slightly messy way of doing things.

Dishonored was probably one of the more hotly anticipated games of the season, and I played through most of it after writing the first impressions a few days ago.

Dishonored takes place in the fictional city of Dunwall, the capital of a steampunk empire that has been hit by a plague carried by rats. You play as Corvo Attano, the once trusted bodyguard of the Empress who was falsely accused of her murder and the abduction of her daughter. It is now up to you to decide if your priority is saving the empire or revenge.

Dishonored is a first-person stealth action-adventure game. Throughout the mission-based game, you play through levels sneaking past guards to complete objectives, and missions usually culminate in you assassinating someone.

Despite being meant to be a stealth action game, Dishonored is very playable in a more “run ‘n’ gun” sense. On the normal setting, it actually isn’t that hard to fight your way out after alerting someone. However, the game keeps track of the chaos you cause as you progress, with your net total affecting the ultimate outcome of the game. Needless to say, a lower chaos stat would result in a better ending.

The gameplay itself reminds me of a fusion of Metal Gear Solid and Bioshock. Early on in the game, you gain the ability to use magic. You find runes throughout the levels to upgrade your existing spells or buy new ones. One spell you get is Blink, which you use to teleport (unseen) for short distances. Another spell I obtained, which made the game significantly easier, is Dark Vision. Dark Vision enables you to see lifeforms (i.e. guards) through walls while also displaying the cone representing their fields of vision. It is a spell you definitely want if you are looking to make it through the game more cleanly and killing fewer hostiles (Yes, it is quite possible to go through the game without killing anyone, including your assassination targets) while someone more violent would want to go for the spell that unlocks a special fatality when your adrenaline has been built up.

Even besides your magic, you have several conventional weapons in your arsenal, namely your trusty sword. Your flintlock pistol is powerful, but very noisy. If you are looking for a stealth-based approach, chances are you will keep your pistol holstered. Other than that, you have your crossbow (with three kinds of bolts you can fire) and good old grenades. Still, more often than not, you will want either incapacitate guards by sneaking up behind them and assassinating them (or with a non-lethal takedown) or sneaking past them altogether.

What Dishonored really has going for it is its level design. The game really encourages you in getting creative in completing your objectives, and it never really feels like you’re doing something “wrong”. Furthermore, the paths you take feel natural, and nothing feels like an arbitrary set piece just implemented as a gameplay mechanic. In one mission where you are heading to a party, I could see at least three ways to get across a river with my naked eye, and I am sure I would have discovered more had I searched more carefully. Even in open-world sandbox games like Assassin’s Creed, I felt like there was always one correct way of approaching a mission.

Because of such open-ended mission design, the game does have quite a bit of replayability. Despite that, I still wish the game was longer. I am on the last mission of the game, so I don’t think I have more than about an hour left. As I was a stickler trying to get through the game while causing minimal carnage, I would often reload my game when I would alert guards so I could avoid a fight. While doing that and being decent about completing side quests, I don’t think it will have taken me more than about 12 hours to get through the entire game. I feel like Dishonored is yet another game that joined the trend of non-RPG games generally getting shorter. I think if you played the game on Normal and just blasted your way through, I don’t think the game would take more than 8 hours to complete.

Besides the ending, the game on the Normal setting didn’t seem to really punish me for taking non-stealthy approaches as it is generally not that hard to fight your way out of conflict (a well-placed grenade often does the trick), but I think ratcheting the difficulty up would have been enough to solve that.

Overall, I was impressed with Dishonored’s presentation. Dunwall was a very believable steampunk city, and the characters had somewhat cartoony designs that worked well with the aesthetic the game was looking for. Admiral Havelock, for instance, reminded me of the Heavy from Team Fortress 2. Overall, the graphics looked great both from an artistic and a technical standpoint; I had no complaints with the texturing and the game always ran smoothly. I never had the slowdown which I sometimes did with Skyrim.

The game’s sound also was nothing to scoff at. The music reminded me of Hans Zimmer’s score of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and that was music that would have been perfect for a steampunk game like Dishonored. Furthermore, Dishonored features quite a few celebrities as voice actors, notably Lena Headey (Queen Gorgo in 300) as Callista and John Slattery (Roger Sterling in Mad Men) as Admiral Havelock.

Overall, I would say Dishonored is a winner. It’s about as good as stealth gets without having the Metal Gear Solid moniker. I only wish the game was longer; as a student, shelling out $60 for a game is a bit of a financial commitment, so I would have preferred it if I didn’t get through it as quickly as I did. Alas, I can do nothing but write that off as part of the trend of making games shorter to force gamers to buy more of them. Still, Dishonored features satisfying gameplay with an interesting setting.

Score: 3.5/4

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