2012 was yet another year jammed packed with sequels to ‘blockbuster’ games, such as Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Halo 4 and Far Cry 3, and with this console generation due to run it’s course soon, it’s no surprise that companies are playing it safe. However, Bethesda played a risky move by launching a new IP so late in this console generation and their courage has paid off. Dishonored is a fabulous game, boasting a unique art-style, fascinating setting and gameplay which indulges in complete player-freedom.
You play as Corvo Attano, originally the sworn protector of Empress Jessamine Kaldwin, Corvo is forced to flee into hiding when his royal charge is brutally murdered and he is falsely framed for the crime. Throughout the game, Corvo must seek revenge for the murder of his beloved Empress and place the rightful heir, her daughter Emily Kaldwin, onto the throne. Unfortunately, Dishonored’s story feels more like a tool to ferry the player from one mission to the next, with apparent ‘surprise’ plot-turns being rather predictable and the multiple endings on offer remaining unsatisfying. But what Dishonoured lacks in story-telling, it makes up for the city of Dunwall: a rat-infested, plague-ridden, industrial sewer-pot. The city is comparable to a history text-book, with obvious influences from the London of the 1800’s, with it’s many factories and extreme division between the rich and poor.
The world of Dishonored is terrifying, merciless and extraordinary, with it’s marvellous contraptions such as the Wall of Light: an electrical barrier capable of frying living things, and the stilt-walkers: guards who patrol on spindly legs powered by whale oil. Also, the character of the outsider, a mysterious pagan-like figure who grants Corvo supernatural powers, is an interesting phenomenon; a character neither inherently evil nor entirely good, but is simply in it for his own gain. Dishonored thrives on the free-choice and variable gameplay, encouraging the player to experiment with different ways of achieving goals. The two primary paths a player can choose are high chaos: a blood-splattering, heavy melee based approach, or low chaos: a stealthy, pacifist approach. However, the player can mix and match with both these play-styles if they choose, as Dishonored is not a game to pin you into a corner once you’ve made a decision, but simply allow you to complete missions in any way you please. A single mission can be played out in an entirely different number of ways, for example, during an assignment set at a lavish party, I decided to possess a rat to sneak up into the mansion bedrooms, and seek out information about which of the three sisters wearing identical masks was my target, and then allowed her lover to take her away, never to be seen again. But you could just as easily decide to get one of the guests drunk and ask information from her, or disable the electrical barrier and sneak up that way, or simply kill all three sisters. During gameplay, switching weapons, spells and equipment is a seamless experience, requiring very little messing around with menus. But, the various power upgrades available are a little restricted, I found that I had horded a number of upgrade points near the end simply because I had purchased all the upgrades that suited my pacifist play-style and had nothing else to spend it on.
Dishonored allows you to undertake your own challenges, whether you just want to slaughter as many guards as possible, or sneak unseen throughout, or complete the various side-quests available each mission or obtain the collectables scattered around the area. Overall, Dishonored is an excellent game, with a unique art-direction, original setting and stellar gameplay.
Dishonored is available for Xbox 360, PS3 and Microsoft Windows. 9/10