From the very first trailer, Dishonored appealed to me greatly. The setting and design were just the right combination of dark and bizarre to warrant my attention so I was very much looking forward to playing through this title. In Dishonored, you take control of a former personal bodyguard of the Empress who is framed for her murder and kidnapping of her daughter. You are freed by a group loyal to the Empress who know you’re innocent and tasked with the assassination of those responsible and the recovery of the heiress to the throne.
Along the way you also end up getting entangled with a mystical being known as the Outsider who grants you power seemingly just out of curiosity of what you’ll do with it.
That more or less covers the plot – it is not an overwhelmingly complex story, but it serves a purpose. Dunwall, the game’s setting, is a city rotting from within, suffering from a plague and heartless aristocrats who seem to believe in social Darwinism in the most extreme. It sets the atmosphere perfectly as you traverse the slum full of desperate and oppressed people to the homes of the rich and powerful.
There are a few crazy individuals you meet along the way that are quite interesting, like Granny Rags and Slackjaw, though sadly I felt there wasn’t enough done with them. I highly recommend using the heart the Outsider gives you to hear the bits of info about them.
There are also books, notes and recordings you can find that flesh out the setting. They give you a taste of the political climate, the desperate nature of life in the plague infested city, the delusional perspective of the rich, etc. These are nothing unique to this game but I actually enjoyed reading these and I general don’t in most games I play, so I think that says something.
The way you play through the game has an impact on the ending you obtain, specifically how high the body count is. The more people you kill the more plague rats begin infesting the city. I found this a more compelling reasoning for a good or bad ending than the moral goodness of your given character.
This will actually adjust the gameplay mechanic at certain points, leading to a higher likelihood of running into swarms of man-eating rats or Weepers (people afflicted with the plague who’ve degraded to zombie-like human husks). Honestly, most of the alternate ways of taking care of your targets are far less merciful than death.
I’m getting ahead of myself, though. The meat of the game is the missions you go on to take out your targets. You are dropped in a section of the city, essentially given a little playground that allows you multiple ways to get to your objective, depending on how sneaky or aggressive you want to be.
You can decide to just go straight to the target or do the one or two side missions along the way that may aid or give you more options for your mission. The methods of dispatching enemies or traversing the world to get to your target become more varied as you collect runes to unlock more powers.
The powers are definitely the most fun part of the game, even the very first one you get, Blink, is endlessly useful in traveling around unnoticed as well as being a useful way to circumvent the awkwardness that is first-person platforming. You just highlight where you want to go within a certain range and teleport there.
Other powers include being able to possess animals and, eventually, humans for a short time to pass obstacles or the ability to slow down time. There are also much more offense concentrated abilities like being able to summon a swarm of rats to devour an enemy. There are more but I won’t go through them all, suffice to say you have a nice collection of options to be as deadly or stealthy as you want.
Your arsenal of weapons is also suitably nasty. You have a sword and pistol as your starting weapons. You eventually get a crossbow with three different kinds of bolts which include fire, grenades and (my personal favorite) razor blade firing proxy mines that stick to any surface. You’re certainly well equipped to ruin anyone’s day in the game. All of these items can also be upgraded to make more accurate, give different abilities, etc.
The game controls well and combat felt good, even melee which can often be asinine in first person shooters. Seeking how to go about your mission is incredibly fun and can lead to some moments of inspired creativity. Just getting into a building can lead to some interesting choices.
Do you travel along the roof and find an open window? do you possess a rat to travel through the vent? do you just jump down and kill everyone like a mystical juggernaut of death? These are the enjoyable moments of planning to be had and give a good reason to play through multiple times just to find alternate ways of doing things. Perhaps seeing more areas in each level you had bypassed the first time by doing it a different way.
The graphics aren’t overwhelmingly impressive, but instead offer a stylized look, very similar to Bioshock. As I had said earlier, the design of Dunwall from the slums to the mansions and everywhere in between is striking and does a magnificent job setting the atmosphere and tone.
It’s also fairly solid from a technical standpoint, there were no major glitches that I can recall during my playthrough, which seems to be a rarity lately. Voice acting is handled well, a few characters really steal the show, and are given a life and personality that invests the player in their progress. The ambient music also sets a very strong atmosphere throughout the game. In general, everything about the presentation fits together like a beautiful puzzle.
I can definitely say that this is one of my favorite games I’ve played this year. With the ability to get creative with your approach to the game to the setting you traverse through, I absolutely loved the experience.
While I still have issues with the silent protagonist and the feeling that more could have been done with the plot, in the end these aren’t big enough of a deal to drag down the rest of the game. Some people have claimed the game is too short, but I don’t agree, it doesn’t overstay its welcome and leaves you wanting more, which you can get by playing through again a different way.
I’d rather have a solid experience that is well constructed, structured and fun to play than one that drags on for weeks with little in the way of rewarding gameplay. If the company decide to make a sequel perhaps more can be added, for now this is a game worthy of being owned and a great first outing for this new IP.