Dishonored Review

Because I like being super topical, I think it’s time to review one of my backlog games: Dishonored. Since it was one of the major contenders for game of the year, I really feel that it should probably get its own full review. Dishonored is probably the biggest sleeper hit last year. It really connected with a lot of people and it spawned a pretty good sized cult following. Of course, the incredible reviews the game got didn’t hurt either. Dishonored is a first person action game with a very focused interest in stealth. It offers a multifaceted approach to stealth that more and more games are offering nowadays. The game offers more than just gameplay, however. It tries to put a lot of attention on its story, and the developers brought in a star-studded cast to do their voice acting. It’s not a spoiler to tell you that Dishonored is a very good game, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few misses. So today, we’re going to see just how good this game really is.

Nothing says ‘sexy’ like steampunk assassin mask.
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First, a bit of a musing. Dishonored and Dragon’s Dogma were both the two new IPs I highlighted in my roundup. Dragon’s Dogma has been accused heavily of not being an original game, stealing from the likes of Dark Souls, Devil May Cry, and Shadow of the Colossus. Dishonored did not receive this criticism, as far as I know, but it is far from an original game. It plays similarly to Deus Ex: Human Revolution, especially with the quasi-open world stealth. It’s assassination elements reek of Hitman and the graphical style, themes, and power layout feels exactly like Bioshock. Finally, it seems to play a great deal of homage to the Thief series. That’s not to say that the game isn’t amazing and I don’t have a point by noting these issues. The only reason I note them is simply because of how lamentable that complaints like this attached to Dragon’s Dogma and not other games.

Yay for holding this shit against games!
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Ok, now we’re done with my little aside, so what is this game about? Dishonored is basically an assassination game. You will proceed through a series of levels with a mark at the end of each that you must take out, or subdue. There is a lot of freedom in how you exactly go about doing this, but it’s still a pretty linear game. There are a small amount of RPG elements in the collectible runes and bone charms that can be found in the dark corners of the city. Runes allow you to upgrade powers, which let you do things such as stop time or teleport a short distance, while bone charms can affect any part of combat from giving you more health from healing potions to making you faster while in stealth mode. There is also much to loot throughout the city in order to earn money, which you can use to purchase minor upgrades to your equipment and more ammo/health/mana potions. It is a familiar setup, but it works well.

Sadly there’s no ‘fire to the face while on stilts’ power. I guess you’ve got to give some to the bad guys…
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Now let’s get down to the gameplay. At its core, Dishonored is a first person hack and slash action game. There are two projectile weapons, but the sword is at the centre of Dishonored’s combat. Truthfully, each individual part of Dishonored’s combat is unimpressive, with sword slashes lacking weight and it being hard to gauge the range of long ranged weapons. However, when all of the elements are put together and with Dishonored’s emphasis on stealth, the combat ends up looking very good. You are given a wide variety of tools and the fun isn’t in the implementation of the tool, but in selecting the proper tool for the job. It helps that Dishonored gives you a wide variety of situations to deal with instead of simply endless rooms full of armed guards, which makes each choice far more organic and less repetitive. You can choose to go through the game swords blazing without relying on other tools, but if you choose this, your experience will likely suffer.

If you just do this the whole game, you’re going to have a bad time.
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The stealth elements are extremely reminiscent of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. However, Dishonored does a much better job in implementing them. In Deus Ex, despite all of the alleged freedom, no kills and stealth offered you way more rewards than simply jumping out and killing everyone. Dishonored does a better in rewarding the player whether or not they are a killer. Make no mistake, you will still be punished for being a killer, which is ridiculous in this kind of quasi-open world stealth game, but it is less than Deus Ex. Like many games, stealth in Dishonored simply relies on players memorizing guard patrol routes and using that knowledge to make their way through the stage. However, Dishonored rarely gets old, partially in thanks to its selection of powers, which give some very interesting ways around situations. For example, why sneak past guards, when you can teleport between cover? If there’s a problem you’re having problems solving, you can stop time for a couple of seconds. Best of all, one power lets you see through walls and highlights enemy vision cones, making it the equivalent of Batman’s detective mode in the Arkham games. This power alone, makes Dishonored’s stealth segments a cut above the rest.

Why yes, good sir. I am Batman.
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How about the story? This is a hard thing to deal with. The core story they are trying to tell should be good, but it is riddled with issues. Firstly, the game is far too short, meaning that you don’t get nearly enough time with some characters. Secondly, most of the game’s plot is told straight up at the beginning with only tiny new elements being told between missions, which undermines exactly what you’ve been doing. I complain, but here is something here. The lore of the city and world that is scattered around the game, puts Skyrim to shame and I would certainly love to return to the world, but the main dialogue and storytelling devices aren’t very good. The characters are pretty much all one dimensional and your character, Corvo doesn’t have any personality at all. This is a shame and it brings me to the voice acting. They brought in some really talented actors, but, unfortunately, there is a difference between being an actor and a voice actor. It hurts me to say, but the wonderful Chloe Grace Moretz and Carrie Fisher offer very uneven performances. This could be because of the dialogue, but it is the shame nonetheless.

This guy probably gets the most dialogue in the game, and that’s not a good thing.
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Graphically, this game looks a lot like Bioshock, which is to say that the game is dark and detailed, but also old and dated. The game isn’t pretty to look at, and sometimes this is intentional, as you can see the artistic choices in the character designs especially. However, environments are flat and animations are weak. It’s clear that this game didn’t have the money to really push any powerhouse graphics. Fortunately, this doesn’t really matter. It might not be perfect, but the graphics work and the choice of style is laudable. Stylistically, Dishonored soars, with its distinct style playing with its lore. For example, whaling is huge in the game both historically, and as a motif.

You’ve got style, Mr. Crazy Wolf Mask, but you’re ugly as sin.
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So, in the end, Dishonored is a very good game. I attack its story, which, granted is better than most stories out on the market today, but I hold it to a higher standard than most because of the high standard of quality present in this game and because of the emphasis put on it. Of course, even if the story was abysmal, the gameplay would push this game very far. Stealth in games is often exhilarating when done right, and in Dishonored, stealth is done very, very right.

Pros

– Very well executed stealth
– Balanced gameplay makes each new situation a thrill
– Strong style
– Insanely detailed and well told loreCons

– The story simply isn’t as good as the lore behind it
– Very short
– Graphically weak

Score 8.5

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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