Dance with death
There is nothing quite like the ballet of death found within Dishonored. Freezing time and gracefully moving about the frozen landscape. Enemy bullets fill the air, unmoving, as you dance beneath this cloud of bullets. Swords are raised in paralyzed hands as you aim your crossbow and fire one, two, three shots. You inhabit a guard’s body and move him into the oncoming shower of bullets. Unfreeze time and watch as they fall with more nimbleness than a team of synchronized swimmers. Killing has never looked so good.
Arkane Studios and publisher Bethesda Softworks have come together to bring a new twist to the stealth-action genre, presenting players with a multitude of options in how to traverse the levels. Gone are the linear paths gamers must take to complete the objective, and in place of it you are given near limitless control over how to progress. All of it is driven forward by a story that keeps you interested, but only if you work for it.
One of the main selling points of the game is the story. Depending on how you play, the story is altered to reflect your actions. You can go about the level being the silent killer who remains unseen and slinks about the shadows of rooftops and back alleys, or be the infamous assassin who strikes fear into his targets. The story isn’t without its faults, the game drops you into the middle of plague-stricken city cut off from the rest of the world, offering very little background of just what the hell is going on. Who is Corvo Attano? Where in the universe are you? Is this some alternate universe?
While some questions get answered, and some background is later provided to what is happening around you, players who fail to seek out those answers can be left with a jarring experience where pieces of a much larger and complex puzzle remain missing. The books that litter the city provide a deeper, richer experience. Some may not like the idea of having to hunt down these books and letters left by the citizens, but those who do will appreciate the work that has gone into this game that much more. Eavesdropping on guards also gives players some insight into the workings of this world, at least for those players who can keep their fingers off their blades long enough to let them finish talking.
There are so many ways to go about dispatching your foes; do you drop from the light poles, jump out of the window to slay whoever is on the other side, or do you perhaps silently knock out the guard pick up his body and toss him into the river drowning him while hiding the body as well? It’s why you will play it once, twice, or more just to see the different ways you can set the guards up to fall. Teleporting, or blinking as its called in the game, behind them and sinking your blade into their backs, heads, stomachs, or neck provides a satisfying method of dispatch. At least until you begin to experiment with your different powers which can be purchased with rune stones that have been left over by a civilization long since gone. These rune stones and bone charms are the sources of your powers, and without searching through the game and reading the numerous books players will miss out on the true nature of these supernatural relics.
With the gameplay being so varied it’s hard to nail down any single major flaw in the game. Players who want to run and gun can do just that. More meticulous players can sit back on a roof and watch the guards make their rounds, and then eliminate them without leaving behind a single trace that they were ever there. Sympathetic players can finish the game from start to finish without killing so much as a single enemy. While this course of sparing your foes presents the most challenge and requires careful planning and patience, it’s also one of the most rewarding paths to choose from, giving you a more fleshed out story as you complete optional objectives to earn the no-kill methods of dispatch.
The biggest gripe that many will have is how quickly Dishonored can be completed. Stealth may make the game longer to finish for those who attempt to complete it with zero kills and without alerting the guards. On the other hand those who go in guns blazing can complete the game in a few short hours, and those who hate exploring will complete the game even quicker.
A few combat issues also keep the game from achieving the greatness that it could have been. The blink power can be a bit picky at times, and not allow you to grab ledges that should otherwise be within the power’s range. The end result is you face-planting into the side of the wall, and then falling three stories to your death. The AI on more than one occasion would spot me when dropping a body around the corner, and down the street from them, but yet other times I could drop a body behind a garbage can right in front of them and go unnoticed.
The world around you is on the verge of death. With the plague ravaging the town, the outlook is bleak at best. This is seen in just about every room, building, and alley you enter where rats scurry about and devour the dead bodies that litter the streets. What were once posh homes of the wealthy are now covered in dust. Opening shelves causes a cloud of dust to fly off, and even these homes are not immune to rats occupying the house. Residents smash these little bringers of death underneath their feet, and the blood spills onto the ground. Arkane has made a world that is on the verge of death much like its residents, and it is a beautiful sight to behold.
Even with the few minor hiccups, Dishonored stands out as one of the best titles of the year. No other game this year has yet approached the same level of gameplay diversity. This is one title that nails the choose your own adventure type gameplay, and appeals to a number of playing styles. With the variety open to you, you’ll be pleased at the amount of replayability to be had here, and that makes Dishonored one game that shouldn’t be missed.
Tested on 360