Lasting First Impressions of Dishonored
Developed by Arkane Studios | Published by Bethesda Softworks
» This late in the current generation of consoles, it is rare to see studios taking chances on brand new IPs, especially during the holiday season when the majority of AAA titles are slated for release. Arkane Studios and Bethesda Softworks were not intimidated by the competition when it came to their new revenge-fuelled assassin game, Dishonored.
In Dishonored you play the master assassin, Corvo, once the trusted bodyguard of the Empress, now framed for her murder. Revenge is all that is left and all that will be needed to bring the masterminds behind this crime to justice, or death. The choice will ultimately be yours. That is where Dishonored shines: choice. The actions you choose will shape the fate of your world and actually change future missions. Every mission in Dishonored can be achieved multiple different ways utilizing their “Play Your Way” gameplay. Do you enjoy the slow, methodical ways of the silent assassin? You can play that way. Do you enjoy the up close and personal, run and gun, method? You can do that too. Perhaps you want to play the game without killing anyone. Yup, you can do that too. Everything is completely up to you and Dishonored does not tell you how the game must be played. This is a mission-based linear story game but during every mission, several optional objectives will present themselves to you and, again, it is your choice whether you want to stray from your immediate goal to complete these other quests or not. Each main mission area is riddled with multiple pathways to choose from. Travel along the rooftops and bypass enemies; take control of a rat and travel in rat tunnels; utilize hiding places and carefully traverse the area; or just go straight in and kill everyone in sight. The goal is the same, how you get there is completely up to you.
Dishonored is an absolutely gorgeous game, both visually and audibly, though I did notice some texture pop-in occurring from time to time. Set in a dystopian, steampunk-esque world, every detail was taken into account. The images are nearly photo-realistic set on a beautiful canvas painting. The environmental sounds and music really put you in the moment and you will find yourself completely mesmerized by this fantasy world. As I tend to play games like this very stealthy and carefully, the music only seemed to play when enemies were near and that just added to the nervousness of this gameplay style. The tension that the music and environmental sounds add is enormous. From the moment the game started, I was enthralled and hard-pressed to stop playing the game to write this review. There is so much wonderful in this game, it is hard to mention everything.
Dishonored feels like the perfect cross between Skyrim, Assassin’s Creed, and even Bioshock. This is a linear, mission-based story, and each mission will take you to a specific location. Once the mission is complete, you return to your ‘home base’ so there is no free-roaming world here. That’s not a bad thing since there is an amazing amount of freedom during the missions.
For the adventurer in you, there are plenty of items search for and pick up and, unlike games such as Skyrim, the valuable items are automatically converted to currency, so there’s no carrying a backpack of stuff back to a vendor to sell. This currently can then be used to upgrade your weapons and armor. In addition to physical weapons, finding Runes will allow you to unlock supernatural powers such as Blink, which allows you to quickly move from one point to another, including up the side of a building. This is especially useful to reach places you couldn’t jump to or to escape a close quarters attack. Other powers include Dark Vision, allowing you to see enemies through walls and see their line of sight; Bend Time, which will, as you can probably guess, slow down time so you can escape or make an unseen assassination; and Possession, allowing you to possess creatures and, eventually, other people for a short time. Since Dishonored is all about choice, you can choose still to play the game without the use of any supernatural powers at all. Instead, you can choose to utilize the pistol, cross-bow, and grenades only. Dual wielding the weapons is very cool. Corvo has his trusty assassin’s blade in his right hand, but any other weapon or power is equipped in his left. Using Blink to quickly move immediately behind a guard and then assassinating him unawares is an amazing rush of adrenaline. Discovering these sorts of combinations of weapons and powers is part of the fun and allure of Dishonored.
I love playing this game while attempting to remain completely invisible to the enemies. I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time behind cover just watching the patterns of guards before deciding to make my move so as to not be seen. When approaching an enemy from behind, you have, once again, the choice to quickly assassinate them, or to render them unconscious. Either way, be sure to hide the bodies so they aren’t discovered by other guards. It is this absolute dedication to player choice that makes Dishonored truly unique in many ways. Since the player has the ultimate choice of going the path of violence or non-lethal, Dishonored does not suffer the same fate that Deus Ex: Human Revolution did with unbalanced boss battles. In fact, you will not find any boss battles at all in Dishonored. This aspect makes Dishonored feel like a natural and true adventure with choice as the key word right to the very end.
Dishonored is proving to be one of the best games I’ve played in all of 2012 and is definitely the biggest surprise this year. I truly hope we have not seen the last of this new IP.
Arkane Studios, I gave you an hour and I am immensely IMPRESSED.