The lights are on
I can't say that I've ever been a fan of the stealth genre before Dishonored. Sure, I've enjoyed games like Metal Gear Solid, and the Batman: Arkham games, but I've always been relatively awful at the actual sneaking around, undetected bit, and I see my fair share of "game over" screens. Oddly enough, it took a move to first person for me to feel truly comfortable in the shadows.
What I mean is that, most stealth titles like, Splinter Cell, and the two titles I mentioned above have the player play the game from a third person perspective. This is justifiable, as it endows the player with a wider range of vision, thus upping overall awareness. Dishonored basically throws this gameplay element to the wind, and is played from a first person point of view. I was worried at first that this might actually raise the difficulty, seeing as how you wouldn't be able to keep your eyes on an enemy you've already passed, and your focus will be on what's directly in front of the character.
To say the least, I don't think Dishonored would have been playable from any other perspective. Some of the abilities like Blink (essentially a power that allows the player to move at high speeds from location to location in a stealthy manner. Think Nightcrawler) pretty much make the games usage of the first person view a necessity.
Complimenting the games point of view, is an incredibly tight control scheme. I never once found myself struggling with basic functionality, and moving from shadow to shadow as well as taking out enemies couldn't feel any smoother. Auto-aim makes usage of ranged weapons feel as easy as moving the player forward, and melee battles are absolutely thrilling, as the combat system has seen its fair share of polish.
Dishonored is set in an entirely fictional universe, which is just drenched in beauty. The buildings take an obvious queue from Victorian era London, while the technology of the world could easily be described as steam-punk. Though the aesthetic of the world is often gorgeous, the beauty of environments can often times be hindered by rough textures, and the occasional graphical pop-in. It wouldn't be a major problem, if it weren't such a constant issue. This problem is reminiscent of last years Bethesda release, Skyrim, where everything is beautiful from afar, but just plain sloppy up close. It isn't game-breaking issue, but a little more visual polish would have been nice.
One of Arkane studios best decisions while making Dishonored, is creating multiple pathways that the player can use to traverse the world. This keeps environments, and enemy encounters fresh, and ever changing. You can either take to the roof tops, or move beneath the feet of your enemies. Moving through their ranks is also an option. Moving to a different map can often be irritating though, as loading times can take just a bit too long (this is a very minor gripe).
The mythology is also shrouded in mysticism, as a mysterious being called "The Outsider" grants a diverse set of powers to people he deems "interesting".
Of course the main character, Corvo, is one of those interesting folk that the Outsider blessed with his black magic. Arkane Studios makes excellent use of this gameplay element, as you can string together magic, ranged, and melee attacks to either create a stealthy escape that leaves a room of baddies unconscious, or you can orchestrate said gameplay elements, to create a bloody mess. Whether you decide to take a the "Rambo" approach, and decide to get into altercations with your enemies at every encounter, or you decide to avoid confrontation altogether and stay in the shadow, is up to you and both play styles are incredibly satisfying.
The story of Dishonored - while not completely original - is deep and chock full of emotion. When Corvo, was actually "dishonored", I couldn't help but grow angry, and whenever I achieved a victory, be it minor or small, I always felt a bit of hope for Corvo, and the other characters involved with his story. The music - while not the best I've ever heard in a game - blends well with what's going on screen, and fits the atmosphere of the game perfectly.
Speaking of characters, each one is well developed, and extremely well voiced. Granny Rags, and Admiral Havelock (voice by Susan Sarandon and John Slattery respectively) are the highlights of Dishonored's incredible voice cast. My biggest complaint as far as voices go, is the voiceless Corvo. While I'm perfectly fine with a silent character, and Corvo's silence worked, a voice would have really brought the character to life. It was a missed opportunity in my opinion, as the world is so rich, and well rounded, that it would have been amazing to hear his interpretation of the events that unfold, and a voice would have greatly improved the emotional aspect of the game as it would have given us a greater link to the characters in the universe - particularly Emily.
While the story was great, it was hindered by a fairly weak ending. Dishonored's ending wasjarring and abrupt. It seemed as if Arkane rushed to finish development on the game, and to get it out of the door. It seemed incredibly odd that a game that was as well-paced, and deep as Dishonored ended in such a way. I won't go too far into details as to avoid spoilers.
Dishonored has it's flaws, but overall it's a riot. For the first time, I successfully sneaked through a game without alerting any enemies or without getting into a confrontation, and then was able to go back through and slaughter everyone using incredible powers, like Possession, and Rat Swarm. If you look past the few quirks that it has, you'll see an excellent game that accommodates just about any play style and should be played by anyone looking for a new experience in a fall full of sequels. I give it an 8.5 out of 10.
Never been a fan of the stealth genre, but Dishonored always has intrigued me. I'll probably wait till it gets a price drop. Anyways, thanks for taking the time to review it, hannibal.
I've read a few reviews on this game and no one commented on the smart execution of the first-person perspective like you have, which is actually a really exciting element for me. Its also great to hear that the performances are really good, which is actually an aspect most critics fail to touch on in their reviews. Overall your review sounded really fair and well rounded, especially coming from someone who is skittish around stealth games.