The lights are on
The tale of revenge is a classic
one, going as far back to the depressing Hamlet to the less than modern The
Crow. Dishonored weaves a similar
story, and much like the latter from above, is best told with murderous intent.
Choice is becoming a new hallmark in games, giving players a greater sense of
ownership for what they do and what consequences their actions have, in sharp
contrast to hallway shooters of yester-year (and whenever a new military
shooter comes out). For being a new IP however in this late into the current
generation cycle, Dishonored does a
greater than expected balance in accommodating various play styles, ensuring
that each one is satisfying and can be accommodated with each mission.
Like great games of the past, a-la Bioshock and the sort, Dunwall is an
amazing city for one to sink their teeth into. Even without reading all of the
extraordinary side content, comparable to the way Elder Scrolls handles its
fiction, there is a very distinct tone and easily understandable immediacy in
what is going on within the oil whale slicken walls. On that note, the art
style is fantastically done with what I consider to be a slight pastel look,
and paints a picture that can only be described as Whalepunk, a Victorian
emerging industrialist style with the looming presence of occult magic. The
only complaint is that textures look great from afar but as you get closer
there is a significant loss in resolution and clarity, especially with the
various posters that scatter the city. However, each mission provides a
significantly different feeling environment that is not only fun to explore,
but also one that rewards it, as tactical advantages will make dispatching foes
and carrying out your assassinations with greater ease.
Choice, a word that is appropriate
for this game, but used in careful moderation. While it is true that the levels
are sculpted for various styles of play, and there is a myriad of different
ways to approach a given situation, choice still feels like an inappropriate word.
Prior to launch the developers flaunted the ability to approach a mission
structure from a more stealthful angle and a more direct one, and while it is
true that killing the target isn't even necessary, stealth always felt like a
more subpar experience. Combat is divided into two aspects; you have your
weaponry and then your magic (which again divides into a passive and
non-passive branch). The assortment of tools at your disposal is amazingly well
put, if not typical for what you would think a mystical assassin should have
(with maybe one or two exceptions). However for all the boasting it deserves I
come back to the theme of stealth. There are two endings that one can achieve
which is a binary choice of low chaos and high chaos. By killing many you gain
chaos and therefore a kill free run is about as low chaos you can have. So not
only does the game provide incentive to achieve this task, it is also the much
more difficult road to follow.
The reason a low chaos attempt is a
challenge is exactly what I praise the game for, choice. When it comes to the
non-lethal there is a significant lack in choice to be had! Most weapons are
off limits as well as some powers, and even the ones that can be used are
either inconsistent in their use or are plain obscure. Take Blink for example,
the first power you receive. My one complaint is that when upgraded, you can
easily move forward a great distance, however when used to gain height to scour
a building, you get a pitiful amount of reach as you do in a completely
horizontal position (which doesn't make sense!). Dark vision on the other hand
is such a cool power, but the obscurity here lies in the vision cone of the AI
and what you think they see, and what they actually see. For example, if I
murder someone 200 feet away from another, in broad daylight, I should expect
that person to notice. However, such the spottiness of the AI or just lack of
awareness can let me pull off such feats.
Unfortunately, the story does not
pull off any fantastic leaps of its own. Corvo is the protagonist of the story,
yet takes a backseat drive to those I would consider much less important,
primarily because they are the ones with a speaking role and directing you
(which feels very odd given the clear power distinction). The assassination
targets are also given backstory and the plotline attempts to make you feel
some reason as to why they should be murdered, but as I carried out my duty, it
simply felt hollow. Even the final confrontation has a bitter taste in my mouth
because I felt nothing after I finished them off. This, while no fault of the
gameplay, is just evidence of a lack of depth to a much understood theme.
however, still stands as one of the best entries in 2012, is a promising new IP
for Bethesda, and is a glorious entry from the makers of the Thief series. Arkane Studios promised a
game with fantastical powers, an intriguing setting, and choice. For all the
hype and anticipation, Dishonored has
done a fantastic job and provides a sandbox of mayhem that I won't mind
visiting every once and a while.
Side Note: For the stealthful approach I must add that there is a significant spike in difficulty later on in the game for a short while and can seriously lessen the experience. It is suggested that the first play through of the game be one where you just do as you please and not worry about the ending.
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