The lights are on
Rarely in today's industry does a new IP break through the wall of games more established such as Halo or Assassin's Creed, but in the case of Dishonored, it is proven that that such an event still occurs. Dishonored is a fresh breath of originality and creativity infused with addictive gameplay and a variety of ways to play. For those of you who have long tired of playing the same series of games year after year, Dishonored will become the game for you.
As always, the story component of a game is very important to the quality of a game. Dishonored's story is one of betrayal and revenge. Corvo Attano, the royal protector, is framed for the murder of the empress of Dunwall, Jessamine Kaldwin, and is then sentenced to public execution for "his" heinous act of treason. However, through the aid of the "loyalists," a group still loyal to the Kaldwin family, Corvo escapes prison and begins his plot to exact revenge upon those who wronged him while preparing to forcibly have the late empresses' daughter Emily Kaldwin retake the thrown. Throughout Corvo's revenge driven quest, he routinely interacts with a mythical being named "The Outsider." The Outsider is oddly intrigued by Corvo and grants him magic powers ,such as the ability to stop time, to help along his quest. This relationship between the Outsider and Corvo was an odd, but interesting thing to experience. As the story delves deeper, there are some unforeseen twists throughout the story that I found to be especially surprising, but for the sake of preventing any spoilers, I'm just going to stop there.
What makes Dishonored's story particularly unique to play through is the way that the story plays out according to your actions. There are basically two ways to go through the game, you can either play through the game with mercy and stealth (low chaos) or you can leave a bloody path of destruction in your wake (high chaos). Which ever way you choose, your actions will have consequences. For instance, if you choose to kill everything you see, which you have to do at some point to obtain the full experience, the environment of the game will respond by having more plague rats scuttling around the streets of Dunwall, far more weepers (infected people) roaming back alleys and abandoned apartments, and far more difficult scenarios such as how Corvo must assassinate Lord Regant Burrows who will hide in a fortified compound out of fear. If, however, you play more discreetly, plague rats will be far less common, the weepers will simply be normal people, and scenarios will usually be much easier such as how Lord Regant Burrows will instead simply be in his chambers in an unpanicked state. Playing both ways is necessary to gain the full experience, plus it's fun anyways.
However, what I find to be the most intriguing in Dishonored is the concept of Dunwall CIty. Dunwall is a city caught in the middle of the future and the past on the brink of collapse, plague is running rampant through the streets and its citizens are beginning to go mad with fear. By simply looking around at the decaying city, it is relatively easy to tell that the people of Dunwall and Dunwall itself has gone through very troubling times. To make matters more difficult to cope with, Dunwall has just begun the early process of an industrial revolution because of the discovery the potent and lucrative effects of whale oil. Much of Dunwall seems to be somewhat primitive, reminiscent of an old England, but yet new inventive technologies that sharply contrast this old England feel are scattered across the city. These new, frightening technologies such as "the wall of light" and "tall boys" are being used to keep the population under control. However, some are still holding onto aspects of the past. Magic and other Outsider related things are still prevalent although they are now outlawed. The combination of these things makes for a very hectic and chaotic environment to say the least.
Furthermore, a particularly striking aspect of the city is the contrasting "factions" that inhabit it. There are basically four factions: the Overseers, the City Guard, the Assassins, and Slackjaw's Gang. These groups are all basically at war or at least despise each other to an extent. The Overseers are a antimagic religious type group that are in constant conflict with the Assasins who use magic to their advantage and strongly believe in the Outsider. The Overseers are also in an trust lacking alliance with the City Guard who are steadfast in the prevention of Slackjaw's Gang gaining control over territories in Dunwall. This square of conflict between the four groups is hectic enough, but then add a vengeful assassin into the mix and now only pure chaos exists. I never tired of watching other faction war over each other and then jumping in to finish off the stragglers.
There is, however, one thing lacking in all this, the characterization of the main characters. I simply found that most, if not all, the characters were generally broad and without memorable personalities. There's the betrayed, vengeful assassin, the corrupt, power hungry adviser to the throne, the scientist who lacks morals, etc, etc, etc. The point is that all of these characters types have been used in countless different stories and thus are not really unique. Take Corvo for instance, he was pretty much a static character throughout the entire game. There was never any type of emotional change in him, he never spoke, there were very few gestures, there just simply was not a lot to go off of besides what others said about him. This, however, is not nearly as effective at painting a character then if the character actually did things that showed their true personality.
Although there was a lack of characterization, the gameplay of Dishonored more than made up for it. Corvo has access to a wealth of weapons and magic abilities that allows Dishonored to excel at both stealth based gameplay and action gameplay alike. These weapons consist, but are not limited to, a retractable sword, pistol, crossbow, grenades, the ability to stop time, call in an army of rats, or even take possession of people. This variety in deadliness allows the player to assess a situation in numerous ways. You could have Corvo stealth assassinate everyone with his blade while taking out ranged targets silently with a crossbow or you could simply charge in with all the abilities at your disposal. Moving at the speed of light with blink to close the distance between a guard and yourself for a quick sword kill, stopping time, and then firing three cross bow bolts into the faces of the remaining guards in less then a second can be an amazing experience.
The complexity of Corvo's fighting skills is where I believe some people find disfavor in this game. At first, it can be some what difficult to master the combat abilities of Corvo, as if there is a slight learning curve, but once you do master combat, the rewards are gratifying. Corvo is by no means durable, thus you have to pick your spots. At first when you are faced with a fight, death will become a common outcome because of the unfamiliarity of the game. It's not like a FPS where if you have played one, you basically know how to play them all. You're going to have to learn all of the little details of the game such as the right time to blink to avoid being shot or how to take down a tall boy before getting incinerated by fire arrows. The more you play Dishonored, the more familiar you will become with different combat situations, the better you'll become at the game, and the more fun it will become to play.
As with all games, however, Dishonored does have it's flaws. The most common complaint about Dishonored is that the campaign is relatively short. This is undeniably true, but since the game has so many different options of how to play and changes according to how you play, multiple playthroughs are necessary for the full experience. As previously stated, some more characterization would have been beneficial to the game. Some minor additions to combat would have also been welcome. An ability to roll would have made Corvo feel like a more agile fighter as he is meant to be. It can be rather difficult to avoid incoming bullets so this ability to roll could have been useful to rolling into cover quickly instead of trying to blink everywhere. Corvo's massive amount of abilities also created one problem, there was no way to use them all. Since there are only four hotkeys, unless you wanted to open the menu which I personally despise doing, you could only use four different abilities or weapons mid combat. Allowing immediate access to more abilities mid combat would have made the experience that much better.
All in all, however, Dishonored was quite an enjoyable new experience. The gameplay and environment were all unique, the opportunity to play in multiple ways, the intriguing environment, and the ability to affect the story with your actions all contributed to this enjoyable experience. After finishing Dishonored for the third time this past week, I have but one question, how long until the sequel?