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Player choice and freedom is an idea many video games try
desperately to capture. Ultimately, the vast majority fail, instead only
offering brief glimpses of what a game could be like if it truly let you play
it your way.
Dishonored is not one of those games. In the dark, steam
punk, rat plague ridden port city of Dunwall, developer Arkane Studios gives you, the player,
incredible power. Better yet, they give you freedom to do whatever you want
Players done the mask of one time royal bodyguard turned
assassin Corvo. After a bloody coup that leaves the empress you swore to
protect dead and her daughter stolen, you are framed for the deed and
imprisoned. After a daring prison escape you learn of a resistance aimed at
removing the conspirators who captured the throne. From there the game is a
series of daring assassination missions on key targets, paving the way for the
return of the rightful heir to the throne of Dunwall.
Every mission sends players to a large, open ended
environment. Aside from a few clues, it's up to you to piece together the best
way to eliminate the selected target. First you have to figure out how to get there,
which is where the real beauty of Dishonored's gameplay comes in.
Central to the Dishonored experience is the Blink ability.
Corvo's first magical gift from the Outsider, Blink allows players to navigate
huge gaps of space in the blink of an eye. Warping across rooftops or quickly
appearing behind an unsuspecting guard can be done instantly, eliminating the slow
and methodical pace many games with an emphasis on stealth suffer from. Combine
the Blink ability with the open environments and multiple ways to reach and
accomplish each objective and you have a freedom that is almost unheard of in
video games, aside from pioneers such as Deus Ex.
A variety of tools are at the player's disposal. Corvo,
being a bodyguard, is skilled with both swords and guns, and thanks to a little
visit from the mysterious otherworldly presence known as the Outsider, he isn't
half bad with magic either. Stopping
time outright? No problem for Corvo, magician extroidinaire. Summon a swarm of
man eating rats? Easy. Possessing one of said rats? Done with the press of a
button. Players can find hidden Bone Charms that provide small passive bonuses
such as more mana regeneration or faster knock-out attacks, allowing you to
tune Corvo to your playstyle.
Now combine all of this together and you begin to experience
the possibilities, and fun, of Dishonored. Should I possess a rat and sneak into
the Overseer's office through a grate? What about Blinking up to the balcony,
stealing the key from a guard and opening the door? Or I could simply waltz up
to the heavily fortified front door and hack, slash, and shoot my way inside.
The choice is yours - there is no wrong way to play Dishonored.
Except when there is. My only real gripe with the game, aside from a
plot twist over half way through and a rather abrupt ending, is that though the
choice of playing the game your way is there, if you want a certain ending (of
which there are several) your play style must adapt accordingly. Killing
enemies in the game has consequences in how NPC characters react around you and
the state of the already dismal Dunwall. Players that kill with reckless
abandon will receive a much darker and more depressing ending than those who
snuck their way past every guard and performed the nonlethal options for
removing assassination targets. While the choice in how to play is yours, so
are the consequences. If you want the best ending, you really only have one way
to play the game; with the upmost stealth, essentially eliminating a large, and
satisfying portion of the game - the combat. Sword play involves well time
parries to be successful, making it hard to simply hack and slash ones way
through large groups of enemies. When combined with one of Corvo's magical
abilities however, such as Stop Time, you can quickly become an unstoppable
Perhaps the true star of Dishonored is the richly detailed
world of Dunwall and all the interesting characters that inhabit it. Upon your
first encounter with the Outsider you are granted a strange and grotesque,
heart. This heart speaks to you, showing the locations of bone charms and
hidden runes used for upgrading your abilities. When pointed at an NPC, the
heart dives deep into the characters mind, revealing their inner thoughts,
experiences and thoughts. I spent at least an hour just learning the hidden
fears and ambitions of random NPC characters, even learning some very interesting
background information about some of the games more important characters.
Players can learn about the world of Dishonored and the city of Dunwall by
reading books and notes littered throughout the game. It's there for players
who are into that sort of thing (I am) but is completely optional. I found the
steam punk/ whaling society beautifully detailed and realized. It truly felt
like a real place, filled with a rich history that adds greatly to the overall
Dishonored is one of those rare games that truly is a joy to
play. It's variety of refined gameplay and it's simple but precise controls
combined with a detailed world setting evoke a near perfect mixture of gaming
nirvana that is part Deus Ex and part Bioshock. Arkane Studio knows that if you
give gamers the tools, they will figure it out how to play the game themselves.
It's this trust and faith, to simply let gamers play the game, which makes the
game great. There is no hand holding in Dishonored, no right or wrong way to
accomplish any given task. There is only freedom - and all the fun that comes
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