·         Concept: Get revenge for being framed for the murder of the recently slain Empress as an alternate-history supernatural assassin/elite bodyguard.

·         Graphics: The “painting” style is unique and cool. I like it, but that doesn’t mean you will. It lends everything a somewhat cartoonish, smudged look, and it somehow makes everything seem all the more dark and treacherous.

·         Sound: Good voice acting, ambient noise was dutiful and well-executed. Nothing spectacular.

·         Playability: Plays a lot like Bioshock 2 with being able to use both hands, except one hand is always consumed with the holding of your knife, which limits your magic AND weapons to one hand only when being able to mix and match would have been infinitely better.

·         Entertainment: Awesomely entertaining. Unfortunately, going through and killing everyone with all the cool ways they give you to slaughter people (as, you know, a supernatural assassin) you get punished with the bad ending. But I still like it.

·         Replay: Moderate - High


The mechanics were well done, the movement pretty clean. First person perspective was good to bring the action close to me and really put me into the world, but like a lot of other reviewers, I think a third person perspective option would have been so sweet. Do a double-jump blink-fall onto the top of a Tallboy and stab him through the chest? Epic. In third-person? Epoch. Haha. Just kidding. But seriously, it'd be really cool in third person. (Overall, a 9.0)

I liked the painting-esque graphics. (9.0) The load times (PC) were remarkably pleasing and short. (10.0) Probably two or three seconds at most. Rarely more.

Dunwall was also very impressive. The design, the places, the immersion, the random encounters: The pervy weapon mechanic peeking at the maid in the bathtub;the Overseer protecting his sister against his brother Overseers; the thugs fighting over a bag of gold from an Imperial soldier. All the random stories and jokes and overheard conversations were cool. The people were cool. The lore, the books, the notes. All cool. I liked it. Very moody. Foreboding, even in the sunlight, like a world that had moved on. Considering most of the places you went are condemned, plague-ridden, or otherwise neglected/flooded, I am not surprised.

It does make me wonder though, as I see the immense city skyline every time I board a boat: where is everyone? Dead? Everyone I met was a person to kill, or a maid, or a faceless noble. No real people. No city. No population. A few random people with names, like Granny Rags. And then just enemies, and people who would call for help from my enemies if they saw me stab one of my enemies in the neck. I really get no sense of the enormity of the situation, because everywhere I went all of the NPC's were either all allies, or, for most intents and purposes (because I either had to avoid them or take them out (violently or not)), enemies. I never got the impression that there was anyone left besides guards. Or thugs. Same thing. The rulers are constantly announcing things to the citizens--new bulletins, warnings, and the like--so where are the citizens? (8.5, good, rich history but no people to bring it to life)

The powers. I must admit my disappointment. Only a handful of powers. They could only be upgraded two levels, and they only received tiny tweaks on that second and most powerful level. Summoning rats on level one is a swarm of rats. On level two? It is a swarm of rats. Oh. It lasts longer and eats people faster. Neat. Possession? Only on level two can you possess humans. And you can never attack as them. You can only walk away and interact with things. What is the point of this if I can't possess a TallBoy and blast the ants crawling down below?

The low quantity, the short upgrade trees, and the lack of options in customization of these powers let me down. Where is the variation and choice? I thought this game was supposed to be full of options and freedom and choice. But...it's really not when you look in the powers menu. In the layout and progress of the game, hell yes, there is a ton of choice. But not so much with the powers. I feel like they would have been better served to make the runes work much differently, akin to the Diablo III runes.

Some examples: Instead of using the Outsider runes to level up your powers, you level up your powers by visiting the Outsider Shrines and communing with the Outsider (who I will also get to). Once you get to a shrine, he unlocks a power for you. Say you pick Ratswarm. Now you go off, and you still find runes in the game, and these runes can be used to modify a skill.

So you find a rune. Ratswarm can turn into: Giant Rat, or Flying Rats, or Acid Rats, or Life-Stealing rats. Blink turns into Decoy-Blink, which leaves a decoy of you behind just in case you had been seen and were trying to escape (the decoy would not be detectable if you had not already been detected). Blink could also be climb-blink, which increases the height at which you can Blink and still climb up to the top of a wall or ledge; it could be Far-Blink, increasing the distance you are able to blink from, or Hidden-Blink, which makes you invisible for one second after blinking to a place. There could be seven runes for each skill. The Windblast power? Hahaha, oh the possibilities! What about Fireblast (or any other element) which would set enemies on fire while knocking them back (ice would freeze, electricity would stun, etc)? Bladeblast to impale enemies as it knocks them back? Bulletblast to gib a large group in one shot? OOOH! RATBLAST! Launches a writhing sack of rats at enemies, which knocks them back and then the rats pour out and begin to devour them. Awesome idea, right?. And so on for each skill. Just some ideas that I wish I could have seen instead of what we got.

Additionally, you are further limited in the use of your powers by being forced to have a knife in your right hand at all times. For a game that rewards non-violence, they are pretty insistent that you wield a killing object. Just in case. Right? Except that this limits my ability to be stealthy. What if I wanted Dark Vision and Blink in my hands, for seeing and traveling while being sneaky? Why do I have to switch back and forth? The arbitrary choice of making only my left hand (the one with the symbol) be able to do magic? What if I wanted to go in guns blazing, incendiary bolts in one hand, exploding bullets in another, against a pack of TallBoys? Sure it's probably suicide, but the developers said I could play any way I wanted. I guess not. I think a better idea would have been to take a page out of Bioshock 2/Infinite's book and allowed both hands to be used for whatever I wanted, one for weapons/tools and one for magic. The knife would be one of the weapons, and I could choose it at will. Or even better, like Skyrim they could have allowed a true mix-and-match of all tools, weapons, and abilities in whatever hand I wanted.

Another thing about being forced to hold a knife—for a game that claims to place the player in the shoes of an alternate-history supernatural assassin, this game certainly punished violence quite obviously in the way the endings are presented. If I’m not allowed to kill people in order to get the “good” ending, then why call him an assassin? Why not call him an elite guard? Or a knight? From the advertisements and gameplay videos, all I saw was slaughtering minion after minion, yet if you do this in the game you get more “chaos” and the game literally becomes more difficult (there are more rats and plague victims) and darker. That’s like playing Assassin’s Creed and pulling a Solid Snake and choking people out instead of stabbing them through the eye. I didn’t want to play Thief. I wanted to play as an assassin. Assassins kill people. Don’t make a game about an assassin and then turn around and punish players for killing!

And all the unanswered questions (mostly about the Outsider or events surrounding him):

·         Who/what is the Outsider? A God? Where is his opposite? Is he the only God? How does he have powers? What are these powers? How did he get them? Why does he choose specific people (Daud, Corvo, Granny Rags)? Why does he give different people different powers (Daud can empower his minions, and hold you in place or bring you closer to him)? Why does he do this?

·         Who is Granny Rags? How is she quasi-immortal and how did she come across the cameo that give her this power? (The Outsider, I know, but how? When?)

·         Same questions for Daud--who is he, when did he meet the Outsider, and all that. ( I guess they answer this in the DLC, huh? Sweet )

·         Who was the Lord Regent talking to when he made his confession on audio-tape about bringing in the plague, and why would it ever be recorded? (I'm supposed to believe that a man cautious and insane enough to order the murder of his own empress would allow an audio-tape clerk (the PA Announcer guy) to hear such things? Or that he would even keep such a tape with such incriminating evidence? He is so concerned with evidence against Corvo, including his body, the confession--and yet he confesses to bringing the rats (the very crime he was trying to hide by killing the Empress) and keeps it in a safe? A safe to which the combination was seen by the afore-mentioned audio-tape clerk. No. I don’t buy it. Lame.)

Overall, the game is good. I bought it and am one hundred percent pleased and would do it again. But it could have been ten times better with just a bit more freedom and choices in terms of powers, which hands hold what items, and the fatal/non-fatal approach business. I was also displeased with the lack of information on the Outsider, who is the single driving force in the game. Without the Outsider, there is no magical Corvo, and no game, yet he is left largely unexplained.

That is all for now.