OXCGN’s Dishonored Review
Best New IP in Years
by Nicholas Laborde
©2012 Nicholas Laborde
Most AAA releases consist of sequels in well-established franchises. Publishers are taking less risk.
And then there’s Dishonored.
Players don Corvo Attano, the bodyguard of the Empress. Everything’s all fine and dandy, until mysterious assassins swoop in one day, assassinate the Empress right in front of Corvo, and escape with her daughter, Emily (who would be the new Empress).
Unable to explain what had just occurred, the assassination is blamed on Corvo and he’s sent to prison.
This is how Dishonored begins, and it happens in a heartbeat. One moment you’re embracing Emily, and the next, her mother is dead and she’s taken. Corvo is sent to prison, and is set to be executed.
During his sentence, a key and a message are one day delivered to him in a meal, allowing Corvo to escape. This begins Corvo’s quest to save Emily and avenge the Empress’s death, but he isn’t alone. On his way out, Corvo encounters a character known only as The Outsider.
Transported to a realm not unlike that of Scarecrow’s nightmares from Batman: Arkham Asylum, Corvo is confronted by The Outsider and given his mark. This mark gives Corvo the foundation for his powers, which are up to the player to customize.
After all of these confrontations, Corvo eventually meets Samuel the Boatman, a friendly old man who takes him to Dishonored‘s hub world and home base, the Hound Pits Pub. Here, Corvo meets a plethora of characters who share a common belief: Corvo did not assassinate the Empress.
They have brought Corvo here to do one thing: to remove the new leader, known as the Lord Regent, from the throne, and put Emily in her rightful place.
Dishonored is a tale perfectly told. Right when you think it’s over, it throws a curve ball that extends your playtime by hours. The ending provides closure, and doesn’t set up for a sequel, which greatly saddens me to think of a world with less Dishonored.
All claims of the title being completed in four hours are preposterous. I played on normal difficulty, did about half of the side quests, and only explored about a third of the overall environments, equating to a solid ten hours.
It can be a shooter. Or, you can sneak through the entire game without taking the life of a single soul. Hell, if you’re truly demented, you can kill everyone in direct combat, or even summon the rat plague.
This gameplay versatility is the same reason why I fell in love with the Deus Ex franchise, and it’s why I can’t get enough of Dishonored.
When you’re not being creeped out by this, equipping the heart allows the player to find hidden upgrade items in the form of Runes and Bone Charms. Runes can be thought of as skill points, and Bone Charms as perks.
Runes allow you to purchase and upgrade the primary abilities such as the rat plague, Blink (which allows you to teleport), Possession (which allows you to temporarily take over animals and enemies), and even an ability that allows you to see through walls to find enemies.
Bone Charms, on the other hand, are stat boosters that contribute in a subtle way, like swinging your sword faster, or recovering more health from eating food. Mixing and matching is key to defining your play style, and everyone will choose something different.
The focus is on the powers, but a few weapons do make an appearance. These come in the form of a nifty folding sword that The Outsider gives to Corvo at the beginning of the game, a tremendous pistol, and a signature crossbow, which fires any and all bolts you may find throughout the game.
In addition, coins and other monetary items can be found throughout the world. This currency can be used to purchase upgrades at a shop in the hub world between missions.
They span the ability to hold more crossbow bolts to obtaining the blueprints that transform the pistol into a literal grenade launcher.
I found myself putting most of my Runes into upgrading Blink and Possession, while spending most of my money on tranquilizer darts for my crossbow. As a gamer who spent much of his earlier years in Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell, the ability to finish the entire game with no alerts and no kills is an absolute treat.
There’s also a subtle moral choice system, described as “poetic justice.” For example, in a mission where you must assassinate two targets, you are given an optional objective to visit a gang leader. By doing a quest for this leader, you’ll gain the opportunity to eliminate the two targets in a non-lethal manner.
Little things like this make the gameplay that much more rewarding, and allows Dishonored to stand above the crowd.
A moving painting
The world comes to life thanks in large part to Viktor Antonov, the artist most notably responsible for the world of Half-Life 2.
I iterated earlier in this review that Dishonored‘s time frame is “reminiscent of the nineteenth century.” In all honesty, it’s far more accurate to call it a mad scientist’s interpretation of a plague-ridden London.
Rats abound at every turn, enemy soldiers patrol, and posters enforcing the quarantine litter the streets. Sounds historically accurate, right?
Then, you’ll turn a corner to see giant gates of electricity guarding important buildings and locations, and giant enemies on stilts known as Tall Boys, which are not unlike that of Striders from Half-Life 2.
One of the most incredible things about Dishonored is that you’ll easily fall under the spell of it being an open world title; it isn’t. Rather, missions will have Corvo exploring large areas divided into sub-levels.
You’ll never even know the difference, and that’s another factor contributing to the simply incredible world of Dunwall.
Guards walk around and carry on conversations about the political state of the land. Civilians run across bridges and get blown up by Tall Boys. Infected citizens, known as Weepers, skulk through dark alleys and emit a dreadful moan.
Never before have I been so engaged in a game world, and I never wanted it to end.
An honorable journey
At any single moment it can be a shooter, a stealth game, an RPG, or a medieval sword fighting title.
Player choice abounds at every turn. Characters are lovable. Dunwall is one of the most fascinating game worlds ever created.
Combine all of this with the reality of being able to play however you like, and you have an easy contender for Game of the Year.
No matter what type of gamer you are, Dishonored deserves a fighting chance to be in your library this holiday season.
You can pick it up for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on October 9th in the US, and October 12th everywhere else.
©2012 Nicholas Laborde
Filed under: 3rd Party Games, Console gaming, New PS3 Games, New Xbox 360 Games, PC Reviews, PS3 Reviews, Reviews, Xbox 360, Xbox 360 Game Reviews Tagged: | Arkane Studio, Bethesda, Bethesda softworks, Bioshock, Corvo, Deus Ex, dis honored, Dishonored, dishonored bethesda, dishonored game, dishonored review, Harvey Smith, Thief