After Dishonored was announced, I wasn't especially excited for it. The game had a Steampunk look to it and featured some interesting action elements to it, but it looked like an all style with no substance game that was made for those with a hard-on for Steampunk. That all changed after I played a demo for the game at E3 in June. I went from being a cynic to being a fan.
Even More Choices - When you bring up games that have a lot of freedom, titles like Elder Scrolls, Deus Ex, and GTA regularly come up. In these games, you can handle a mission in a multitude of ways, and Dishonored is right up there with those iconic games. Available to you in the game is a range of choices to complete the various objectives you're given. There's the tried and true method of using brute force or keeping to the shadows to avoid detection. Then there's the "tech" option available where you can deactivate panels to avoid guards setting off alarms or rewire various electric security devices so that they can be used against your enemies. Your weapons and tools can also be upgraded with the gold you earn throughout the missions, and there are Bone Charms that can be found to make improvements to your attacks, movements and abilities.
It doesn't stop there, because you also have supernatural powers that really open up the possibilities. Powers become available early on, and you can increase the number of spells or their effectiveness via runes that you collect during different missions. Rather than sneaking around corners to avoid detection, you can use your powers to possess an enemy to get where you need to go, or teleport from point to point instead of staying in the shadows. Rarely are you limited in a specific action in the game, leaving it up to you on how you want to tackle your objectives.
Choices Do Matter - Moral choices in games are nothing new. Being the nice guy or being a dick are usually the extent of the choices available. Sometimes the choices you make only result in some minor differences in dialogue and one of two endings. Where Dishonored is different is how extensive the changes are from the actions you take. After every mission, you're given a Chaos rating that will increase depending on how many people you kill, enemies and innocents. Halfway in the game is where you see the effects of your choices take shape. Certain people have a change of attitude that will vary on how you've been doing. One person in particular changed drastically because of how I played the game, and what they did made me feel the effects of my previous choices. I immediately felt remorse over how I had played, wishing wish I could have changed the past. To me, that's the sign of a development team that was tired of cookie cutter moral choices in games that didn't have a substantial impact on the player.
Creepy as Hell - The entire presentation for Dishonored is depressing, which is not a bad thing. From the rats all over the place to the trash on the streets, I was getting skeeved out walking around the city of Dunwall. It's a real testament to Arkane Studios for creating a city that had such exceptional detail yet was utterly disgusting to look at in some areas. Although I didn't care much for the look of the character models, it was still a pleasure to see characters that had an artistic look rather than the photorealism that other games strive for and often fail at.
The Story Comes Around - The plot for Dishonored is not that much different than various novels or movies placed in a whole new world. Arkane Studios calls it "whale oil punk" as whale oil is the source of power for the city in the same fashion as steam or aether is the power source for Steampunk worlds. As Corvo Attano, you were once a bodyguard of the Empress until she is murdered. After being framed for the murder, you're saved from prison with a mission to find out who is responsible for killing the Empress. Again, nothing really special for a story, and it stays fairly stale for the first half of the game. Like I mentioned earlier, however, the second half is where the story kicks into gear, and the results of your actions make for a more compelling narrative. It got to a point where I just had to see what happened next. Playing the game in a different style meant for different interactions between certain characters, so I immediately wanted to jump back in. Unfortunately, when making a game with a lot of freedom, the narrative often gets lost in the shuffle for the sake of choice, but that does not happen with Dishonored.
A DISHONORABLE RESULT
Wish It Was Bigger - Once you become familiar with all of Corvo's powers and the physics of the game, traversing through the missions can be either very slow and steady, if you play stealthy or quick and exciting as you dash through the streets of Dunwall. You also come to realize that the missions feel very confined. When you're on a mission, you can only explore that area of Dunwall. Granted there are many nooks and cracks to find Runes, Bone Charms and other collectibles in, but I think having the different areas you visit in the missions connect with one another would have made Dishonored feel even more like a magical world.
I'm Not Mario Damn It - Something that started annoying me after awhile was how landing on a person is considered an attack. I know that can be considered realistic since one man jumping on another man's head can be devastating, but nothing was more annoying then mistiming a jump as you follow a NPC landing a little too close to them counting as an attack. Then that NPC would immediately begin to attack you forcing you to kill them. It would have been much more ideal for a standard jump attack or pounce attack being available rather than having everyone in Dishonored acting like a Koopa with me being Mario.
At E3 this year, I gave Dishonored the "Best of Show" award for a demo that completely floored me. Although it was only one mission, I could tell that the potential for greatness was there. After playing the game, I’m glad to see my hunch was right. Dishonored offers not only greater choice, but greater consequences for your decisions, great atmosphere, and a compelling story that sucked me in. There are some minor gripes, sure, but overall, Arkane Studios has made a great game. Dishonored offers a truly unique video game experience and simply must be played.
*This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game with a review copy provided by the publisher.*