Game Review: Dishonored
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Xbox 360 l PlayStation 3 l PC
DEVELOPER: Arkane Studios
PUBLISHER: Bethesda Softworks
RELEASE DATE: October 9, 2012

Sequels to video games tend to take a little longer to make than sequels to movies, but they’re also much more accepted than movie sequels. Still, gamers yearn for those original titles—the next big games that could become great enough to warrant sequels—and one of the more anticipated original titles was Dishonored, the new game developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks.

A Neo-Victorian supernatural assassin game set in the foggy England-inspired fictional city of Dunwall. How could anyone not be extremely excited for that?

Now the game has arrived. So how does it stand up to all of the buzz and excitement? Should you run out and buy a copy right away?

YES! Yes, you should run out and buy a copy immediately. Drive safely. Thanks for reading!

OK—perhaps I should elaborate a bit before sending you on your way. Though, again, all you really need to know is…Neo-Victorian supernatural assassin game!

In Dishonored, you play as Corvo, the protector of the Empress and her daughter and heir, Emily (voiced by Chloe Moretz). You begin the game on your way back from a trip to try and find help from surrounding cities for a plague that’s greatly affecting Dunwall. Upon your return you immediately head off to let the Empress know that the surrounding cities are going to block out Dunwall and wait until the plague dies down.

Before the Empress can respond, she realizes that her guards are strangely missing mere seconds before some men arrive out of nowhere using some kind of power that allows them to blink in and out of sight. You fight to try and protect the Empress, but it’s simply not enough, and soon you’re overpowered and restrained. Before your eyes, the Empress is slain and young Emily taken. Moments later the Lord Regent and some guards show up to find you, alone, with the murdered Empress. You’re then arrested and placed in prison.

Six months later, as your execution draws near, a guard brings you a loaf of bread. Under the bread is a note and a key. The note informs you that there’s people that need your help, and that you need to escape using the key, which will open your cell door. Once you find a way to escape, you’re brought to meet a group of loyalists who want to help you find the Empress’s true killers, and find Emily so that she can become the empress she was meant to be.

The first thing that jumps out of this game is the city of Dunwall. As we learned in those developer videos, Dishonored began set in England. As Arkane developed it, it evolved, eventually coming to rest in the fictional Dunwall, a Victorian era-style city infused with a healthy dose of steampunk, whose primary industry and source of fuel comes from whales. It’s beautiful as an artistic creation, but the city itself is mostly dreary and depressing, with only a handful of bright spots. As a gamer, having fresh and unique locations such as this to explore and play out the story in is crucial to a game’s success.

One of the big selling points of Dishonored is the ability to get a mission, look at it from multiple angles, and decide how you want to approach it. This promise is kept with high and low navigational options, such as the rooftops above or the sewers below (or right down the middle if you’re feeling brave), which allow you to carve your own path to the objectives as you go, as well as a variety of methods of disposing of (or subduing) your targets. Combined, this freedom creates a vast array of options in playing through the game, and a resulting high level of replayability as you go back and try things different ways. Arkane was so successful in creating all of these options, that the first people to get their hands on the game at conventions were showing off things they were able to do that the developers didn’t even know were possible, if that tells you anything. And now we can see why for ourselves.

For me personally—just as an example—I prefer the rooftops to get where I’m going. The higher I am and the more I can keep an eye on below, the more control I feel I have over the situation. Others may like the dark and desolate sewers, but I’m not fond of the constriction. Plus…it’s the sewers. Eww. But there comes a time when you get to your destination where staying high isn’t an option. In that case I use the Dark Vision ability to keep an eye on guards and others, remove them from my path as necessary (whether fatally or just temporarily), and move through slowly and patiently. If I get stuck, I can always run out, sword in hand, or hope to find a rat to possess and scurry away in.

The choice of life or death is an intriguing one in Dishonored, as well. There’s no denying how bad ass you feel in combat; Corvo can put people down with the best of them when attacked, so long as he doesn’t get ambushed by too many. But there are consequences to the amount of blood you spill. It’s called Chaos Level, and the more people you kill on your path, the higher the level of chaos rises. The higher the chaos, the more perilous the situation. If your Chaos Level is high, you will encounter many more rats and Weepers. This may not sound so bad, but trust me on this, while a few rats here and there are harmless, a pack of them can ruin your day quickly. Weepers are people who have contracted the plague that’s going around, and they begin bleeding and vomiting and letting out unsettling cries of suffering. As you may have guessed, they’re not friendly when approached.

If you so choose to, players can go through the entire game without killing a single soul. This is, of course, incredibly difficult to do, but still possible, and there are achievements/trophies to be had for pulling it off, which also factors into the immense replayability of the game.

Truly this is a game that needs to be in your collection. It’s a fresh new world with a stellar story, colorful characters voiced by top talent that includes Moretz, Susan Sarandon, Brad Dourif, Michael Madsen, and Carrie Fisher, and endlessly entertaining gameplay, not to mention the replayability factor. It’s a game that is very difficult to stop playing once you get into it and learn the ropes, and one I look forward to playing multiple times.

So the only question I have for you is, which way will you play Dishonored? Bloody and brutal, leaving no one who threatens you alive? Silent and unseen, hands clean? Or will you play it down the middle, trying not to end the lives of those who don’t deserve it while not hesitating to put down those who do? The latter is the way I play (my first time through, anyway), and I love it.


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