Revenge solves everything...
We've watched Dishonored now eagerly for some time, we've seen all the videos and read the write-ups before the game came out, because here at Games Xtreme we're all gamers and mad gamers at that. We love the tagline above because it speaks to us of a game that's set up to allow us to play it as we want, choosing our own moral compass and making our own mark on the universe that Arkane and Bethesda have created.
We just have one thing to say really, if you're on the fence about this game, get off the fence and go buy it - Dishonored is the Thief game of this generation.
We're not going to give much of the story away here; suffice it to say that you play as Corvo, bodyguard to the Empress of Dunwall. Things happen and you get imprisoned, you escape and the game takes a supernatural twist as you gain powers given to you by the mysterious being known as the Outsider. The story is also told via first person interaction keeping you in the action/adventure at all times.
We want a quick word about the setting, because some people will be elated that it's Steampunk and others might be put off. Dishonored isn't really Steampunk, since a lot of the clothing and designs aren't modelled on a Victorian aesthetic, they don't tend to use steam, they use Whale Oil. If anything Dishonored is Industrial Fantasy without elves and dragons etc, which is fine by us, since we love the world-building and setting for the game.
There is magic or at least something that approximates it, but it's woven tightly into the narrative and fits perfectly into the whole Dishonored universe.
Dishonored is a first person game, but it isn't a shooter, nor is it stealth enforced. Dishonored is a sandbox mission orientated game set in a fantastic city which has numerous routes to allow you to complete your mission objectives. You can use a brutal path and carve a sea of dead bodies in your wake leaving the people and guards dead beneath your blade. Or you can become a ghost, sticking to the rooftops, using your supernatural gifts to flit from place to place unseen and never once raising your blade, even against your primary mission targets.
It is in essence, a game where you control the flow of play as you want. You can don the clockwork skull mask of a benevolent pacifist, taking on the system by knocking out guards and civilians who might detect you, leaving them safely locked in a trash bin or high on a roof where they can't be eaten by hungry rat swarms or found by their friends. Or you can slake your sword in blood and murder your way to your targets, enacting a brutal revenge laden spree across Dunwall until you get to your goal.
However you want to play, Dishonored doesn't mind.
Stealth Subdue in action
The world on the other hand, well, if you remain true to the pacifist goal and manage to keep your Chaos Rating (an invisible score that keeps track of how you do in the mission) low, you'll create a nicer Dunwall, one relatively free from rat swarms, plague and Weepers (undead zombie-like victims of the plague)... with happier allies... if you enact a ruthless killing spree, expect to see a darker Dunwall, complete with Weeper population, lots of rats, lots of disease and chaos.
Just how you keep your rating low is not really defined by the game; it's something you're going to have to learn as you play. Generally though violent, non-stealthy actions have repercussions.
We have to admit though, being bloodthirsty pays off in terms of drop assassinations, stealth kills and adrenaline moves. A power that you can unlock later on which lets you deliver brutal death to numerous enemies in a stylish manner.
Its not all doom and gloom though, because as you progress you can unlock powers that help you either way, upgrading Corvo with Runes which give him access to new supernatural abilities such as Blink, a short range teleport which can be used in conjunction with an athletic boost to get higher than ever before on Dunwall's rooftops and hard to reach places.
Shadow Kill allows you to turn bodies to ash when they die. Useful if you're fed up of trying to hide corpses...
There are many more powers, such as Windblast and a swarm of rats which can devour the bodies of the dead as well as attacking Corvos' enemies.
The controls of Dishonored are easy to learn, solid and responsive. Powers are activated with the left trigger, selected via the radial on the right bumper. It's easy to switch powers/weapons this way and keeps the gameplay nice and smooth.
Corvo is fairly agile to begin with and can climb, mantle and duck under low obstacles as he moves, with the latter automatically triggering if the obstacle is low enough for him to duck under whilst in stealth mode (B button). A quick tap of the A button when the icon shows and Corvo can mantle up onto ledges and other high places. He's really good at balancing too and Dishonored lets you get to some nice thin ledges where you can easily perch, walk and navigate without any trouble.
It's like being Batman, only Batman as played by Azrael if you want to go the bloody route.
On the theme of Batman, Corvo has some nice gadgets at his disposal, some rewire security systems, some are traps and cause immense painful death to the enemy. Some we'll leave you to discover... many of them can be combined with powers or even used in sneaky ways which are fun to figure out.
Just the same as Corvo's abilities... imagine falling to your death only to possess a nearby rat/person as you're about to hit the ground - not only did you escape death, but now you've escaped detection too. Abilities are powered by mana, mana regenerates to a point, to get a full mana bar you'll need to drink a potion (you can carry 10)
Health is the same, you'll need to drink a health potion or eat some food if you want to get that back.
Finally there are Bone Charms, little extras that you can equip onto Corvo to boost his abilities somewhat - it might make you climb faster, or get more mana from a potion. These are hidden in the world along with Runes, you'll need to explore every inch to find them in the various levels and they're worth it. You can upgrade how many Bone Charms are active at one time at the hub too, so don't think you're stuck with the default 4.
Dishonored has that whole Thief vibe, with the guards, their patrol routines, their cones of vision (Dark Vision is a creepy power which can let you see those, and through walls) and hearing sense. They will react to changes in the world and you can knock over a metal object close to them, they'll come check it out.
If you're detected and combat breaks out, the combat engine is smooth and unlike Garrett - Corvo can fight. A correctly timed block will cause your enemy to stagger, once staggered you'll get a window of opportunity to hit them with a right trigger (that's the attack button) riposte which is usually instantly and nicely fatal.
If you don't want to fight you can sneak, you can easily subdue an unaware enemy (right bumper held down) then carry them (X button) off to hide. Again, Dishonored doesn't force you to play it any one way... you can mix and match if you like.
It's been a long time since we've loved a game as much as this and our first foray into Dunwall (mission 1 proper) took us 7 hours to complete - because we were being sneaky and saving anywhere. Yes, the game lets you save anywhere unless you're in combat.
Perfectionists that we were... we didn't want to be spotted once, not even by minor NPCs. We found so many hidden places, loot, notes, audio recordings (ala Bioshock) and background bits on the game's world. We listened to every conversation and gained a sweeping knowledge of Dunwall and its environments, we owed it to Arkane in that sense because they spent time crafting this gorgeous dark place... we even met the Outsider a couple of times too (creepy dude!).
There is a great between mission hub too, which can be explored, looted and contains colourful NPCs and history. There's also a guy you can talk to about upgrades, since you can also upgrade Corvo's equipment and weapons as you progress using money looted from the missions and characters.
The in-game journal and mission log is a mine of useful information and is really well implemented and designed.
Dishonored is a gorgeous looking game, from its aesthetic Industrial Fantasy world packed with tiny details and devices, to its characters and environments. We're reminded of a moving comic book in a painted style. The setting is brought to life with an expert touch and our version of Dunwall is probably a little cleaner than some versions of the city which are going to appear as various gamers play their own way through the campaign. The lighting and the effects are great, with a massive chunk of atmosphere just loaded onto the game world. The frame-rate keeps consistent throughout and the Unreal engine shows no signs of texture pop-in, though we recommend installing the game to the Xbox 360 hard-drive for the best experience.
Dishonored is packed with great animations, from the idle animations which guards perform as they go about their routines. To the motion of NPCs and creatures, of course it really shines when combat happens, since the first person combat system is near-perfect and the fluid animations give it a rapid and brutal feeling, one that fits with Corvo's training as a master bodyguard and assassin. It's worth getting into a fight just to see it in action and then reloading a stealthy save. We can't help it, we like sneaking!
There's a fair bit going on with the physics engine of Dishonored. There are numerous ways it interacts with the gameworld and player. The biggest interactions come from the combat system with the physics lending weight/mass/inertia and dynamics to the exchange of blows. For example you know that you've been shot with a pistol in Dishonored because they have a habit of knocking you back a few paces - throwing you off balance if you're not careful.
The AI is sneaky in combat, it's prone to using firearms and flanking, more than one guard will attack you at once and they won't wait for their friends to get the first swing either. One of the best tactics is to pull them away and deal with them one by one or just run like hell and hope they lose interest and return to their patrols. It reacts in the world to various stimuli and has a good cone of vision, becoming suspicious if you're spotted but not identified. It isn't prone to making slipups either but can be distracted with thrown objects and other tricks. Good solid fun AI which makes the game even more impressive.
Dunwall is teeming with audio atmosphere from every sword clash, pistol shot, ambient noise and effect. Some of the supernatural powers are downright creepy and there's one in particular which makes us shiver each time we hear it. It's superb.
The music to the game isn't overpowering, at times there's hardly any and then it kicks in slowly and menacingly as you're exploring - it further adds to the atmosphere created by the world builders and makes a great addition to the world as you adopt your own playstyle. It becomes more powerful as combat breaks out and so on. It is a great soundtrack and we want it on CD, so Arkane and Bethesda take note!
There are some wonderful performances in Dishonored, some interesting accent choices for the City of Dunwall and some familiar voice actors who we won't spoil. Then you have the likes of Susan (Granny Rags) Sarandon to round out the cast. Yeah, there's some great work here and it shines through in the voice acting. The Outsider is particularly creepy, nice job there.
Dishonored features some of the best world building we've seen since Witcher 2 and the dialogue in the game is spot on. It creates a perfect picture of the plague threatened City of Dunwall and its people, as well as Corvo's story.
Single player only and that's how we like it!
Yes, Dishonored reminds us of Thief and we're proud to say we love it just as much as we do the Dark Project, the Metal Age and even Deadly Shadows. It has all the elements that make a great game and doesn't skimp on anything - it tests your ingenuity and offers complete freedom of movement/choice through the whole game.
Revenge is a dish best served how you want it.