Review: DishonoredPosted on Tuesday, 16th October 2012 by Avinash Bali
Dishonored, the latest from Arkane Studios, delivers a much needed dose of adrenaline to the stealth genre. This generation hasn’t seen many stealth games to begin with and Dishonored definitely feels like a breath of fresh air. It breaks free from conventional gameplay clichés like having to wait in the dark and memorise guard patterns or reloading your last save every time you’re spotted, giving players the tools to feel like a feral badass. It’s not perfect, neither does it set out to revolutionise the genre, but Dishonored definitely brings about much some needed evolution, making it a must-play, especially for fans of the genre.
Dishonored’s charm lies largely in Dunwall, its Steampunk-inspired dystopian world that bears a striking resemblance to Half-Life 2’s City 17 (Viktor Antonov worked on both games). While Dunwall does have pockets of wealthy and affluent citizens, it’s also being ravaged by a terrible plague that’s converting some of the more unfortunate denizens into zombie-like creatures called Weepers. You are Corvo Attano, loyal bodyguard to the Empress of Dunwall, and are wrongly implicated in her murder. After being buried away in some jail cell for a few months, you’re sprung out by your silent benefactors, who obviously have vested interests in your escape.
From then on, you’ll spend most of time figuring out who framed you, what their motives were, and more importantly, how you’ll deal with them. The plot’s simple in nature, dealing largely with Corvo’s retribution and is predictable at times, but Dishonored’s solid voice talent keeps you interested throughout. If you’re the patient kind, you can also learn more about the game’s characters and the city of Dunwall through books, notes and audio files strewn around the world.
Dishonored is all about choice, never really forcing players down a predetermined path. It isn’t an open-world game per say, but it is a non-linear one, allowing multiple solutions to nearly every objective. The game is broken up into nine missions, and while that doesn’t seem like a lot, every mission not only offers multiple paths, but it presents players with side-quests and collectibles that definitely warrant horizontal and vertical exploration. Stalking your prey as you subtly and swiftly move from roof to roof is definitely one of the most thrilling experiences in recent times.
On the gameplay front, Dishonored does favour stealth, but unlike the recent Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it doesn’t penalise players for playing it as an action game. The game is played out from a first-person perspective, but you can’t call it an FPS. Since it isn’t set in modern times, you’ll have to be content with swords, pistols and crossbows. Melee combat is relatively simple, requiring a few solid swipes from your sword to incapacitate a foe. Ranged targets can be taken out silently or violently depending on whether you chose to wield a crossbow or a pistol. You can also dual-wield a weapon along with your sword for a further advantage. However, the game really starts to shine when you gain your magical abilities from The Outsider, a supernatural dude who visits you from time to time.
Gaining these abilities and using them in tandem with one another is what differentiates Dishonored from the pack. For example, you come across a patrol. Now, will you slow time down to gain the upper hand in combat, possess a rodent to slip by unnoticed, use teleportation (Blink) to zip by them, or summon a pack of rodents to devour them alive? Or you could freeze time, Blink toward an enemy, stab him in the back, pick up his dead body before it hits the ground, and Blink back to a dark corner before his compadres knew he was missing. Even if your stealthy approach is thwarted, you can use the ridiculous amount of options at your disposal to make a hasty retreat or kill everyone in your vicinity.
If you aren’t of the blood-thirsty variety, you can choose to play the game in a non-lethal manner as well. Of course, you’d be missing out on half the fun because all your powers have been designed so well that they feel like the natural evolution of a supernatural predator. I mean, why take the time to hide bodies when you can simply chose a power that turns unsuspecting enemies to dust when you kill them stealthily. It’s the perfect solution to the “Oh damn, he found the dead body” problem we’ve all faced a hundreds of times in older stealth games.
The game is burdened by certain shortcomings of the genre itself. For one, the AI is erratic. At times, they were incredibly dense, passing me by while I was in plain sight, while on the other hand, they managed to spot me from a significant distance even when I was as subtle as a shadow. Also taking down certain members of a group does not seem to arouse suspicion from the others. It’s like they don’t even care that a guy standing not more than a ten inches away just vanished into thin air.
Another aspect of the game I didn’t particularly care for was the limited environmental interaction. Now, I’m not saying I want to interact with every single object in the game world (because I know that would be hell on the programming team), but in a stealth game, wouldn’t it make more sense if I could at least shoot out or break spotlights/lamps to increase my chances of a stealthy insertion.
And then you also have the game’s convoluted control scheme, which can be a bit of a pain in the ass. It’s not the game’s fault really since you have multiple powers to juggle, but things can get a bit clumsy, especially if you’re playing it on a PC using a mouse and keyboard. You can hotkey your powers, but memorising them takes an effort, and even then, hitting any key past 5 isn’t very comfortable. But you do learn to adapt and after bumbling around the first level (for me it was the first two), things fall into place and you feel like a relatively decent badass.
If I had to nitpick, I could go on about how I was completely bummed out at the lack of a new game plus option or how even the PC version suffered from low resolution textures, but I won’t. Arkane Studios took a gamble, introduced the world to a new IP, and passed with flying colors. Yes, Dishonored does have its faults, but they can definitely be overlooked by its diverse gameplay and the myriad options at your fingertips every inch of the way.
- Makes you feel like a complete badass
- Offers multiple choices every inch of the way
- Highly replayable
- Very atmospheric game world
- Erratic AI behaviour
- No New Games Plus (NG+) mode
- Relatively steep learning curve
Dishonored isn’t perfect but it does bring about some much needed evolution to the stealth genre, making it a must-play, especially for fans of the genre.