DISHONORED is a first-person action game set in the plague-ridden industrial island city of Dunwall. You are Corvo Attano, the legendary bodyguard of the Empress. Framed for the Empress’ murder and kidnapping of the Princes, Corvo must hunt down the ones responsible and save the city.
The game begins as you are traveling back from a expedition to other island cities. The Empress sent you to find a cure for a plague that has devastated Dunwall city. As you inform the Empress that you haven’t found one and can’t get help from the other cities, you are attacked by mysterious assassins. They are successful at killing the Empress and taking the Princess. The ones responsible are revealed and use Corvo as the scape goat for their plot to take control. As you sit in a dark dungeon, loyalists to the Empress help to free you. Your journey as an assassin now begins.
DISHONORED is focused on being stealthy and using gadgets and the environment to eliminate enemies. You are sent on a series of missions contained in mini-sandbox environments which gives you an open-world feel in smaller mission-focused areas. Depending on your play-style and choices, the player can choose many different avenues to complete a mission. And this is a major feature which really impressed me. Whether you like to be the unseen assassin or the unwavering warrior surrounded by enemies, you get to play the game the way you want. This is such an amazing and refreshing feature.
Weapons are the backbone of this game. Whether you like to stay in the shadows or get up close and personal, weapons and items are key to your success. Corvo’s main mid to long range weapons are his hand gun and crossbow. The crossbow allows you to silently take enemies down from afar. You can also get upgrades and ammo allowing for non-lethal and extreme lethal attacks. While your gun is powerful, it is noisy and will attract enemies to your location. I found myself only using the gun in extreme cases. Your best weapon though, is your blade. You can use it to attack enemies, defend yourself from a blade attack or use it while sneaking up on someone for stealth kills. Grenades and traps are also utilized to kill enemies in Dunwall city. I’m really fond of the traps. Setting up a couple of traps and luring enemies to them is a great way to take out multiple targets at once without being seen.
Besides weapons and items, Corvo can obtain different abilities on his quest. Early on, you will be visited in the dreamworld by the Outsider and branded with his mark. The men responsible for the Empress’ murder have been practicing his dark arts and isn’t too happy. These new abilities will greatly aid you along the way. You can obtain six active powers, four passive ones, and find many bone charms, which grants the player supernatural perks and improve powers. You can use “Blink” to teleport short distances or summon rats with “Devouring Swarm” to consume your enemies. You can even bend time and posses people. You will only be able to upgrade so many, so the player must choose what ones to learn.
Another amazing feature of DISHONORED is the ability to chain powers and items together to perform some very interesting kills. You can summon rats, place a trap on one, then posses it and run towards and enemy to kill them or bend time when an enemy shoots at you. You can then posses your enemy, stand him in front of the bullet, turn time back on and watch him die from his own bullet. You can also drop down on enemies and kill them stealthy. But you are not limited to killing enemies. You can use non-lethal moves to incapacitate your enemies. Whether choking an advisory out or shooting them with a sleep dart, there are endless ways to take someone out.
Corvo can find and purchase many different weapons and gadgets to aid him in missions. Little bits of wire can be used to override security devices or used to make wire traps which slice into enemies. Sleep darts and explosive rounds can be purchased to use in your crossbow and hand gun. Players can also find blueprints hidden in the city to upgrade not only their weapons but but their helmet and attire. The city is also littered with support items like health and mana vials to heal Corvo and allow him to use his abilities.
The beauty of light and dark
DISHONORED is a beautifully detailed experience set in a steampunk-style world. I say “experience” because of how masterfully detailed and perfectly execute it is. The steampunk-style nicely complements the gear-driven gadgets a machinery used in this world. It is also a great way to illustrate an island city that is caught in the grips of a deadly plague. Every inch of the city is detailed with trash, rats and objects which supports this gritty world. The models and characters are also very detailed and the game in-whole is just beautiful.
Light and sound play more of an important role in DISHONORED than most games. You are an assassin, the best there is, and being stealthy is a tool. You can use sound to attract or fool enemies and citizens alike. Throwing a bottle or other object will make the AIs in the game investigate the noise. Hitting and object or violently killing and enemy will also attract attention. Even the noise of walking can attract attention to your location. I found myself really paying attention to how my sounds interacts with the environment around me.
I was also really impressed on how the developer used light in DISHONORED. Yes, shadows are important to an assassin so I knew there would be a lot of it. But a lot of attention was spent on how light interacts with the environment. Harsh intense lighting from spot lights were used to enhance high risk areas and light the night-time environments. The lighting from these lights slowly dissipates in the environment which allows the player to actually see in the shadows. Just like in the real-world, even dark areas have some ambient light allowing you to see. I’ve always hated games where you could not see anything in areas that were cast in shadow. Its just amazing on how DISHONORED has expertly represented real-world light in a video game.
The Chaos System
DISHONORED allows you to play the way you want but there are consequences to your actions. Depending on the number of kills and bodies seen will increase the number of enemies found in the game. Also, the number of times detected by enemies and security devices and bodies found will also increase this. You can keep your chaos level low by hiding bodies, not killing enemies and talking stealthier paths. Doing good deeds will also help lower your number. The Chaos number even effects how much crime happens in the city by AIs and the extreme actions taken by authorities.
The Chaos System really makes a lot of sense. In a real city, higher crime would spur more police activity and awareness of the public. Its just another example of how the developer has tried and achieved real-world behaviors. Violence breeds violence which is evident in DISHONORED. Its a really nice feature which can make your experience different than others. I never payed to much attention to my chaos number early on which made for more intense enemy activity later on.
Story is key
Graphics and gameplay doesn’t equal a great game. A great game needs an interesting story with great characters and depth. Thankfully DISHONORED has it all. We get to experience and amazing story steeped with history, fantasy and a little sci-fi. Dunwall city has that 1800s New England whaling city feel sprinkled with sex, murder and the occult. Whale oil and life on the water all fuel every aspect of this game. Whale oil powers the steampunk gadgets and machinery, runes are carved into whale bone which are used for the occult, and boats are the primary mode of travel. The aristocrats from England and the early colonial times also heavily influences the look and behavior of the characters.
This is the backdrop of a scandalous story of the beloved bodyguard being implicated in the assassination of his Empress. It grips the player right away making you want to keep playing until the end. Special attention was made not only to the main characters of the story but to insignificant ones which just makes this world seem so believable. I found myself loving some characters and out-right hating others which lends itself to the quality of righting for this game. Its just so nice to see who every detail is wrapped together in this world.
In all DISHONORED is an amazing game. I noticed it at E3 2012 but didn’t pay too much attention at first. I’m glad I played it. So many features introduced in this game are “game-changers”. The Chaos System, play of light and dark, and “play-as-you-want” feature all make for an exciting and ever changing experience. Bethesda Softworks is known for its beautiful looking games and DISHONORED is the best so far. Graphics are detailed with amazing real-world lighting and awesome use of sounds. It tantalizes all the players senses except for terse and smell which Bethesda is probably working on. And all of this supports an amazing story with even more amazing characters.
Now that you are done reading this review, go out and buy it. Its one of those games that must be in your gaming library.
Score: 10 out of 10
Metacritic.com: 88 out of 100
Our Take: Amazing use of real-world light and beautiful graphics make for an amazing experience. An interesting, polished story will grip the player and not let them go. The ability to play as you want will give a unique experience to everyone.
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Available on: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Rated: M for Mature