[Review] Dishonored (PC)

Magic-Infused Steampunk Assassin

TITLE: “Dishonored”
DEVELOPER: Arkane Studios
PUBLISHER: Bethesda Softworks
PLATFORM: Microsoft Windows (also Xbox 360 and PS3)
RATING: Mature (M)
RELEASE DATE: October 9, 2012

Gamers seem to often feel very knowledgeable about what would make a superb game, and very critical when a game falls short on any one of their criteria. So it is rare that a game comes along and silences most critics. Enter: Dishonored. The game follows a relatively young (compared with other genres in the industry) tradition of stealth gameplay and combines it with a peculiar artistic stylization, an FPS perspective, light RPG elements, and a setting that combines a steampunk atmosphere and with supernatural themes. You play Corvo, a high rank in the city’s royalty’s service who is framed for murder and tortured in prison. With the help of the resistance movement you escape and begin to exact your revenge on… well just about everything that moves!

Let me pause there for a bit. At first, this very description was in my mind when I felt that Dishonored was actually nothing special. Having played other stealth games, it felt that Dishonored didn’t actually bring anything new to the table. If anything, it felt like a step backward. The stealth didn’t feel stealthy – it just felt quiet and bright. After playing it more and more, however, I realised that this feeling is short-lived. What makes Dishonored stand out is that it executes (pun intended) its various gameplay features in a highly polished manner.

The over-the-top assassinations feel strangely fulfilling, even though they tend to be so fast. That faster pace in itself turns a would-be drawn out and patient game into an adrenaline-filled romp. The magic abilities allow you to get creative with your progress, general exploration, and particularly combat. Whizzing around, over, and under enemies with Blink was every so satisfying. Fairly open world exploration and a choice of missions as well as if and how you accomplish them create a feeling of empowerment. This is enhanced with the ease with which you traverse your environment not only on the ground, but in elevation as well. The environment itself feels alive and believable. Not necessary believable in the sense of realism, but believable in the sense that you could easily imagine yourself there because it doesn’t feel like it’s made up of distinct pieces put together like Lego blocks.

Dishonored has its downsides though. It borrows heavily and unabashedly from plenty of previous games. Stealth, action, and scattered paper notes straight out of Thief 3. Supernatural abilities, upgrades, and audio recordings owe much to Bioshock. The look and feel is a bit too heavily inspired by Half-Life 2 (Viktor Antonov’s influence no doubt). Everyone’s face looks a tiny bit disfigured. The dialogues and story are beyond shallow (Heart From a Living Thing? Really?). And guys: who thought it was a great idea to right-click for left weapon and left-click for right weapon?

If taken in context of other games, Dishonored may not seem all that amazing. Even when considered on its own, I wouldn’t call it amazing. But what it does, it does well and it’s solid fun. Overall, Dishonored is a very enjoyable game. Superbly combined gameplay elements from various iconic games in a unique setting and a well-balanced mix of challenge and exaggeration. Truly recommended and highly enjoyable!

THE BOTTOM LINE: 85% (B)

“Just the right mix of everything that gamers seem to have wanted for a long time.”

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