An FPS that dares to be different.
Dishonored is, quite interestingly, both fresh and heavily influenced by other games. Aesthetically, it reminds one of Bioshock. The magic-and sword-swinging combat will be instantly recognizable to Skyrim players. The level of choice on offer, and the decisions you’ll need to make to complete a mission, harken back to Deus Ex (co-creative director Harvey Smith worked on the original). The question of whether to murder or simply knock out your foes can be linked to Metal Gear Solid or Hitman. Despite these myriad influences, Dishonored comes together as a game that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
You begin the game on a boat, coming back from some other country, after searching the realm for a cure to the plague that is spreading through civilization like wildfire. You are Corvo Attano, Lord Protector of the Empress. While bringing the Empress the disheartening news that there is no cure, assassins appear and murder the Empress and kidnap her daughter, leaving you to take the fall. You’ll spend the rest of the game attempting to find the Empress’ daughter, allow her to reclaim her rightful place at the throne, and gain redemption.
As mentioned previously, there is a lot of choice within Dishonored. The main choice you will make is whether you want to play the game stealthy, or go in guns blazing. The latter choice is remarkably easier for the most part, and though there is no honor system to judge your actions, leaving bodies in your wake will bring more rats and more plague infested, zombie-like citizens in the later levels to make everything more difficult. It needs to be said that completing even one level with no casualties is a feat in and of itself, as the game allots you a minimal amount of tranquilizer arrows for your crossbow, and the only other option is to sneak behind guards and choke them out. This proves to be a difficult task most times, as the enemy A.I. is inexplicably erratic; sometimes they’ll spot you a mile off (usually necessitating loading an earlier save), and sometimes you can practically walk up behind them and tap them on the shoulder before they wake up. The best tip I can give is save often; the game uses a PC-style save system that can be utilized anywhere- there are no checkpoints.
Within the game’s first hour, you’ll gain access to magic abilities. This is where Dishonored really puts its own stamp on things. You’ll be able to use Blink to instantly “jump” from one area to another, springing to previously unattainable ledges or teleporting past a guard-heavy area. You can use possession to gain control of rats or people. You can even see through walls, bend time, and use a “devouring swarm” of rats against your enemies. Yes, it’s just as awesome and gory as it sounds. Unfortunately, the same rats will try and eat you- you’ll need to find one of the 40 “bone charms” hidden throughout Dishonored to keep them off your scent. Getting to know and master your abilities is crucial- the game requires deep thought and strategy at almost every turn.
The matter of choice is utilized not through Mass Effect style branching dialogue, but rather through your in-game actions. In one mission, you’re asked to assassinate two twin brothers in a brothel. You can choose to kill them yourself (after murdering basically every guard and harlot in the building – my choice), or, you can find a man who knows the code to a safe. Give the code to another NPC and he’ll take care of the twins for you, no muss, no fuss. The same kinds of choices affect your route through the levels- will you simply bypass the controls for the devastating “Wall Of Light” checkpoints, or use the rooftops to circumvent them completely? Or possess a rat to travel through crevices? You can even re-route the Wall Of Light systems to allow you safe passage, but incinerate any enemy soldiers that pass through. You must be aware of all your options to complete each level; even still, it’s a remarkably difficult game.
It’s a shame, then, that with such an array of gameplay and narrative possibilities, that Dishonored lacks a New Game+ feature, so common in its contemporaries. It would be great to replay earlier missions with a fully upgraded Corvo, in a completely different manner than before. You can still replay missions, but the inability to change your upgrades to match a new gameplay style takes some of the fun out of it.
Regardless of its flaws, Dishonored is a fun, special game. It takes all of its obvious influences and combines them into an interesting, fun, difficult amalgamation. With a bit more polish, it could have been one of the greatest games of our generation, but even as it stands, Dishonored will undoubtedly leave an impact on players.