“Hey…Hey, guess what? You’ve been DISHONORED!”. A line you just can’t help but say as you start up Dishonored for the first time, and I guarantee it won’t be the last time you say it either.
I’ve been looking for a good original game lately and it’s difficult to find one of “triple A” quality with all of these sequels coming out; however, I think I finally found one. One of the shortest games I’ve played, but probably one of the best in the year for me at least was Dishonored. I do have a soft spot for stealth based games and I think this one did small game linearity very well. Being from Bethesda, the game initially felt very similar to Fallout 3, however the different developer, Arkane Studios, quickly distinguished itself.
In this steam punk based world running on whale oil, you play Corvo Attano, a recently “dishonored” bodyguard for the Queen and her daughter. After some really bad luck, you find yourself being accused of a murder you didn’t commit and before you know it you’re fleeing for your life and trying to get back at the people who framed you. Grab a dagger and your least squeaky boots because it’s time to start taking down the entire military branch of a government single handedly in any way you see fit.
I started to see this type of game mechanic with the latest Deus Ex: Human Revolution, however this takes it up a few levels. In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, you could take down enemies lethally or non-lethally, choose to traverse the level through air vents, or even knock out/kill every person in the room. All of this is available to the player in Dishonored, but on a far grander scale. Each level is large and the objective can be approached from any angle of the map, which was difficult to get used to, though extremely enjoyable once I got used to it. On your way you can take down the guards however you want, lethally, non-lethally, sneakily, or gun blazing. Of course, that’d be your limit if you hadn’t been visited by a mysterious demi-god figure known as The Outsider. With his help your options are expanded significantly: teleport yourself to the roofs, distract the guards with a rat infestation, knock them all out of the way with a gust of hurricane force wind, or even possess a small animal and scurry through a crack in the wall. Just be careful not to get stepped on. Once you’re inside and past the front gates, the main objective isn’t even a one way street. Poison your target, knock him out, humiliate him in public, brand him for life with a hot iron, or just kill him. By JUST kill him I mean you could shoot him, stab him, stick him with a crossbow bolt, blow him out a window, knock him out and drown him in a toilet, whatever.
There are so many options and that’s just one level, and because of that, you can play the game over and over again getting a different experience every time.
The fact that the whole world revolves around whale oil is as clever as it is morbid. The journals you pick up throughout gameplay get fairly graphic about taking the blubber from the whales while they’re still alive. Other journals lie around and allude to hidden treats for the player if they go out of the way to find them such as Granny Rags voiced by Susan Sarandon who is the source of several side missions and one of your few chances to actually interact with someone else who has the abilities of The Outsider.
While the steam punk art style is fantastic, the textures and lighting together created a slightly washed out appearance to the whole game that probably could have been avoided. Many times I looked at the old rusty metal and turned away from it because if I thought about it too much it would pull me from my immersion, which, besides the textures, was excellent. The game was a breath of fresh air for me and I can’t wait to keep playing it for all of its replay value.