I had never played a stealth game before I started Dishonored on Tuesday. My experience with being stealthy was leveling up the sneak skill tree in Skyrim and hiding in plain sight from enemies, so I had some learning to do. Luckily, the first few missions of this game will teach you quickly, and you will be leaping from rooftops and abducting government officials in no time!
Or maybe just getting shot off of bridges by angry guards.
Anyway…Dishonored. I’m sure you’ve all probably read the other reviews and know how awesome it is by now and they are totally right – it is totally awesome. I want to play through it again right now and try to be better at stealth and NOT killing people.
So, let’s talk about the actual game, eh?
The environment and setting are amazing. Dunwall is kind of like an alternate-industrial-era London, with some steampunk elements thrown in for good measure. And there is so much space and so many routes to take to your end goal that you end up wishing you had time to try all of them and see which works best. I found myself being extremely smug when I “blinked” (your short distance teleportation power) onto something that seemed impossible or did something super cool, like rewiring a guard tower to shoot all the guards for me.
It’s just so damn fun and satisfying.
That’s really what kept me going when I would die and have to load a save game: the fact that, once I accomplished whatever it was that I kept dying for, it was going to feel sooooo gooood.
The game uses vertical space incredibly well, both above and underground. You’ll definitely want to make sure you do some exploring while you’re in the area though, because it’s not an open world. You go to an area for a mission or two, and that’s all the time you have there. You can replay missions, but I’m pretty sure there is no way to ask Samuel the Boatman (your chauffeur, if you will) to take you back to an area once you’ve completed it. Which is a shame, because most of the areas are worth going back to several times. I particularly loved the design of the Flooded District.
As far as powers go, there are not a lot to worry about. You get Blink automatically, and really it’s the most useful and entertaining power you can acquire. I seriously find myself looking at buildings and overhangs and thinking about how I could blink onto them and then climb up.
It’s a problem.
Anyway, definitely upgrade Blink as soon as you can.
Upgrades are bought with “runes,” which are talismans carved out of whale bone that are scattered throughout the area. When you meet the Outsider character (a shady, ancient God-type man) he gives you a helpful but creepy-as-hell heart mechanism that will help you find all the runes and charms. Make sure that when you have the heart equipped you use the left trigger with it; it will tell you all sorts of interesting things about the place or person you have it aimed at.
But really, the powers you want will depend on how you play the game. I ended up using the kill-everyone-who-gets-in-my-way style combined with let’s-be-super-stealthy-and-avoid-everyone-or-knock-them-out method. It was effective. Mostly.
The problem is that you have to hide the bodies, otherwise your “chaos” level goes up. Which causes problems. The chaos level is affected by deaths, bodies found, and the choices you make in the missions. The higher your chaos, the more zombie-like plague victims (Weepers) wander the street, and the darker the final outcome. Which became kind of an issue for me.
At first, I didn’t think that my chaos level was even going to matter. I was burning through the missions like they were no big deal, ready to take down the final guy, and I was going, “PSSH, I don’t see any stupid Weepers, this is easy.” But then shit goes down and things like Weepers and your chaos level matter all of a sudden. And in my fury at the game, I just started killing everyone, despite knowing that I shouldn’t. When your final mission comes, it tells you what chaos level you are playing it on. And I wish I knew what differences there were between high and low, because mine was pretty dark. And Samuel the Boatman scolded me, and I felt bad about my life.
So, where was I going with this?
Anyway…so if you have bodies to hide and are running out of places to put them besides the river (because DUH, DUMP THE BODIES IN THE RIVER. SUPER EASY.) you will probably want to get the power where either rats can be summoned to devour people or the one where dead bodies turn to ash immediately. Other than that, Dark Vision is pretty helpful and will allow you to see through walls. I didn’t spend a lot of time looking for runes to use to level up but, frankly, none of the other powers seemed worth the effort.
As far as characters and character design go, I was a little disappointed. There are a lot of great characters that I wanted to know more about. You can pick up little clues about most major people, and the heart will give you information, but I wish there were more dialogue options with your friends and associates. This goes for enemies too. I was hoping there would be a way to confront the bad guys about what they’ve done, but your options are always going to be to kill them or use the non-lethal, silent approach. Dishonored had an amazing voice cast, including Carrie Fisher, Susan Sarandon, and John Slattery, and I feel a little like they went to waste.
I was also not a fan of their design in general. The faces looked weird to me, and a lot of the minor characters looked too similar to each other for it to not be noticeable. I understand that there may not be time to go through and make every single individual person look exceedingly unique, but it still bothered me to the point that it needs mentioning.
Overall, there are way more strengths in Dishonored than weaknesses. It’s a fantastic game, and I really hope we see more of Dunwall in the future. Definite game highlights for me include the Sokolov/Bridge mission, exploring the Flooded District, and the downright creepy Quarantine Zone.
Final Score: B+ It leaves you wanting for more character development, and the facial design and features are lacking, but it’s still a great game and the environments alone make it worth checking out. I’d love to see this turned into a series if they will continue to be of this caliber!
Dishonored was released on October 9th for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows.