Dishonored Review

Dishonored (Available for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Arkane Studios
Release Date: October 9th, 2012

Parent Talk: Dishonored is an adult game deserving of the M rating. It contains blood and gore, intense violence, sexual themes, and strong language. While Dunwall might appear to be a hostile, over-the-top, plague-ridden industrial port, players have the option to use completely non-lethal means of dispatching enemies. So while the M rating certainly holds for all you would-be assassins out there, if you so desire, you can make this a T experience. All that said, parents be warned, enemies are out for blood and Dunwall is seething with corruption and adult-themed content.

Plays Like: This is where things get a little interesting. The game takes place entirely in first-person, so at times it has a very Mirror’s Edge feel to it, in that you’re not just going around killing people, you’re thinking about your situation, you’re exploring, etc. At other times it feels like a mash-up between a killer FPS and BioShock, especially in the form of player freedom. There are countless options available to players from the already mentioned kill or knockout approach, to the non-linear forms of exploration.

Review Basis: Bethesda was kind enough to send us a review copy, and I completed the game, trying many different situations along the way.

Dishonored is a superb offering from Bethesda and Arkane Studios that everyone old enough should experience. It features a fantastic narrative, one of the most stunningly crafted universes I’ve seen in years, and gameplay that matches. It’s one of those games that feels fresh and inviting, allowing players to make choices that not only affect the outcome of the story, but also in how they choose to deal with different situations. Remember how awe-inspired you were when you first played BioShock, well prepare for a similar experience.

The Great:

While Dishonored has so much going for it, the gameplay is ultimately what makes it so engaging. Your supernatural powers grow as you see fit. Want to jump ridiculously high, or are you more interested in being able to teleport short distances for easier assassination? Love being able to take over the mind of a rat or a fish and want to eventually be able to take over other humans, well it’s all possible. While the entire set of abilities is available to you, leveling them up requires runes and these special items are rare, meaning you have to customize your powers to your gameplay style. Whether you want to be a mass murderer or a silent peacekeeper, you can completely modify your power-set and skills to allow you to do whatever you want.

The Good:

+ Dunwall itself is alive and bustling and just asking to be explored. Ripped directly from the British industrial revolution, Dunwall is not only a busy place, but also teeming with worry and fear, thanks to a horrible plague running rampant through the city. The design is spectacular.

+ Exploration is rewarded not only with healing items, and information about different characters you’re interested in, but also serves as a means to learn the ins and outs of all the secret routes contained within Dunwall. Suddenly shortcuts open up that you didn’t even know were there.

+ The story is subtle, but fantastic. Players assume the role of Corvo Attano, the empress’ former bodyguard, who also happens to be on death row. He’s a man of few words, who is looking to exact revenge on the one man who wronged him. Players can eavesdrop on conversations for further information, read journals, or simply blast through to the next big scene.

+ Excellent voice acting helps bring the sometimes typical cast of characters to life in not-so typical fashion. There’s more to virtually every character than first meets the eye.

+ The audio visual presentation does a wonderful job of taking players into Dunwall and keeping them there. From the great voice acting, to the excellent level design, highly detailed graphics and perfectly fitting music, Dishonored is a pleasure to the senses.

The So-So:

+/- Most of the time the enemy AI is spot on, but every now and then you’ll find yourself questioning why you weren’t seen, or how an enemy was able to peer through a wall.

The Ugly:

Killing an enemy, throwing them off a building and then stopping time to see all the nasty details in glorious HD.

The Lowdown:

I went into Dishonored expecting a fun game, I didn’t realize it would end up being one of the very best games I’ve played all year. If you’re looking for a game that harkens back to player freedom over hand-holding, this is a game for you. The sheer number of choices you can make without even realizing it is ultimately what separates Dishonored from everything else. A truly epic and spellbinding game you won’t want to miss.

Final Score: 9/10

One thought on “Dishonored Review”

  1. Great review! I actually finished Dishonored over the weekend myself. The open ended gameplay was what really sold it for me. While, it felt like there were fewer upgrade options than some other recent open style FPS games (Bioshock and Deus Ex Human Revolution), each power and upgrade felt really fleshed out. They were all very useful and could be applied in a number of different ways that allows a player a dizzying number of options to progress through each level.

    For some reason, I had a hard time getting into the story. I agree that the writing and voice acting were all very well done, and the various letters, books, and notes strewn about levels really helped flesh out the background story and the game world in general, even eavesdropping on enemy or NPC conversations was useful/enlightening on many occasions. However, I struggled to really get engaged with or care about the story. I wanted to and, objectively, I can appreciate how well told it is, but I personally wasn’t hooked immediately. I think it came down to Corvo being so silent. Leaving his personality so blank makes sense to allow players to project whatever persona they choose onto him, which helps when the gameplay is so open-ended. But from a story standpoint I had a hard time getting emotionally engaged in his plight when he remains faceless and speechless the whole time. The developers may have intended the real connection players made to be with Emily, Dunwall itself, and the other NPCs, merely using Corvo as an avatar to interact with them, and near the end of the game I did care more than I did at the beginning, but it took me a while to get there.

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