Set in a strangely familiar steampunkish universe, Dishonored drops you into the shoes of bodyguard-turned-assassin Corvo. The Empress has been killed, you have been framed, and now you’re out for blood. While this premise may sound like any generic shooter on the market, Dishonored sets itself apart with a refreshing sneak-and-magic mechanic and an interesting world through which to sneak.
Check out our full Dishonored review after the break.
Dishonored really feels like a mash-up of several blockbuster games. There’s dual-wielding weapons and magic from Bioshock, there’s sneaking and assassinating from Thief, and there’s architecture from Half-life 2. This makes sense, as developers and artists from all three of those games worked on Dishonored.
The game does offer some quirks of its own – the ‘blink’ power, which allows short-range teleportation, is very cool, as is the ability to possess rats and enemies. Also nice is the ability to play through as a pacifist, killing no one, and the lack of bosses (I’m looking at you, Deus Ex). The writing, as revealed through eavesdropping on NPC conversations, is very good and very funny as well. This is a game that is designed to be played slowly, exploring every open door and broken wall, listening to every conversation. Running and gunning will ruin the experience.
Likewise, the world is interesting, with a unique twist on the steampunk/urban fantasy genre. The entire civilization in Dishonored runs on Whale Oil, powering electric lights and basic audio machines, among other things. Unfortunately, the oil is running out, and a plague has gripped the city you call home. The story seems simplistic so far, but I’m hoping for some twists along the way. I would also love the religion of the world to have some more depth, but that is probably just wishful thinking.
Unfortunately, the game is not without faults. First, I played this on the Xbox 360, and I was shocked at how ugly it was. This is the first game I’ve played on the Xbox which really shows the age of the console. The textures, especially on the walls and ground, are terrible. This is made worse by the design decision to have posters with text on many of the walls – the text is unreadable and looks like something you would see in a game ten years ago. I’m sure if you are playing on the PC this won’t be as much of a problem, but on console – ouch.
Second, there are a lot of weird design inaccuracies. For example, you can ‘blink’ while carrying an unconscious guard, but not while carrying a bottle or a broken water pump handle. You can climb on the roofs of some buildings, but not others, and there is no real definition as to which buildings you can climb on and which you can’t. Occasionally guards can hear or see you in situations where it should be impossible for them to do so. There is no way to accurately gauge how hidden you are at any time (I really miss Thief’s light meter), and the guards generally don’t realize their buddy is dead unless they see the kill.
AUDIO: A mixed bag. The voice acting is quite good – the actors seem to be overplaying it, but with the exaggerated character graphics, it works. I did hear some strange pops and hisses during explosions, but I’m unsure if they were due to my sound setup or not. For the most part, the audio is quite good.
GRAPHICS: The character faces and weapon models are nice, and that’s about it – at least on Xbox. The texturing on surfaces is very poor, and the character models are hit-and-miss. I really felt like the designers were limited by the power of the Xbox, but this is strange because I never felt this way while playing Skyrim, which I assume would be much more resource-hungry.
+ Interesting and unique world
+ Fun magic powers and sneak abilities
+ Great replayability for a linear game
+ Wonderful voice acting and writing
- Terrible terrain and building textures
- Sometimes stupid AI
- Weird design/game mechanic decisions
- Some bugs – including a game-breaking lockup/freeze near the end of the second mission, which required me to start from the beginning of the mission again. Even though the game auto-saves, save often yourself as well!
I really wanted this game to be Thief, a game I loved very dearly. It’s not Thief, but it does scratch the itch I’ve been feeling for a first-person sneaker. If you’re willing to put up with some goofy design decisions and so-so graphics (at least on the Xbox 360), I’m confident you will find a lot to enjoy in this ambitious and enjoyable game. If you really want to get the most out of it, turn off the objective markers (so you have to explore), and play on hard or very hard (so that it is impossible to run past enemies). You’ll thank me.
Written By: Jordan Shaw