by Chris Davis, reviewed on
Duties of the Royal Protector
Off of the coast of the Pandyssian continent lies the Empire of the Isles, an industrialized nation across five islands led by the royal family in the capital city of Dunwall. An entire industry has arisen from the slaughter of monstrous whales. Their blubber is used to create refined oil that powers the cities, their bones used by mystics for magic and charms. A plague of unknown origin ravages through Dunwall, eviscerating the lower tiers of society and slowly advancing on the upper classes.
At the outset, Lord Protector Corvo Attano arrives back at Dunwall Tower from a month long diplomatic trip among the Isles, asking for their help with the plague. Shortly after arrival, the Empress is murdered and her heir kidnapped. Corvo, framed for both crimes, must uncover the conspiracy, clear his name, and restore the royal line to the throne.
Merciful Pleas for an Unmerciful Crime
Corvo certainly has his work cut out for him in Dishonored but, luckily for him, he has allies that ensure he is both skilled and well equipped for the task at hand. In your travels you will be able to procure and purchase a variety of ammunition for a pistol or, for those wanting a more quiet approach, a crossbow.
Early on in the game you are visited by an otherworldly character known as The Outsider, He gifts you his mark and access to several supernatural powers. Equip the ‘Dark Eye’ ability and you’ll be able to see other characters, as well as their cone of vision. If you are about to be overwhelmed by a swarm of guards, simply cast ‘Plague of Rats’ upon them and watch as they are eaten alive. There are several more special skills by which to move about the environment or combat your foes but none is more useful than Blink which allows you to teleport short distances.
The Art of Assassinations
The tale of Corvo Attano is told through the eyes of a silent protagonist but fueled by player choice. The narrative is fairly linear, but how you go about completing the objectives you are assigned is where the game really shines. Player choice is crucial to the continuing story, with multiple options for each mission decision, and the result affecting the way the mission plays out.
In Dishonored, stealth is the name of the game and the developer gives you many options to evade your enemies. Tall bookcases, roofs, ledges, tables, vehicles and much more can be used to quietly conduct your clandestine objectives. You can use the environments to your advantage, rig security systems to turn on your enemies, lace the area with mines and much more. The stealth elements are simply superb and it would be a shame for a player not to attempt a “ghost” run, where you complete a level without allowing a single enemy to see you.
Should you find that stealth is not your forte and a more action oriented experience is your cup of tea, Dishonored certainly meets those needs. Combat in the game is a mixed affair of melee, ranged and magical combat. Melee is played from a first-person perspective and will have you utilize a sword on the right hand to strike and parry at your enemies while utilizing your projectile weapons and magical abilities on the other. The targeting reticule for your left-hand projectile weapons is pretty generous and does not require center-screen aiming in order to properly mark an enemy. The AI is intelligent, unrelenting and vicious. Suffice it to say, a fight is not something to go looking for.
A game not to die for
The Dishonored experience is all about the act of assassinating your targets. Probably the most tantalizing aspect of these kills is actually not committing to the kill at all. Arkane left players with the option of neutralizing the target without taking their life. By completing certain objectives and side missions you can take your targets out of the equation without killing them. And this is exactly what makes Dishonored so unique: your enemies branded you a killer – dishonoring you in the process – and instead of killing them, you return the humiliating favor.
Fantastic stealth-based gameplay, delightful powers, an engrossing universe to explore.
Unreal Engine 3 showing its age.