The first time I saw Dishonored’s visual style, I double-checked that my HDMI cable was still in the back of my TV. This game doesn’t look ‘good’, in the traditional sense, but boy does it make up for that quickly. Sitting comfortably between Deus Ex’s free-roaming, multi-path gameplay, Bioshock’s visual style and Bethesda’s trademark RPG titles, Dishonored somehow manages to meld aspects from all three precursors into one whole, and my goodness I love it.
Aside from the initial shock at the harsh visual style – which nonetheless manages to bring the grimy, whale-oil driven world of the city of Dunwall to life with great aplomb – the first 30 minutes of Dishonored do a great job introducing the motley cast of characters that player character and supernatural assassin Corvo Atano either has to save, return to the throne of the world’s ruling empire – or quietly bump off from the shadows.
Beforelong you find yourself locked up in a grimy jail cell, awaiting execution for the murder of the Empress – a crime for which you’re innocent – and have to battle your way out with the help of a mysterious benefactor. Finally, the player gets to play Dishonored as it’s meant to be played.
As soon as you step out of the cell, any number of paths are open to you. You could assassinate the guard and grab his sword, or choke him quietly and hide the body.
Do you climb to the rafters and sneak past the checkpoint, or charge in and get slashing?
I opted for the former, quietly moving through the prison complex, knocking out guards when I can, and leading with my sword when I got spotted.
The combat is surprisingly good fun – and visceral too. Corvo can block sword thrusts and parry them like a master swordsman, as well as looking for opportunities to use his (rather noisy) black powder pistol – he gets a nice quiet crossbow later on.
Letters and books left around provide a pleasing depth to the action, helping to flesh ou Dishonored’s world without being too obviously pressing. The voice acting all sounds great, although I heard the same phrase from three different prison guards – could this be the beginning of another “arrow to the knee?” Time will tell.
Should you play on? Hell yes.