What’s the best thing about video games? It’s the chance to escape your boring everyday life where your only excitement comes from deciding what pair of shoes to wear to work or from reading the newspaper obituaries. It’s the chance to do things you always dreamt of... things that are (for good reason) not allowed in our real-life society such as sneaky assassinations, pick pocketing, trespassing and burglary. Welcome to the world of Dishonored!
The first thing you’ll notice about this first-person stealth/action game is its beautiful graphics. It’s the developers' attention to detail, that delivers a believable, somewhat realistic medieval/fantasy steam punk world. Although you are restricted to individual levels, they are rather big (with very, very short loading times) and are complemented by detailed background scenery and tons of props, be they useable or just for decoration. Take a closer look, however, and the texture resolution does actually seem to be rather low. But this never bothered me.
The animation of both the player (or rather the hands/arms) and the various enemies is a bit cartoony but close to perfect. Idle animations, whether they're strolling or wall leaning, peeing, puking or smoking, are believable and well integrated into the flow of the game. The fighting animations are even more beautiful and offer exciting first person combat. One might argue that the variation in enemies is rather low though. The regular guards, which come in about three to four different appearances, are the most common foe you’ll face, together with the zombie-like plague-infested weepers. Special enemies like overseers, tall boys or hideous guard dogs are quite rare.
In a game about stealth, sound is unquestionably one of the most important elements. So it’s a relief that it’s done rather well; you'll most likely hear (and recognize) an enemy before you will see him, which is a good thing. The voice acting, in general, is also top notch. All characters are believable and offer quite a lot of (background) story. The idle chatter of guards might become a bit repetitive though.
If you have played other stealth games like Thief, Splinter Cell or even Hitman and Deus Ex, you will be immediately familiar with Dishonored. From the mission hub you’ll embark on a linear quest of assassinating different people around the city - but the really great thing about Dishonored is that you actually don’t have to be that sneaky. You could walk around in broad daylight, rambo-ing through your enemies like a steam train and still have a ton of fun. The game offers many, many ways of approaching your targets or achieving your goals. Go over rooftops, swim through sewers, sneak through windows or just wander through doors. It’s all up to you. Even the way you deal with your targets is up to you, although I won’t go into details here as I don’t want to spoil anything. And depending on how stealthy or aggressive you are, the very level design will change along with the finale of the game.
Along with your small arsenal of weapons (a blade, a pistol and a crossbow, both with various ammunition types, grenades and trip mines) you have access to some magical/mystical powers. The most interesting (and most frequently used) is the Blink ability that lets you teleport across short distances unnoticed. You can also gain abilities like enemy possession, time stop or rat swarm summoning. All these skills have to be unlocked with relics that are scattered throughout the levels or are awarded for completing side quests, along with bone charms that offer some minor passive bonuses.
Whenever I play a stealth game I am compelled to complete it as silently as possible. And although Dishonored lets you do that perfectly (you can complete the game without ever killing a single person), it very much restricts your actions. About 90% of your arsenal will never be used. In fact the only thing you might ever use is the crossbow and its sleeping darts. Everyone else gets choked unconscious with your bare hands. Also you’ll miss a lot of the excellent combat and the hide-and-seek game once the guards are aware of your presence. But as I’ve mentioned before, it’s all up to you!
Another great aspect of the game is the exploration. As much as I am inclined to be stealthy, I am forced to look in every nook to find every piece of loot or hidden story fragment. Although this greatly extends the game, it also cuts on the replay value as you usually find all the alternate routes and ways of fulfilling your goals. I completed my first all-stealth walkthrough within 24 hours, although if you skip the exploration stuff, it might be completed in a third of that time. I will play it a second time though, just to se the alternate ending.
Besides all that nit picking, this game is just plain fun! It’s a very good and well crafted game and the only one of its kind on the market at the moment. If you’re into stealth games you should give it a try - I don’t think you'll be disappointed. And on a side note, even though I can’t really see what it might be, there will be some DLC in the future...
Reviewed on PC