For any new IP to be accepted by the masses as a truly unique step forward, certain criteria need to be checked off the imaginary list that critics and consumers alike have in their minds. While Dishonored can be immediately identified as a Bethesda Softworks title by the way it plays, it has a unique feel as well which is no doubt the work of Arkane Studios showing through.
Players are encouraged to take a stealthy approach throughout the campaign which is certainly an idea often thrown in as an afterthought but Dishonored takes this approach and has it as the main focus to achieve the best possible outcome. This interesting concept is not alone with other features included in the game many of which are very well executed, however, there are a few disappointing aspects which bring down the overall experience.
The story places the player as Corvo Attaro, the bodyguard of the Empress in a Victorian/Steampunk city, Dunwall, not unlike 1800’s London. Plague has swept through the city and is killing the inhabitants swiftly and as Corvo returns from a mission to find help from neighbouring cities, he is framed for the murder of the Empress and kidnapping of her daughter. Corvo is suddenly imprisoned and must escape to save the daughter and bring stability back to Dunwall.
Dishonored, as mentioned previously, encourages the player to cause as little chaos to the city as possible. This includes using non-lethal methods to dispose of enemies, hiding bodies and rescuing characters which are in distress. Of course, this is only the preferred option and the main draw of Dishonored is just how much freedom the game gives the player to play whichever way they wish. This freedom couple with some excellent skills, that can be unlocked, provide countless options to complete missions. These skills include; Blink, which allows the player to teleport a short distance, Dark Vision, which allows enemies to be seen through walls, Possession, which allows animals and humans to be possessed by the player for a short time, Bend Time, the slowing or freezing of time, Wind Blast, which throws enemies back a short distance, Devouring Swarm, which summons rats to eat enemies and Shadow Kill which turns enemies into ash when attacked. Each of these can be unlocked or upgraded with runes which are found hidden in each area as well as being enhanced by bone charms of which three can be attached at one time to increase the effectiveness of each power. Guns, swords and crossbows can also be equipped and these are bought with any money found.
Unfortunately this game has a few problems which hamper the experience. Firstly, the combat is very clunky which is noticeable in a lot of Bethesda titles such as Fallout and The Elder Scrolls titles and while some will be used to this style it continues to annoy especially as this can be a combat-heavy game at times even using non-lethal methods. The one upside to this problem is that it is only troublesome while using the actual weapons and fortunately the supernatural powers are not affected by this, however, in the middle of a melee confrontation this is little comfort.
Another problem comes when, having been discovered by guards, it is near impossible to then lose them and hide to continue playing without killing anyone. The guards seem to have super speed and will relentlessly follow Corvo until it is forced upon the player to kill everything in sight. It may seem easy to say that this problem could be solved by acting more stealthily but at times it is extremely difficult to stay out of their line of sight especially when completing certain objectives.
Dishonored brings a lot of new ideas to the table and of these new ideas the majority are well executed. It is unfortunately the basic mechanics such as the combat which bring this game down and leave the player wondering what could have been.
That is not to say this is not a title worth owning. Dishonored does a lot of things extremely well and is structured brilliantly. However, it could have been a whole lot more and possibly one of the games of the year had it not been for a lack of refinement in key features.