- Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
- Developer: Arkane Studios
- Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
- Release Date: October 9, 2012
- Price: $59.99
- Official: Dishonored
“Exciting new series, or missed opportunity?”
Disappointment, that is what Corvo Attano faces in the early parts of Dishonored. Betrayed, framed and imprisoned Corvo is left to rot, left with only thoughts of anger, regret and revenge swimming within his mind. While playing through Dishonored I too felt these emotions, and had similar thoughts. Only unlike Corvo, they weren’t towards the enemies that had ruined his life, no, they were directed at the game itself, a game which on paper sounds wonderful, but in execution, is just as plague infested as the city it is set. Don’t worry Corvo, I feel just as much disappointment as you do.
Luckily for our main protagonist, he is just as paper thin as the plot for the game in which he is leading, so he actually doesn’t feel much. Within ten minutes of starting the game Corvo’s life is ripped from his trembling hands, imprisoned he awaits judgment for more than six months. Six months of agony and burning anger at those who took everything from him, but not once in this story do you ever see or feel any emotion emanating from him, not once do you get a sense of humanity to this character, he is just a silent puppet for you to control, devoid of any soul. Corvo Attano is one of the most bland characters I have seen, all flash and no substance, (Which is kind of laughable seeing as how you never see his cool exterior as the game is all from the first person perspective.) The bland character would be fine, if the story ever had anything interesting to tell you; which it doesn’t Within those first five minutes you can already see the “twist” coming, you know how the beginning will play out, and you can only hope the rest of the journey isn’t so glaringly obvious, but it is. Every turn of the story that the writers have brought to the table is so bone headed and obvious that only a baby might not see it coming, and even still, he just might.
If only the writers had taken as much time in crafting a well written tale, as they did with crafting a well realized world. Dunwall, the main city and setting for the game, has more personality in one room than the entire cast of characters do combined. As you move about the game you will discover books laying about that you can open and read, these short stories give back story and meaning to the world these people inhabit. The rampant whaling that happens in the worlds oceans, the breaking down of whale bones into the oil that powers the steam punk machinery, the terrible rat plague that is slowly destroying one of the most powerful cities in the world, all interesting stories. It is a true shame that the love the writers put into the universe of Dishonored, was not put into the plot or characters, because though these short interludes into the world are fascinating, they ultimately play no pivotal role in the actual game. You will not learn anything interesting about your targets, or your enemy’s motives, except for when the creators purposely put a flashing piece of paper in your path.
But enough of the shortcomings in its story, let’s talk about the shortcomings of the gameplay itself. Dishonored is a first person stealth action game, it provides the player with choice, different paths they may take to reach their final target and assassinate them, or instead, opt to take them out in a less violent means. The team at Arkane includes talent that have worked on the phenomenal games Deus Ex and Thief, and at times, it shows. At the beginning Corvo can only perform basic functions, he may crouch beneath tables, jump, climb, and swing his sword at enemies. Within a short time however the game gets more interesting when you encounter “The Outsider”, a mysterious godlike being that grants the player special abilities to use on their quest; and then he just kind of…disappears. The books in the environment go into slightly more detail about this powerful being, but not much, and he doesn’t play into any of the following proceedings, a very strange and foolish choice by the team. You create and introduce an entire supernatural element to your story but then only use it as a crutch? The Outsider is simply used as a tool in which to grant powers, which they could have easily just gone with tonics ala Bioshock, as the game already has Health and Mana tonics sitting in the world.
But I digress; the powers are by far the most interesting aspect of this game, it ultimately doesn’t matter how they are brought into the story, as long as they are there. See, although you are given the choice of either going the stealth route, or hog wild with death dealing devil powers, the game is far more enjoyable choosing the latter. Stealth in this game is one of the most underwhelming features I have experienced in a recent game, especially since most reviews have been praising its execution. Limited is the word I would use to describe stealth in Dishonored. In games of choice I always choose to go the slow and quiet route, but traipsing through Dishonored’s campaign in this manner was maddening. It is far quicker and more enjoyable to simply slay every enemy in your path, be it with your sword, grenades or by summoning a swarm of rats out of the ground to eat away at them, then it is to try to sneak past.
Enemy AI in Dishonored is haphazard at best, with the common feeling being that the enemy shows as much intelligence as that of a brick, and then in rare occurrences they have somehow become trained by ninja assassins. The majority of the time the player can stand directly beside a guard with him not realizing the player is attempting to have a conversation with him, while in another instance, an enemy will spot you halfway across the map and somehow alert everyone on duty to your presence. This erratic behavior makes the stealth approach a tedious chore of trial and error as you attempt to decipher this hodgepodge of AI routines. To make matters worse, players have become accustomed to certain qualities of stealth games, primarily that you will be able to pick locks, break lights, and be able to make a noise in which to distract guards with; all of which are capabilities not trained in the Dunwall military apparently. Corvo, and thus the player, will have to find keys for each door they encounter, they will have to glare at all of the lights around the world that they cannot break or turn off, and there are a lot, and they will also have to resort to smacking their blade against walls repeatedly in hopes of grabbing a guards attention. Corvo is the worst assassin ever.
The power’s the team at Arkane Studios have provided the player with are mostly enjoyable and useful , and yes you can use these abilities to look past the annoyances of the stealth gameplay, but that is still no excuse for the poor decisions the team have made on a route the game advertises, that half of the players will choose to go on. Among these powers, Blink is the most notable and most useful ability given to Corvo by “The Outsider” and it is essential to getting around the environment. The world has been designed with Blink in mind, and so you will often have to look in all directions to find suitable spots to teleport to. You can essentially just Blink everywhere, using it not only as a tool to get around all of those brightly lit areas you cannot turn off, but also as an instant assassination; as even if you are spotted, you can still quickly Blink to the enemy and dig your blade into their neck before they react. Other abilities include the rat swarm I mentioned earlier, force push, double jump, extra health, and adrenaline. Two powers however are much more interesting and much more lethal, possession and slow time. These two powers are practically game breaking, if you want an easy method for completing a stage, just turn on these abilities and plow through the level straight to your objective. Slow time does exactly as it sounds, allowing the player to slow down time and just brazenly walk past guards and even bullets in mid flight it is an exceptionally quick and effective manner of killing the enemy, and in stage two will freeze time altogether. Possession too, does exactly as it should, allowing you to take control of animals at first, controlling rats and fish to gain access to new areas, then upon improving the skill, taking control of guards themselves. These abilities and choices are fun, but they definitely show that the team put more thought into the action route of the game, as opposed to the bare bones stealth portion.
Another hassle I consistently encountered was the stability of the game itself; my playthrough was plagued with bugs instead of rats. From smaller issues such as invisible walls stopping me from gaining entry into areas, to larger instances of central story characters mysteriously disappearing or items I needed to complete a mission not being where they should; both events forcing me to reload a previous save once or even twice, to get right. The most frustrating event however occurred after the second to last mission. You see, the stealth or aggressive choice isn’t just for preference, the conclusion of your story shifts depending which route you take. My playthrough I was incapacitating any guards I encountered, not slaying them, even choosing the optional objectives to remove my targets from the game without lethal means. My “chaos” level was low throughout the entire adventure, and then without warning, and also right after a level in which I was least noticed and incapacitated only 4 targets, my “Chaos” level spiked without warning and without cause, to High level. I entered the last stage of the game to a raining and dark night, and my story had shifted to something which I had not chosen. The events of that last easy level transpired in a manner that made no sense for how I was playing my game, and after encountering the abrupt non satisfactory ending, I was frustrated and just damn happy that Dishonored was finally now over. I was robbed an ending because of yet another glitch.
Dishonored’s not a terrible wreck, as it’s certainly a serviceable game, but it could have been something more than that, something truly special, and that is where my disappointment truly lies. Another few months of polish and fine tuning of certain aspects and it could have been great, as it is, it’s just a decent action game with some choice, and some RPG elements thrown in. But it is not the second coming of stealth action games that the majority seem to be screaming it is. The graphics have a unique watercolor aesthetic, even if the textures are low res, the voice cast consists of recognizable Hollywood talent, even if you can’t tell because the characters are so forgettable, and the replay value is there if you want to go about a stage in a different way, even if the AI will frustrate you. Every positive has a downside attached to it, and that can sum up Dishonored; some great ideas, with some questionable execution. Your experience of Dishonored could be completely different from mine, your choices could lead you to play a much greater and fulfilling game, but this was mine; and it was frustrating. Just know these problems exist and taper your expectations accordingly if you plan to pick up this game. -Chuck
- + The powers Corvo can obtain are fun to play around with
- + The world is interesting, both visually, and story wise
- – Stealth is wasted potential
- – Enemy AI is laughable
- – Story is as vanilla as they get
- – Bugs can ruin your experience