Recently, it seems to me that each time I gaze at my handsomely bearded face in a mirror, I become more and more unrecognizable. Not because my beard is taking over my face (it needs a bit of a trim), but because I am undergoing a confusing and frightening change. I’m not talking about puberty, either. I’m talking about my growing fascination with, and enjoyment of, stealth gameplay. I’ve mentioned before, quite vociferously, that stealth gameplay is not my forte, nor is it something I enjoy being forced into. Then came Mark of the Ninja, and I found myself sincerely enjoying a stealth title’s gameplay and mechanics. If I was surprised by my enjoyment of one stealth title, imagine how my world must have turned upside down when I found myself enjoying yet another stealth title less than one month later with Dishonored.
Now, Dishonored is not necessarily a stealth title. It is also not necessarily an action title, nor is it necessarily any kind of title (other than a first-person title). It can be a stealth title, just as much as it can be an action title. It can be a strict implementation of one particular gameplay style, or it can be a crazy amalgamation of both. You can shoot, stab, garrote, or magic your way through the entire world, leaving pure chaos in your wake. You can choose to play without taking a single life, and there will always be ways to accomplish this. You can choose to play without ever even being detected, and while there will, again, always be ways to accomplish this, it is decidedly more difficult than the simple pacifist’s route. Or, depending on your mood, you can slip in and out of each play style with wild abandon, arbitrarily ghosting your way through one room, running through another room loudly with your weapons sheathed, and finally viciously tearing your way through yet another room in an absolute frenzy. Dishonored is a game with wide gameplay appeal. A hardcore stealth fan and a hardcore action fan will both be content and, dare I say, immensely satisfied with Dishonored, albeit in very different ways.
The game starts with Corvo, the player’s character, returning from a mission for the Empress. As you deliver the results of your diplomatic meetings, assassin’s magically (literally) begin appearing in the gazebo. After killing a few of them (the only part of the entire game that requires you to kill; this is not counted against achievements for pacifism or remaining undetected, and has no bearing on the game’s world later on), you are disabled, the Empress is murdered, and the princess, Emily, is stolen. With no witness nearby, you are imprisoned for the murder of the Empress and the conspirators behind the assassination make themselves known to you in a classic “I am the evil mastermind, and this is my plan, muahahaha!” kind of reveal. You spend six months in prison, awaiting your execution, when you are helped to escape by a group loyal to the Empress and the Princess. The Princess, still being held by the conspirators, must be rescued and placed on the throne.
Much like Vanquish, the plot outline is not really much that you haven’t seen or heard before, multiple times. Much like Vanquish, again, it is a tale well told, paired with wonderful gameplay.
As I said before, you have the option to leave pure chaos in your wake as you make your way through Dishonored’s world. I also mentioned that the prologue deaths have no bearing on the game’s world. The concepts of chaos and death tie in together to heavily impact the world that you will experience. Each mission that you complete comes with a chaos rating, ranging from low to high. The more you kill, the higher your chaos rating will be. The higher your chaos rating is, the more rats, weepers, and bad vibes you’ll be subjected to. A more stealth/nonviolent approach will result in fewer rats/weepers and more positive reactions from the game’s NPCs. The way I like to look at this is that the game adapts itself to your playing style. If you play the game like an action title, you will be given more enemies to combat. If you play the game like a stealth title, you’ll be a ghost, having a minimal effect on the game’s world.
I am deathly afraid that Dishonored will be one of those fantastic titles that does not receive commercial success proportionate to its critical success. This is a game that appeals to two drastically different types of people (stealth and action), with mechanics so good that you may find yourself converted to one or the other, depending on your original predilection. I know that as a person who receives a good portion of these games for free my perspective may be distorted. I didn’t have to pay anything for the game, so I have no financial investment to judge the experience against. I do my best to keep this in mind, however, and one of the best things I can say about a game is that I would gladly pay full price for it. Dishonored is one such game.
- Various ways to play the game and achieve objectives
- Stealth mechanics, supported by magic system, are incredibly fun
- Action gameplay is RAW AND VISCERAL – Haha, I hate those words. Action gameplay is very strong and visually impactful.
- Art design is both bleak and vibrant
- I shot a dude’s head off with a crossbow and found his severed head on a wall behind him, held up by my crossbow bolt (with a slow-mo kill cam giving me a close-up of the decapitation). Morbid? Yes. Impressive? Yes. I’ll wrap this particular line item up now, since it seems to be getting quite lengthy.
- Ability to replay missions is great for improving performance and gathering more of the game’s collectibles.
- An indicator when looking at the game’s NPCs denoting whether the NPC is a guard, a weeper, or simply a civilian would be incredibly helpful when strategizing movement and combat.
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