9.3 Overall Score

Great Graphics | Simple Play Mechanics | Intense Gameplay

Too Short for Some

Written by on October 24, 2012 in [, , , , , , ]

Bethesda and Arkane Studios have created a grey and gloomy steampunk dystopia where a mighty empire crumbles under a plague of rats and corrupt leaders. In their latest game the hero becomes a scapegoat to this corruption. In a word, the hero is Dishonored.

The game is a bit different from the typical open world sandbox of Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls franchise. This game is made up of a short intro mission, six larger missions, and then two shorter final missions. Each mission is self contained. Each larger mission area is extremely large allowing the player a wide range of possibilities in pursuit of their goal. Will the player choose the path of the righteous, the corrupt, or be just dark enough to get the job done? The choices made will shape the player’s story.

The central story at the core of the dark tale sets Corvo Attano, the Lord Protector of Empress Jessamine Kaldwin, as a man wrongfully accused of her murder and the kidnapping of her daughter Emily. After escaping a date with the executioner he is driven by vengeance to end the corruption plaguing the empire he has sworn to protect. He does have some aid in his quest but most of the game involves him finding ways to eliminate the corruption at its roots.

The new allies give Corvo the targets he must eliminate but the path he takes is up to him. The player can choose a straight forward kill-them-all approach, a super-stealthy nonlethal approach, or a middle ground between the two.

Another character (the spirit known only as the Outsider) soon appears to aid Corvo on his mission. When Corvo first meets the Outsider he is given a mark on his left hand that allows him to learn and use supernatural powers on his quest. The player starts with one power called “Blink” which allows the player to teleport short distances instantly.

As Corvo finds hidden Outsider shrines the spirit presents himself giving Corvo extremely cryptic messages about his journey. Is he a force for good or evil? It is extremely difficult to name him as saint or sinner in the production. He seems to primarily play the role of narrator, providing pieces of background information at key points of the plot.

Ironically the true heart of the cast is Samuel the boatman, a simple man that transports Corvo to and from each assignment. Samuel imparts his country wisdom as they travel through a land overrun by men with too much power and not enough good sense. This humble man provides Corvo with his honest perspective on the state of their empire. This is a subtle yet powerful tool the player can use as a moral barometer.

If the player has been slicing and dicing his enemies to achieve their objective, Samuel is not shy in stating his distaste for Corvo’s methods. If Corvo chooses more of the nonlethal methods, Samuel will express his pride.

The rest of this tale is filled with many extremely gaunt and gangly folks deeply ensconced in the dank and dreary Victorian steampunk stylized world. The hands of everyone in this world are ridiculously oversized which seems to focus attention away from what they are saying, subtly hinting that their actions speak louder than words. Do not be fooled, however, the conversations are very important to the game. They serve to actively narrate the state of the city as well as give critical clues as to how the hero should proceed through the city.

When choosing how to approach a mission, there are two distinct methods. One can also choose a mix of the two methods. One can choose the savage way of killing all who get in your way or the stealthy nonlethal approach.

With high chaos the increase in awareness will generate more guards and higher security measures. A player creating high chaos will typically focus on the weapons available. There is a fancy folding assassin’s sword, a pistol, a crossbow, grenades, and a spring razor trap. Once unlocked, a power called “Devouring Swarm” can summon a large swarm of rats that will devour enemies and unleash greater chaos.

Low chaos will usually concentrate on stealth and supernatural powers to complete missions. This approach will take time to plan the best route to avoid enemies by tracking their patterns. There are several nonlethal powers such as “Blink,” “Dark Vision” to see enemies through walls and floors, “Possession” to take over the body of animals and people for short periods of time, “Bend Time” to slow time briefly, and “Whirlwind” to produce a quick burst of wind to knock back enemies. The main physical weapons available are the crossbow using sleep darts and choking folks unconscious from behind. Sometimes the best weapon is to flee a scene to fight again another way. All of the weapons can be used in either approach. For example, the seemingly nonlethal “Whirlwind” can be used to send projectiles back at enemies and “Bend Time” can be used to position enemies so they kill each other or themselves.

Although the powers and weapons seem to have separate uses, they can also be combined creatively to generate unique opportunities in the game. I often used “Dark Vision” to plan my approach, wait until the enemies were set up the way I wanted them, “Blink” to the right locations and take them out one by one. I found “Bend Time” combined with sleep darts all around a great attack.

This game gives the player a way to mix and match powers and weapons quickly and easily, which is critical in a game where decisions must be made in an instant. The left bumper opens the “Quick-Access Wheel” with all the powers and weapons available. Up to four of these choices can be added to hotkeys on the directional pad for quick changes on the fly. All of this makes setting up the next moves extremely simple.

Either extremely can be tricky. After every mission the player is given a detail listing of the statistics that go into deciding whether the player created high chaos or low chaos in the area. High chaos is caused if the player trips alarms and kills too many people. Low chaos is the reward for avoiding notice and finding non-lethal means to neutralize their targets.

The player’s actions will affect the city of Dunwall as well as the final outcome of the game. High Chaos will mean more City Watch guards and more awareness of their surroundings. More dead bodies will increase the number of rats plaguing the city and the number of “weepers.” Weepers are the undead people severely infected by the plague that spew infectious plague-puke. Higher chaos levels will also increase the number of mechanisms activated to stop Corvo. There are watch towers and alarms to help locate intruders and signal all City Watch guards to search for that intruder. Walls of Light (or the larger Arc Pylons) instantly vaporize anyone not a member of the City Watch that tries to pass through them. Players can deactivate any of these machines by either removing their power source or rewiring the control panel using a rewire tool.

Low Chaos means a calmer city watch. This means that there will be fewer guards, fewer “Tallboys” (super tall robotic machines that allow the guards operating them to see around low walls), and fewer alarms and other defensive machines will be operational. This, in turn, makes it easier to move around the city undetected.

The main quests, given by Corvo’s allies, are always the high chaos path. Those wanting to play through at low chaos must snoop to find alternate nonlethal methods to neutralize targets.  Peeking through keyholes may reward the player with private conversations that will aid in the mission. There are also tons of letters, memos, books and notes that will impart wisdom to Corvo. All of this snooping will open up optional quests that offer new options to complete missions.

Listening into the dialog of others can provide extremely critical information to Corvo throughout his mission.  The value of conversation in the game is evident by Arkane’s choices to voice these complex characters. Several key characters are voiced by well known actors and actresses.

One of the biggest stars is Susan Sarandon (Thelma and Louise, Bull Durham) who plays Granny Rags. This character is a former aristocrat now crazy from years living in the mean streets of Dunwall. In a rare appearance Carrie Fisher (Star Wars) adds her voice as one of the announcers spewing corrupt propaganda through the city. These are only a few of the many well known actors the lent their voices to the game. All of these talented folks help add a certain professional quality to the dialog which helps keep a player immersed in the game.

Snooping also allows the player to find the many collectable of the game. Goodies are hidden everywhere. There are runes to buy powers and power upgrades, bone charms add specific stat boosts to abilities. The outsider gives Corvo a valuable tool to make finding these items even easier. Collect enough runes and Corvo can purchase powers and increase those powers.

Loot like coins, gold, and treasures that are instantly converted into their value in gold can be collected to purchase items in the inventor’s workshop. He creates gadgets, ammo, as well as health and mana boosting elixirs to aid Corvo in his missions. Piero, the inventor, can also upgrade Corvo’s equipment.

Corvo can expand the equipment available for sale in Piero’s shop by finding blueprints around the city. Take these blueprints back to Piero and the item will be available for purchase. One of the biggest frustrations I had was the inability to upgrade the number of sleep bolts Corvo can carry. This severely limits the ability to use non-lethal methods over great distances. All of these items can help Corvo better prepare to face the forces of corruption.

One of the biggest complaints I have heard about Dishonored is that it is too short. If you race through without much exploration the game can be finished in half a day. I personally took a full day (roughly 24 hours) to complete the game. As opposed to the rather lengthy main quests of the typical Bethesda game this shorter length allows more people the opportunity to replay the game making different choices and further explore the areas missed in the first playthrough.

Dishonored presents a world devoid of hope where desperation and fear rule. The quality dialog keeps the player immersed in this morally corrupt land. The player has the power to save the empire or send it screaming into utter turmoil. Each experience is unique and intense. The shorter game length allows players to experience each ending and the game mechanics allow quick and creative combinations of powers and weapons not available in most games. Wrap all of these qualities together and you have a game worthy praise; you have a game worthy of honor.

A copy of Dishonored was provided to The Married Gamers for review.


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Author: Melisa Snyder View all posts by

One Comment on "Dishonored"

  1. Mark Scott October 26, 2012 at 8:21 am - Reply

    Great game but I agree it’s length can be an issue. Felt as you get into your groove the end presents itself.

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