At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players
Andy Daniel PlayStation 3 Bethesda Softworks Arkane Studios 1
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None. PC, Xbox 360 Click here to buy Dishonored.

Dishonored review

The game takes place in Dunwall, a distinctive steam-punk, Victorian Britain-inspired town suffering from a plague-carrying rat infestation and even worse, a corrupted high society. The player assumes the role of Corvo, bodyguard to the Empress and her daughter, Lady Emily. From the start, we see Corvo returning from other lands negotiating aid for the deadly plague sweeping through the town, either killing many inhabitants, or turning them into zombie-like weepers. Upon arrival and handing the responses to the Empress, Corvo witnesses her brutal assassination and kidnapping of young Lady Emily, leaving poor Corvo himself taking the blame for the whole event.

Branded a traitor to the nation and headed for the stocks, Corvo escapes custody with the aid of newly formed loyalist Allies who aspire to find and enthrone the true heir Lady Emily, while removing the tyrannous Lord Regent Hiram Burrows. With the help of loyalist leader Admiral Havelock and other allies, Corvo dons a specially created mask and becomes an assassin, missioned to take out the key people who support the Lord Regent, and then the Lord Regent himself.

Fight, flight, avoid or snoop. The choice is yours.

Fight, flight, avoid or snoop. The choice is yours.

The gameplay is driven around assassinating key members of the Lord Regent's clique, but don’t expect another Assassin’s Creed. Each mission begins with the main objective of taking out a particular quarry, but that doesn’t necessarily require a kill. Neither does it necessarily mean that person will be easily locatable. Corvo will start his mission at the edge of town, on the water thanks to the handy oarsman Samuel. From there the player must travel to the probable building containing his impending victim, while learning where the target is, or even what they look like, most likely from overheard conversations, or finding notes and clues. From there the player can use any of the many available paths, avoiding or fighting the guards, to the target. Oh, and there will be many.

Using the acquired supernatural skills such as blink, a teleportation trick, the player can quickly navigate the rooftops or the sewers unseen, or even quickly get past many confused guards. Perhaps you want to fight your way through all of them with Corvo's permanently equipped sword? The choice (of many, I cannot stress enough) is up to the player. However, bear in mind that your chaos factor will alter the conclusion of the game, and how your allies treat you.

The invaluable Dark Vision power lets you see people and their line of sight through walls

The invaluable Dark Vision power lets you see people and their line of sight through walls

There are more magic tricks up Corvo’s sleeve. Collecting the ample runes throughout the game, along with some visits from the elusive and mysterious ‘Outsider’, will allow the player to unlock more skills to aid stealth or combat. For additional stealth, how about possession of rats, fish, dogs and even humans? For combat and chaos there is a fatal fury takedown move, or devouring swarm, which summons a deadly rush of rats beneath the victim's feet, literally devouring them in one fell swoop. Each of these will be useful for the tactics the player employs to get through the game, and I didn’t even need them all to get by, which means taking a long time finding runes isn't necessary.

Gameplay and controls are very fluid, especially with a console controller, with the left triggers for guns or supernatural powers, and the right triggers for assassinating and swordplay, and it is easy to quickly fight back when stumbling into a pack of guards. As climbing is essential for stealth, it is very smooth to get around without being seen, climbing through windows and across ledges, unless you elect to take the easy method of 'blinking' everywhere (but, boy, is it fun).

It is easy to use these methods to navigate the rich, detailed environment of Dunwall. Nearly every dilapidated room, corridor or sewer pipe is full of little tidbits to enrich the story behind Dunwall and its inhabitants. Scriptures, notes and books cover almost every shelf and table, containing information about the plague, the city, or even the assassination target. It is easy to get caught up reading and learning so much, I almost start believing it really happened.

Lady Boyle, I presume?

Lady Boyle, I presume?

The story flows fluidly through the scriptures and the brilliant narrative, and with the amount of different paths through the game available, you won’t be at fault wanting to replay the game a couple more times, especially to get the coveted no-kill playthrough achievement. However, each playthrough is guaranteed to be different, as the inhabitants of Dunwall like to keep you on your toes by altering their habits, and even clothes, each time you play the game. Take my favourite mission of the game, for example; one target of Corvo's during the game is Lady Boyle, and lucky for us she is throwing a masquerade ball, and we have the perfect mask. However, there happens to be three Lady Boyles, similarly dressed and masked, but in different colours, and we don't know which one is the true target. By overhearing conversations, bribing other guests, or snooping disallowed locations, the player can determine the true target. This fantastic feature welcomes multiple playthroughs with warm open arms.

It took around eleven hours to push the game to the end, and no doubt I'll be taking on the no-kill challenge. The story is thorough, although the ending was a little lackluster, and adopts the usual menagerie of highs, lows and twists we all come to expect from a AAA title. The game takes clear direction from one of its influences, Half-Life 2. Dunwall’s military barricades and tallboys are reminiscent of City 17, and the fact that Corvo remains mute throughout the game is like a certain Gordon Freeman. This isn't entirely accidental as Arkane Studios has the services of City 17's visual design director, Viktor Antonov, and his influence makes Dunwall distinctive, and a character of its own, like Bioshock's Rapture. It will hold secrets, cause you pain, but you will love it for all its glory.

City 17 and Striders, meet Dunwall and Tall boys

City 17 and Striders, meet Dunwall and Tall boys


Overall While Dishonored doesn't do anything wrong, it could do with a little bit more to receive a perfect score, perhaps another mission or two, or a more dramatic ending. However, the gameplay, visuals and story put many games this year to shame. 9/10

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