- Publisher: Bethesda
- Developer: Arkane Studios
- ESRB Rating: “M" for Mature
- Genre: Action
- Pros: Interesting world; accessible gameplay; stealth isn't required (but is greatly rewarded); stealth and no-kill options are actually possible even if you aren't a genre expert
- Cons: Washed out visuals; combat only so-so
Dishonored is a tale about a steampunk-ish European port city called Dunwall that is riddled with plague. People are dying. The city is crumbling. And the city leaders are so corrupt they would rather continue to live in isolated luxury away from the rabble than help the Empress actually fix things for the people. Those corrupt officials arrange the murder of the Empress and your character, a bodyguard named Corvo, is blamed for it. A resistance movement helps Corvo break out of prison, and from there on your mission is to avenge the Empress, rescue her daughter so she can rightfully take the throne, and do anything else you can to clean up the city.
The length of the game will depend on how you play it. You could theoretically run through on easy difficulty and kill every enemy and beat it in 4 hours. However, if you do side missions, try to play stealthily, or seek out hidden runes and charms (which you use to upgrade your abilities), then the play time will be much longer. The game is also fairly replayable with many different ways to actually accomplish each mission, so playing through missions more than once via the Mission mode on the main menu is recommended.
It has to be noted that Dishonored is not an open world game (and on that note, it isn't a Bethesda (Skyrim, Fallout 3) game either, they are just the publisher, so any likes or dislikes you have about those series don't apply here). It is a mission-based game where each mission takes place in different parts of the city. The game world is split into a series of hubs, basically, where each hub is large and open and has other areas connected to it - important residences, factories, etc. -, but it isn't as if you are playing in one huge open city and are free to go anywhere you want. Each of these hubs / city sections (whatever you want to call them) are fairly big, however, and they have lots of hidden items and alternate pathways so you are rewarded for exploring them. An interesting touch is that by exploring you could potentially eavesdrop on conversations that give you extra details about your mission (your target's location, routines, guards, etc.) to make it easier. Or you could miss these details entirely and still finish your mission just fine.
It all works because the actual gameplay is really sharp. It is a first-person game, but platforming or using the teleport (blink) ability to jump around from perch to perch (or teleport right behind an enemy to slit their throat) is really easy and works well. Actually staying hidden really isn't that big of a problem here. The stealth aspect is really rather intuitive, particularly if you use all of your magic abilities, but even if you do it au natural it is still a surprisingly accessible stealth game if you have some patience.
I'm honestly not a fan of stealth games normally, but for some reason Dishonored works in such a way that it just clicks. Mind you, my playthrough wasn't stealthy in the least - I'd get about 75% through a mission doing stealth and then get impatient or mess up and end up killing everyone anyway - but the possibility of doing a stealth or even no-kill run was certainly within my grasp, which is something that I can't say for most stealth games that are more frustrating. Dishonored works well like this because, as I said above, there isn't just one "right" way to get through each section. You can really use your imagination about what path you want to take and how you want to do everything, and the game is actually built to allow you to do pretty much anything you can think up. It is just really fun to play and experiment with.
The one negative about the gameplay is that the combat is only kind of mediocre. There isn't anything particularly interesting about the weapons you use - crossbow, single shot pistol, sword, grenades - and first-person melee combat has always been kind of clunky and odd anyway. There are some satisfying moments where you behead an enemy or something, but for the most part combat is only so-so. You can find more interesting ways to kill enemies than straight up combat, though, which does help balance things back out a bit.
A great thing about Dishonored is that you can save anywhere, but the game also has multiple autosave slots which make experimentation a bit less risky than it would be otherwise since you can easily jump back a couple of autosaves before you made a mistake and do it all again. I keep saying it, but this game was made to be accessible and fun and not get in your way. It can definitely be as hardcore and difficult as you want it to be, but it is so well designed that it can also be fun and replayable and rewarding for the rest of us as well.
Graphics & Sound
The sound is great all around, though. Excellent sound effects. Excellent music that fits the game ever so perfectly. And outstanding voice work from the surprisingly star-studded cast.