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Dishonored Review (X360)

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Dishonored Review (X360)
Stealth games typically have a handful of "right" ways to finish each level, and then a few dozen "wrong" ways where you totally screw up. Dishonored, on the other hand, just has fifty different ways to do everything, and all of them are "right". If you want to play it as a hardcore stealth game, it is one of the best. If you want to play it like a drunken fool who barges into every situation and kills everyone, go right ahead. Or if you want to play somewhere in-between, you'll be right at home here. Dishonored is one of the most accessible stealth games ever and worth a look even if you think you don't like stealth games.
Game Details

  • 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.


That is kind of the best thing about Dishonored - it gives you lots and lots of tools to use to play it, but how, or if, you use them is up to you. To start off, you have magic powers that can allow you to teleport, see through walls, call a swarm of plague rats, and even stop time. Or you could choose to not use any of these abilities at all and actually get an achievement for it at the end. You have weapons including a sword, pistol, grenades, and a crossbow with different ammo types. Or you might not need any of them if you play stealthily. You don't actually even have to seek out hidden upgrade runes or charms and can easily beat the game without upgrading anything. You can tackle missions by sneaking through the shadows on the streets. You can run along rooftops. You can sneak through side buildings or even risk the sewers full of rats. And when you get to your target, brutally killing them isn't your only option. You could kill them with your blade, poison them, frame them for murder to discredit them politically ... lots of stuff. Everything is 100% your choice, and that is awesome. It is like the open action gameplay of BioShock mixed with stealth and assassinations of Assassin's Creed. Sounds like a winning formula.

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 visuals are one area where Dishonored falls a bit short, unfortunately. The art style is kind of distorted and stretched and not meant to be realistic, which works well for the character models and architecture, but the textures can only be described as simple and bland (when they do eventually pop in since this is an Unreal Engine game) and the game overall is kind of washed out. There are also ugly artifacts and blocky jagginess in many areas that just plain looks bad. One thing we recommend is to turn the brightness in the game down a bit because, for whatever reason, at default settings (or setting it according to the in-game calibration) Dishonored is really bright, which also contributes to the washed out look. Turn it down a bit and things start to look better.

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.

Bottom Line

All in all, Dishonored is one of the most interesting games of the year. It gives you a world to play in, with lots of tools to use, and then gets out of the way and lets you have fun. Whether that means going full-on stealth and not killing anyone, killing everyone you see, or something in-between, Dishonored lets you do it however you want with incredibly solid and open gameplay. We love games that let you make your own fun, and that is exactly what Dishonored does. Stealth fans will love it, but even if you don't like stealth don't let that stand in your way since Dishonored can pretty much be played however you want. It is worth experiencing no matter how you want to play it, though, and we highly recommend Dishonored for a purchase.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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