Every so often a game comes along that is truly unforgettable. We’re adrift in a sea of sequels, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a new experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good sequel, and I’m very much looking forward to games like Halo 4, Assassin’s Creed III, and Far Cry 3 later this year, but one thing those games can’t provide is the feeling that comes with immersing yourself in a world you’ve never seen before. This makes Dishonored a breath of fresh air. because it’s more than unique — it’s also beautiful, twisted, and insanely fun.
The Baby Factor: If Thief, Half-Life, and BioShock got together for a night of steamy game-on-game relations, Dishonored would be the result.
This game reminds me a lot of my first time in Rapture. BioShock was something I had never seen before, and it had a very distinct flavor and style. A friend once told me BioShock is one of those games that has a certain smell. What he meant by that is when you’re walking through those broken halls, the walls rusted from the leaks caused by the ocean above that would like nothing more than to crush the broken city. It’s so detailed, so beautifully constructed, that you can practically smell those halls. Dishonored feels the same way, and while I wouldn’t usually want to smell a rat and disease-infested city, this game smells so good.
Set in the decaying industrial city of Dunwall, which looks strikingly similar to Victorian London, this is very obviously a heavily flawed world. The city has been dealing with a plague spread by the rats, which are as likely to infect you as they are to eat you alive. It didn’t take long for me to witness a group of soldiers being eaten alive by a swarm of rats, who aren’t much of a threat in small numbers, but can quickly become dangerous when there are many of them. If you’re the type of gamer who likes to wring every last drop of story out of your games, then I highly suggest listening to the audio logs scattered about, as they offer more of the story than what can be gleaned if you do not.
This game is rich with back story; there’s a war between the upper class and the impoverished, the latter of which has been hit the hardest by the plague spread by the rats. Because they’re out on the streets, the poor are more susceptible to the disease that can transform the infected into crazed Weepers, who are terrifying for a number of reasons, including their crimson tears that make their faces more than a little unnerving. As the city has fallen deeper into decay, and the rich continue to isolate themselves in the nicer districts, protected by their Walls of Light, several of its citizens have joined together to form the Loyalists. This is the group Corvo joins up with to help him achieve his goal of getting back at those who conspired against him.
Corvo was once the Empress’ bodyguard, before he was framed for her murder. Fueled by a desire to get some revenge as well as save the Empress’ daughter — and rightful heir to the throne — Corvo sets off on a mission to cause a little anarchy. As the Empress’ guard, he’s already a skilled fighter, but he doesn’t quite attain Badass status until a supernatural being known as the Outsider bestows him with a few powers to make his job just a wee bit easier.
Dishonored is a game that’s full of suggestions. It shows you where you need to go to accomplish your mission or reach your next objective, then it suggests a few ways to get there. The rest is up to you. If you prefer the guns blazing approach, you can run in and cause chaos. Or, you could stick to the shadows, rooftops, or underground tunnels and vents and sneak up on your foes before dispatching them. Or, you don’t have to kill anyone. It’s entirely up to you. You have all the tools you’ll ever need at your disposal, including a wide-open area with plenty of ways to reach your goal, a suite of intensely cool powers, and an arsenal of ranged and close-combat weapons.
I started off as the silent killer, before I acquired the Blink ability and I turned into a total dick. Pre-Blink Adam was a ninja — I’d creep up behind my enemies, then slit their throats, hide the body, and move on to their friends. Post-Blink Adam didn’t give a fuck. If my stealth approach failed and I had multiple guys on me, I’d initiate plan B, which essentially meant I’d use my impressive teleportation ability to confuse the hell out of my enemies before I teleported right on top of the poor dazed bastards and stabbed them in their stupid, confused faces.
That’s only one of several approaches you can take while hunting down your prey, but the results are always satisfying, no matter how you decide to go about your mass murdering. This is another thing that brings me back to my first time with BioShock, where setting up a fight was part of the combat. Hacking turrets and security cameras, setting up trip wires, etc. The game taught you to plan each battle, to be prepared, and Dishonored does the same thing. You can set up proximity mines, then toss a glass bottle against a wall to lure an unsuspecting enemy into their path. Or you can be more direct, use a vent to get behind an enemy and blink to a perch right above your target for an easy kill. The possibilities are endless.
To make sure you feel significantly more badass than you were at the beginning of the game, the money and runes that are scattered about the environments can be invested into unlocking and upgrading your skills, weapons, and gadgets. Then there are the bone charms, which grant Corvo passive perks like faster recovery times, quicker health regeneration, and much more. Three can be equipped at any given time, and more later on. All this aids the feeling of progression that’s important for games like this. You might not have the same aesthetic changes that similar titles, such as Assassin’s Creed offer, but that’s not something I found myself wishing I could see.
Dishonored mixes elements from some of the best games of the action and stealth genres while successfully bringing plenty of ingenious ideas of its own. With a rich story, a world brimming with detail and creativity, and some of the most satisfying combat and clever level design I’ve experienced in a game, this is something you really shouldn’t miss.
The Final Word: If revenge is a dish best served cold, I’m eating frozen meals from now on, because this is delicious.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Dishonored, which was provided by the publisher.