Sneak through Dunwall for vengeance and justice
ESRB Rating: [M] for Mature
Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platform: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action Adventure
Price: $19.99, Available Here
Dishonored is a dark, gruesome game full of murder, disease, greed, and less prominently, sex. Dunwall is full of rotting corpses, rats that will consume a man in seconds, and more.
As Corvo, you’re an assassin, choosing how to take out your target (and anyone else along the way). While it’s possible to beat the game without ever taking a life, the violence that’s here is rough: backstabbing, decapitation, total dismemberment, and more.
The game has some of the seedier aspects of life intact. Characters use some pretty rough language and there are some suggestively dressed ladies throughout.
One of the aspects many may overlook is an entity known as “The Outsider.” Worshiped as a deity by some, he’s a darkly altruistic being that seemingly serves only his own interests, imbuing Corvo with magical powers that aid his quest for vengeance.
I’ve got a spotted history with Dishonored. I originally purchased the game on Xbox 360 but, due to self-imposed pressure to execute a flawless no-kill run, I never made it past the second level. Now, years later, I’ve returned to the game after picking it up on a Steam sale. I told myself I’d just enjoy the game, letting the chips fall as they may, and I’ve been well rewarded for my persistence.
At the beginning of our journey, Corvo returns to the twisted, steampunk Victorian world of Dunwall. The right hand to the empress, Corvo has just returned from a series of politically-focused trips, asking for assistance with the rat plague that’s killing so many of Dunwall’s citizens. When he goes to report his findings to the empress, an assassin shows up, killing the empress, kidnapping her daughter, and leaving Corvo to take the fall.
After months of imprisonment and torture, Corvo escapes jail with some help from loyalists fighting for a forgotten Dunwall. While in their camp, Corvo has a dream-meeting with a being known as “The Outsider,” that grants him special skills to aid his journey.
Now Corvo must work with the loyalists to recover Emily, the empress’s daughter, track down the assassin that framed him, and restore balance to a broken world.
The story of Dishonored is surprisingly well written and acted. The characters are believable and the world is wonderfully brought to life, as dark and dangerous as it can be. There are even a few pleasantly devious twists as the story progresses.
Dishonored puts you in the role of Corvo from a first-person perspective. Straight from the start you have two ways to play the game: quiet or chaotic. The quiet path lets you sneak around, knocking foes unconscious or putting them to sleep with darts. The chaotic path will let you go toe-to-toe with Dunwall’s guards, besting them with a sword, killing them from the shadows, employing visceral traps or grenades, and more.
Beyond your standard Victorian-era weaponry, Corvo has a set of abilities at his disposal. These allow him to do everything from seeing through walls and warping around the map to summoning rats and taking over folks’ bodies.
The face-to-face combat in Dishonored feels lacking. Corvo feels almost clumsy with a sword when taking on guards. That lends credence, however, to the idea that you should stick to the shadows, taking foes on with a frontal assault only in dire situations. Plotting and maneuvering through each zone feels like a well designed puzzle, however.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the game is that you can finish each mission without ever having to kill anyone. Every stage can present you with an opportunity to “eliminate” your target peacefully. I highly recommend trying those routes as they feel much more interesting than haphazard smash-and-dash runs.
The folks at Arkane Studios have done a fantastic job giving Dishonored a distinct look and feel. Characters almost feel like comic book caricatures, giving them a visual style that really stands out. Voice work is also masterfully done, giving credence to the nobility and seedy low-lives alike. From top to bottom, Dishonored is an arresting, memorable title.
After I decided to let the chips fall as they may, I thoroughly enjoyed what Dishonored has to offer. The story is well told with some excellent twists, characters and events are memorable, and the game looks and sounds fantastic. While the game feels like it suffers with face-to-face combat, exercising all of Corvo’s tools and skills to traverse each stage and deal with your marks provides a finely executed experience you won’t soon forget.
+ Striking visual style helps bring Dunwall to life
+ Fantastic stealth gameplay
+ Well executed narrative
- Face-to-face combat feels weak
- Thematic darkness is somewhat offputting