Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dishonored Review

Review written by @SyphiloidMonkey - Executive Editor for The TechFixation

ishonored is set in the city of Dunwall, a place ravaged by a plague with no cure, a place crumbling and falling in to decay, a place where deceit and treachery are rampant.  You are Corvo, hero of the city returning from a crucial mission away from Dunwall for several months.  Here is my experience with the game.

1 minute - waiting for install, liked the progress bar hinting to me that it was installing multiple files, though no clue what these were.

5 minutes - still waiting for the install, began to wonder why developers don't put detailed instruction manuals with games anymore, would have given me something to do.  The last good one I remember was Resistance 2.

10 minutes - At least it's not as epic as the Gran Tourismo install, it's loaded to the pre-menu start screen.

11 minutes - Check my pre-order DLC is listed then hit new game!

20 minutes - Finally take control of Corvo, learn basic stealth through a game of hide and seek (neat idea), speak to the Empress, watch her get killed, forced myself to turn the PS3 off and go out (already running late).

That last statement pretty much sums up Dishonored, I've had to force myself to stop playing because it's a time stealer.  You think you've not done much, maybe watched some guard patrol routes, read a bit about Dunwall's history and customs, stolen some coins, and inched your way closer to the target.  But in reality, hours have passed because it manages to draw you into the world and makes you want to explore, but to do it in the stealthiest way possible you have to be very, very patient.

Dishonored is a pure stealth game, do not be fooled by the advertising that lets you approach the levels in different play styles, a full on assault with more than 2 guards will get you killed nearly every time.  If you do survive then you'll spend then next section hunting for health and avoiding contact with everyone.  But that said, there are multiple ways to complete your objective.  Taking a side quest from a seemingly unconnected character can open up routes to your goal previously locked off, or give you info that allows you to find secrets or items you might have overlooked.  You can also ignore all side missions and just follow the main mission markers, there are always multiple paths to the goal.

To help you avoid detection there are numerous powers you can buy and upgrade, collect relics that are dotted around the levels and spend the points on the available options.  You start with Blink which is a short distance teleport, and then it's up to you what comes after.  There are powers to possess small animals and sneak through small gaps, slow down time to sneak past crowds of people, see locations of guards and objects through walls, and a couple of offensive abilities too.  Each ability can be mapped to one of the D-pad buttons on the fly to give maximum flexibility using them.  There are also bone charms that give slight benefits like health upgrades, faster movement or affinity with animals.  These are limited initially to 4 slots with more purchased through the game, and the bone charms can be swapped out for others at any point.  

In addition to the supernatural abilities there are the usual assassin methods available: sword, crossbow, obligatory drop assassination (sound familiar?), and there's always a non-lethal option.  It is possible to finish the game without killing anyone, including the main targets, though there was a point where I really made a hash of things and had no option but to silence witnesses.  Killing has its benefits in making the levels easier to traverse, but the number of bodies contribute to the plague and affect the final outcome of the story.  Your normal gear can also be upgraded if you find the right blueprints, with these costing coins scavenged through the levels.  You can probably tell there are lots of collectables, and there are never enough available for you to buy and upgrade everything, the game makes you choose your upgrades carefully, but none of them are required for accomplishing the goals.

It is difficult for any game to give this level of open-choice play without some trade offs happening, and Dishonored is no exception.  I've already mentioned the need to stay hidden, combat is not easy with multiple foes so it only serves as an escape tool rather than a tactic, and the other compromise is the AI.  The guards have a number of different situations they could react to, and in most cases the responses are right, but occasionally I found myself being hunted when there was no reason for their suspiciousness.  So, even though you get absorbed in the rich detail of the game, the illusion is broken by some odd AI behavior.  In fairness this made the response unpredictable which heightened the tension, particularly towards the end of the game.

I've made it quite a way through this review without comparing it to Bioshock, but can't go any further.  The style of the game, dual wielding weapons and powers, red bottles for health, blue for power recharge, audio logs, massive amounts of irrelevant but interesting history, it's all familiar.  But this isn't a bad thing, Dishonored may use the template but not the story, and there's a feeling of freedom that you don't have in Bioshock (for good reason if you've played that).  The only thing it doesn't match is the length, under 15 hours felt too short to me.  There's plenty of replay in there, I'm conscious of what I did in the first playthrough and should be able to tackle things differently, but I'd just got into my stride at the end of the game and wanted more.  

I rate it £35/£40 ($52/$60).

I enjoyed my time in Dunwall, and with my choices and style of play feel I did what was right for the city.  I'll be returning someday too, there's plenty I didn't see, options I didn't take, and maybe next time I'll do what's right for Corvo.


  1. I tried playing this and Hitman at the same time. It was a big mistake. Im going to start over from the beginning i think. Good review. Couldnt agree more that you cant take on big groups as other reviews have said.