Dishonored is a difficult game to rate because when I initially started the game, I absolutely loathed it. The controls were difficult to learn, the combat was unwieldy, and I was disappointed with the level design. I was ready to return the game midway through the first assassination mission and annoyed I'd wasted the thirty or so dollars I'd lose in trading in a new game. We had a new puppy, however, so I didn't get to go to Gamestop that day. So, just because I had nothing else better to do, I decided to continue playing. Once I passed the initial learning curve, the game started getting much more enjoyable. By the time I completed the final level, I was genuinely hooked.
So, really, this is going to be one of those odd reviews where I encourage gamers to check out the game for themselves. I, personally, recommend gamers who enjoy stealth combat like Deus Ex: Human Revolution to do so. Just note there is no melee-based method of taking down people and there's a limited number of people you can knock-out with sleep darts every level, which makes pacifist runs harder. I think I would have enjoyed the game more if they'd given Corvo, the protagonist, a cudgel and the option for player characters to beat down people non-lethally.
|Ah, another day of attacking mecha with a steak knife. Hint: it doesn't work.|
I'll spare you the rest of the story. The plot's not particularly deep but is perfectly serviceable for the kind of game this is. There are a number of twists despite the straight-forward plot and these add spice to what could otherwise be a very simplistic premise. The tag-line: Revenge fixes everything turns out to not be as true as the developers would have you believe. The real star of the game is the setting. As mentioned, Dunwall is an alternate history version of London that puts the crap in crapsack world. Racism, classicism, plague, poverty, animal abuse, and worse are common features on display. Even the heroes aren't necessarily good; they're just not actively evil. Some of the options for disposing of your opponents during the game are distilled nightmare fuel.
|Murder, murder, murder!|
The rich environment of Dishonored is enough that I wish we could have had an open-world environment where Corvo could wander endlessly around Dunwall and meet with its various inhabitants. A free-roam world of Dunwall would be against its stealth-heavy gameplay but I think something like Arkham City or Assassins Creed would be among my top-ten games of all time. Ah well, maybe that can show up in Dishonored 2. [Note: This didn't happen but Dishonored 2 turned out to be great fun anyway.]
|The decadence of Dunwall.|
A big part of what makes Dishonored good, however, is that you can solve many of the games levels in a variety of ways. At the risk of spoiling a level, it's possible to deal with one target by switching his drink with a man he's about to poison or framing him as a heretic. You can also just shoot him or stab him. I don't know if I'll be replaying the game but the fact I'm actually considering it is a huge change from my usual gameplay practices.
|Emily is an adorable character I learned to love.|
The game is extremely dark and enjoyably grim. While you can play with a pacifist run and never kill anyone, the fates you can inflict on your target approach Count of Monte Cristo levels of sadism. You can brand a man as an untouchable enemy of the church, shunned by all. You can sell a pair of nobles into slavery to be worked to death in silver mines with no tongues. You can also give a woman to a deranged stalker who will keep her prisoner until she dies. Corvo is a deeply ambiguous figure who has justifiable reasons to want revenge but his actions can leave Dunwall a blood-soaked ruin (in addition to it being a plague-ridden ruin).
|At one point, you can imitate Masque of the Red Death.|
The Definitive Edition also comes with the DLC The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches, which are stories about antagonist Daud (voiced by Michael Masden). These are arguably levels more enjoyable than the main game and could easily have been the basis for a sequel. These follow a conspiracy against the kidnapped princess which is going on during the events of the main game. There is also The Dunwall Trials which lacks story but adds further replay value to the main game.
Overall, Dishonored is a good game and my initial impressions didn't reflect my later feelings on the game. Still, the game could have used a bit more polish in my opinion. The characters could have been a more developed and the setting a bit more varied. I think I read the same books like eight or nine times. Still, a very positive gameplay experience.