Review by mildare_el_rayo

"An incredible title combining the best elements of some of the best games of the past decade."

Imagine a bunch of studio executives getting together for a meeting in which they'll discuss the mechanics of their next game. It is a meeting where everyone is allowed to speak freely and mention any idea they would like to see in the title. Ideas start getting thrown around, some of them make it into the final product, and the rest are probably either discarded immediately or implemented in the early development stages but subsequently ditched.

Now, let this studio be Arkane Studios. It's not a very well-known studio, as it has only designed three games; however, it's helped out a couple of other studios with their respective games. These games have been, namely, a Half-Life spin-off that was ultimately canned and Bioshock 2.

Let us further entertain the notion of a brainstorming session, now led by Arkane Studios. Names start getting dropped as inspiration, and someone mentions Bioshock. Then Fallout 3. Then Half-Life. Then Deus-Ex. And then, why not, Assassin's Creed and Metal Gear Solid. The resulting baby of this bizarre meeting would have been Dishonored.

Published by Bethesda, the developers of Fallout 3, Dishonored is a first-person stealth game that follows the story of Corvo, the personal bodyguard of Empress Jessamine Kaldwin, head of the decadent city of Dunwall, recently struck by a population-decimating plague. Having returned from a long trip, Corvo goes to meet the empress only to find himself in the middle of the assassination of the Empress and the kidnapping of her daughter by a gang of masked, teleporting men. The men quickly escape the scene, and Corvo is left to blame. After spending six months in prison, the empress' Spymaster reveals to Corvo that it was he who framed him for the murder, for it is his belief that the city of Dunwall needs to be ruled by a strong hand in times of crisis. Corvo escapes prison and is recruited by a group of nobles and politicians who want to make sure they're the ones in charge, not some lying, cheating, conspiring Spymaster. As a man of multiple talents, and a kick-ass assassin, Corvo is to serve as their arms and hands. This is where you come in.

The game plays like butter. Each mission has a set objective about what you're supposed to do, and for the most part of the game, you are to assassinate a certain important political figure that has played an important role in the overtaking of the empire so that your friends may march in and take it like Fortinbras in Halmet. Only, as the important political figures that they are, they hardly live with unlocked doors. Their dens are plagued with guards, not to mention that, to get there, you have to traverse part of the city as a masked assassin. Apparently, it's impossible for Corvo to clad himself in an attire that doesn't scream: “Armed and Dangerous” Guards almost anywhere play by the “shoot first, ask questions later” rule, which is where the stealth component kicks in. You can also find alternative ways to eliminate your targets, and not all of them are lethal; some of them are wonderfully clever.

Dishonored can be played in two fashions: You can either hack and slash your way through it, which is a great deal of fun, or you can sneak your way past the guards and leave your hands unsullied. This, is of course, a bigger challenge but presents its own benefits, such as a less dark ending and less rats and guards to deal with later on in the game.

Early in the game, The Outsider, a deity that is neither good nor evil, visits Corvo in a dream and discerns him as “interesting,” and grants him The Outsider's Mark (which is, incidentally, the game's logo) and the ability to harness supernatural powers, such as seamlessly traversing distances of a few meters in the blink of an eye unseen (Blink), or possessing animals and people (Possess).

The whole idea of sneaking games, mostly, is to be able to see a guard that can't spot you, having the upper hand. Otherwise, it's like playing a game of hide-and-go-seek where it's you who has the handicap, not the guards. Since this is a first-person title, you can't really see the guards without them seeing you, so Dishonored resolves this in a most elegant fashion by granting you the ability to see through walls (Dark Eye)

It sounds like something simple, but think about it: You're playing a game of hide-and-seek and you can see your hunter through the wall, enabling you to easily elude him. This will undoubtedly make you king of hide-and-seek.

The Blink ability is a game-changer, too. It enables you to climb high distances, run away from enemies, teleport from one spot to the next silently and without upsetting guards or even chain the ability with a silent assassination, or a silent knock-down.

Aside from superior swordplay skills, supernatural powers, and the ability to sneak, Corvo can also carry a crossbow for silent assassinations or a pistol for close-quarters combat, enabling you, the player, to kill enemies in an incredibly vast array of manners. You can shoot them in the face with your crossbow or pistol; you can assassinate them silently with your Blink ability or from a rooftop; you can choke them and then throw them out the window so they break their necks; you can alter their own traps mechanically so they meet their demise by their own hands instead of you; you can even make them shoot you, stop time, possess them and make them stand in front of their own bullets.

So, in addition to telling you a story of murder and intrigue and presenting some of the best damn sneaking gameplay of the industry, Dishonored also allows you to discover your creativity as a murderer.

Dishonored is a versatile game that never stales, and there is one very special mission in the game that made its way into my heart and will stay there forever: the mask party mission.

You are to assassinate a very important woman in the game, who incidentally is going to have a mask party in her abode, in a few hours. Luckily, you already have a mask. Her house is filled with bourgeois guests who are not enjoying themselves very much, and you get to overhear each and everyone of the conversations taking place in that party, as well as be able to go about your own business without minding who's watching you and who's not. You need to find out how the woman you are to assassinate is dressed and can do this in two ways: You can either talk to the guests and extract information from them, or you can sneak into the second story of the house and read the letters, notebooks and notes of everyone living there. After you've done this, there are several ways to conclude your mission without spoiling the party or disturbing anyone, but how you do this is up to you. Maybe it's just me, but being in a party, uninvited, and sneaking up to someone's personal quarters without them knowing you're there feels eerily great.

The graphics are pretty damn neat, and the art design is wonderful. It really feels as though you're in a decadent city, filled with suffering people that don't really deserve what's happening to them. The setting is largely inspired by England during grimmer times, only with steampunk elements, and you can sense how you're treading through a ground that's definitely seen better times, and even enjoyed grandeur once. The only thing I found myself uncomfortable with during my playthrough was the fact that all the male character models looked so much like each other. I found myself confusing them on sight often.

Dishonored also presents several sidequests to complete, and a number of collectibles to find that enable you to purchase powerful upgrades. There's plenty to do in this game, you can even play through it multiple times with varying styles and choices. It's fun, it's intriguing, its characters and their reactions are pretty well crafted, it's an incredible title. Go out and buy it.

9.8/10, rounded up to a 10.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/27/12

Game Release: Dishonored (US, 10/09/12)


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