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Set in Dunwall, a Victorian-era styled city plagued with rats, and melded
seamlessly into a world of supernatural powers and science fictionlike
technology, Dishonored is the latest offering from Arkane Studios,
published by gaming giant Bethesda, known for titles such as The Elder
Scrolls, Fallout and Doom. You play as Corvo Attano, former bodyguard
to the Empress and now a death row prisoner accused of her assassination
and kidnapping of her daughter, the heir to the throne. You are driven
by the basic desire for revenge – to right the injustices and purify a city
slowly descending into chaos. Aided by an organisation of loyalists to the
Empress, you aim to take down the brutal dictatorship that has risen in
her absence and reinstate the rightful monarchy to power. And, on top of
all this, there is also a mysterious occult god who grants you supernatural
powers and guides your quest for revenge.

While Dishonored may seem to be a simple game of revenge, it
is about choice – how you engage your enemies. Do you simply wreak
havoc and carnage across the streets of the city? Or do you stick to the
shadows, utilising your supernatural powers to evade your enemies and
strike at the heart, assassinating their leaders? All of these decisions have
small, yet noticeable, consequences during the quests, and ultimately
it’s your choice as to how best to carry out your retribution. Every level
has a number of different paths you can follow, many of which you have
to choose between sneaking around the outskirts – or even through ratinfested
sewers – compared to battling your way through swarms of guards.
Every guard you kill adds to the chaos of the city, making it increasingly
more dark and sinister. This is a wonderful mood setter and adds to the
depth of your actions, however more functionally, with the breakdown
of your actions at the end of each level it also allows for more experienced
gamers to test their skills. Newer players can simply hack their way
through the game and finish the story, whereas experts can aim for lower
levels of combat and instead focusing on their stealth prowess

In terms of gameplay, there is no doubt that Corvo is a truly powerful
individual. He is able to easily dispatch any guard with conventional
weapons as well as with gadgets such as grenades, sleep darts and spring
razors (traps which shoot out razor blades in a radius around them). However,
he doesn’t feel overpowered. You can take out a few guards at the
same time, but ill-thought out decisions lead to massive bloodbaths are almost
certain to leave you dead on the floor. Instead, the game is all about
your strategy. Combining your vast array of weaponry with your supernatural
powers can lead to some fantastic and quite hilarious results. You
can stop time to run into a room of guards, throw a live grenade onto the
floor only to run back out, shut the door and watch the mayhem through
the keyhole, laughing like a maniac while you watch it unfold. It’s truly
good fun, albeit gruesome and maybe a little bit sadistic, but there’s nothing
wrong with that.

The atmosphere that the game creates is truly superb. It is best
explained as a mix of a steampunk Victorian and a 1984-styled Orwellian
setting, with a bit of the occult thrown in for good measure. An eclectic
mix, but the designers have made it work magnificently, with the world
feeling alive and seamless. This, combined with the fluidity of the stealth
system, makes for an enjoyable player experience. However, it is not perfect.
My main issue is with the levels, which feel slightly cramped despite
the design of multiple paths within. Also, transitioning from stealth to
combat feels a little off, and not as smooth as I would like.

Overall, Bethesda’s latest game is wonderful, filled with choices and
consequences. The only criticisms I have are the slightly cramped levels
and a stealth-to-combat transition that doesn’t feel quite right. Other
than this, the designers have succeeded in creating a world that is both
unique and believable, but most importantlyenjoyable. The gameplay
is great, with a powerful character at your disposal that still requires the
weighing up of risks. The consequences of your choices are noticeable
but are not overly game-changing, which is effective and avoids alienating
the more vanilla player demographic.

I give Dishonored a well-earned 9/10 for a wonderful story, great
gameplay and a unique variation on your cookie-cutter hack-and-slash.

Developer: Arkane Studios
Released: October 09, 2012
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Timothy Hender

The author Timothy Hender

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