In short

Dishonored takes place around the 1940’s in the city of Dunwall, England. Corvo Attono, once one of the most revered citizens of the city, is wrongly accused of the worst crime and therefore “dishonoured.” Our mysterious, silent protagonist becomes a master assassin, armed with deadly technology and dark magic. He must clear his name by taking revenge on the regime that has shamed and betrayed him.

Developer: Arkane Studio
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Distributor: Ster-Kinekor
For fans of: Stealth games, BioShock fans
Reviewed on: Playstation 3
Also available on: Xbox 360, PC
If we had to give it a numerical score: 9.0/10

What we loved

  • Immensely interesting narrative
  • Surprising, wonderful gameplay
  • Stunning gaming world (Dunwall)
  • Mysterious protagonist
  • The assassin’s tech
  • Magic
  • RPG element
  • Open-world possibilities in tackling the objectives

Not so much

  • Camera-view sometimes disorientating
  • Graphics not that bad, but not the best either
  • Cover-system not my favourite

Gameplay and Features

Dishonored is a very narrative driven adventure, and while players can drive the story by staying focused on the objective’s path, there are endless ways in which you can go about it, so the game is far from linear. Not only because players can choose a ruthless or stealthy way to go about it, but because the gaming world is an open one, with various paths leading to the objective – underground tunnels, rooftops, through buildings and more. Players have total freedom in how they go about things, and because there is plenty to collect, exploration is wonderfully rewarding. I chose to go about things by mostly butchering my way to the objective, using the stealthy approach sporadically. You are warned though, the more deaths you pile up, the most rats will populate the city, and the darker your outcome may become.

“Butchering” is an apt way to describe the knife combat, as with BioShock, you play in the first-person view with a weapon or gadget in one hand and a knife in the other. With the knife you stab, hack away at enemies and even slice their head off their shoulders. You can either attack in a brutal manner or in a stealthy manner. Attack the subject brutally with the blade, or silently creep up behind the enemy and either put them to sleep or slice their neck. The entire gameplay design lets you attack as normal or by staying under-cover. By pressing a button, you engage Corvo’s stealth mode – moving around more silently and by staying more hidden. Another button engages the cover-mode, where you can lean out of to stay hidden.

Corvo learns and unlocks mage powers which compliment both the stealth aspect and the technology. Corvo where’s a mask to stay undercover and there’s some powers that compliment the mask’s technology – powers that let him see through walls and find hidden objects for example. There are all sorts of magic powers to aid Corvo with endless possibilities – from teleporting powers to magical, blasting attacks. And even though the game takes place in the 1940’s, there is an abundance of suiting technology to the era – from a cross-bow with varying darts as ammunition, to proximity traps that cleverly stay true to the era. I was pleasantly surprised by the design of the technology and mage powers on offer. These aspects make the gameplay, not only engaging, but wonderfully interesting.

The action-stealth gameplay is complimented by RPG elements – speech trees, looting, unlocking and levelling-up powers. The RPG element is deep enough to keep you wanting, but not overwhelming as with a deep RPG game. Talking to people around the city will open up quests to compliment the open-world gameplay. Players can choose to stick to the main plot, or try their hand at the side-missions. I like this aspect of the game as a way to prolong the singleplayer experience – give us an interesting city to explore with missions and different ways you can tackle the game. I played in my usual ruthless manner, with little subtlety, so I was only hours into the game and already thinking of a second playthrough. A second playthrough where I would take the more stealthy approach, eavesdrop for information, incisively search every corner of Dunswall for the hidden gems and play through all side-quests.

Apart from the first-person camera angle that could be off at times for me, especially when surrounded by foes, the only other factor that was less than great for me was the cover-system. Usually we complain about the cover-system being too sticky, but this cover-system is just too vague for my liking. You engage it by hitting a face button to engage, and if I wasn’t quite at the corner of the wall for example, I would have hoped that I would automatically go into cover on the corner or the optimal spot. The cover-system does not in Dishonored, so I would often go into cover too far from the corner or the optimum spot. So while the ability to lean from cover is great, I would often need to re-adjust to get into the optimum spot. I also found the stealth covering a bit off – there are plenty of objects around the city to crawl into cover, and this happens automatically by creeping into the nook or cranny. I found the tight-spots that I could or could not get into for cover a little random – I either could or couldn’t get into them, and would only find out by trial and error.

Sound and Visuals

The graphics are neat and the colour-palette used is well suited to the theme and mood of the game, but the graphics are far from great. That is not to say they graphic quality is bad, but I didn’t quite find the overall quality to be on par with the greats. The characters could have been rendered more realistically and their animations could have been better. Everything in the distance looks fantastic but that was not always the case up close. The lacklustre graphics does not detract from the very atmospheric ambiance of the game and the art direction is definitely stylish.

The sound production is a stark contrast from the visual quality and absolutely one of the most compelling and unique sound productions this year. The voice-acting is nothing short of spectacular and compliments the interesting narrative. The script and the dialogue are of the highest quality and certainly make for memorable moments. If you had told me a game with a plot set in old England with a mixture of pompous high-class accents and those of the more common man would manage to keep me so engrossed – I probably would have thought there was not a chance, or not for long at least.

Closing comments

The best thing about Dishonored, and what detaches it from almost anything this year, is that it is so interesting. Not just the narrative, but the superb gameplay, the wonderful city the game takes place in – every last characteristic that makes up Dishonored is immensely interesting. The fact that it is so interesting and does things a little differently is why it has been compared with the likes of BioShock and Rocksteady’s Batman titles. Dishonored delivers an absorbing singleplayer experience with huge replay value too, making it one of the easiest games I will recommend this year.

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