First person shooters have become incredibly popular in the current gaming generation, to a point where it seems that every other game released is an FPS, or a shooter at least. Games really need to shine in order to be noticed above all of the sequels, some with as many as nine instalments already, and that is no easy feat. So does Dishonored manage it? Is it worthy of playing with the big boys, or is it just another FPS?
You play as Corvo, a previous bodyguard for the empress and her daughter, Emily. But when you surprised by some mysterious teleporting assassins, you watch as they murder the empress and kidnap Emily, leaving you framed for the murder of the empress herself. Luckily, you are helped in escaping prison by some unknown allies who ‘share the same goal’. When you eventually meet up with them on a quiet little island that consists mainly of a big pub, you learn about the city now overrun with rats and plague, and how those responsible for Emily’s kidnap have risen to power. In order to save Emily and bring justice to those responsible, you will need to forget your role as a bodyguard and become an assassin.
As you travel to each mission, you will see Corvo and his trusty taxi driver arrive by boat as he gives you a little brief. This gives you a chance to take in the lovely sight that is each mission, large islands with great structures protruding from them. You’re often accompanied by some eerie yet suspenseful music as well that fills you with excitement, you just can’t wait to start caving people’s heads in. Once you arrive you soon find that you have many different routes you can take in order to reach your goal, currently a building or door leading to an area containing another building or door leading to the target. You can take any approach you like; personally I always tried to take the high-up, rooftop approach Assassins Creed style, but you can also go through the buildings taking people down, or sneak past soldiers on the city streets. You can even become a rat if you have the ability, allowing you to bypass enemies easier or run through vents in order to reach new areas.
What made Dishonored so much fun for me was the option to choose what kind of assassin you are, in that you can choose which skills to learn (all being completely different from one another) and decide to fit your path around your abilities. For example, I used one ability more than my sword, and that ability was ‘Dark Vision’ – it allows you to see close enemies and their field of vision through walls. It’s very useful for the building-top approach because these roofs are never the same level, and, unlike flat ground where you can look around corners, you can’t really look over things above head height. But like I said, you can choose your abilities to match your play style – if you wish to walk the city streets blowing a whole in enemy forces, you may wish to upgrade your health bar and weapons, and use the ‘Windblast’ skill that can send enemies flying and blast down doors. Other abilities include summoning a horde of rats that will feast on any living thing (useful for hiding corpses too) and ‘Blink,’ which allows you to teleport short distances.
As well as your choice of ability and path, you have multiple weapons to choose from. Unfortunately, this is where I became disappointed with Dishonored because out of the seven available weapons, only one of them is non-lethal – the crossbow’s sleep darts. This is a game all about stealth, about being invisible, and all of the weapons felt like I was playing an entirely different game. You can knock people unconscious if you sneak up on them, but, if you are already seen, you have no choice but to run away, and on the harder difficulties this almost always ends in a dead Corvo. You also penalised for playing lethally. The hidden chaos system will add more guards, rats and ‘Weepers’ (plagued zombie-like civilians) the more lethally you play, so what do you do when your seen? Attempt to run away and spend time to get back to where you were, or wait thirty seconds for your save file to reload? If you remembered to save your game, that is. If you play anything like how you should and wish to get your chaos rating low, you’ll find weapons to be pretty useless and will mainly rely on your skills and abilities to do most of the work.
Throughout your travels, there are many items to steal. You will often find yourself pressing the action button frantically, caring little for what ammo you are collecting and stuffing your face with all kinds of food, probably not the best idea in a plague ridden world . . . but hey, even on full health you can’t just leave a perfectly good loaf of bread siting there when it’s flashing gold. There is also a great deal of money lying around (normally in piles of ten coins), and when I say there are around four thousand coins to collect in each area, you have some idea as to how much there is lying about. But you won’t find it all, and if you do then I congratulate you on having spent ten hours on a single section.
Eavesdropping on enemies often provides you with clues about your main or optional objectives. You can also find clues and information in the many (and I mean many) books and documents you find lying around. Completing optional objectives is usually quite fun, such as a duel with a cocky gentleman at a party. These optional quests also reward you with goodies such as ‘Runes’, ‘Bone Charms’ and extra coins in which you can upgrade or buy new equipment with.
Runes and Charms can be found throughout each and every area with the help of a special tool – a beating heart. Equipping the soggy, bloody tool and pointing it in different directions will change the pace in which the heart will beat. The faster it beats, the closer you are to a Charm or Rune. Once collected, Runes can be used to buy or upgrade abilities; however, most abilities cost several Runes. Bone Charms can be equipped to activate much simpler abilities, but they’re useful in performing actions like drinking water from taps, giving you ‘Mana’ boosts when drop-assassinating enemies, or simply boosting your recovery speed. However, unlike abilities, you can only equip a handful of charms at once and extra slots can be bought if you have the cash.
The environment in the early sections of the game seems very mediocre, but other sections, especially towards the end of the game, looked absolutely stunning. With a very atmospheric game such as this, lighting plays a massive part in how a level looks, and in some sections the lighting is so well placed that it looks like a different game entirely. All I can really say is that if you don’t think the game looks graphically great, keep playing because I assure you some sections could be considered among the best I have seen. It really does vary from scene to scene. I couldn’t quite get my head around the visual art style. Like I mentioned, the environment looks incredibly realistic at times, but in this realistic world you have these characters with cartoon-like features, hands bigger than their heads and big noses (think Timesplitters). The environment also has sections that clash. Some of the textures (often with rubble and walls) look almost cell shaded, like they belong in Borderlands, not this dark semi-realistic world.
Despite its slight inconsistency and minor issues, Dishonored is definitely worthy of sitting in my games collection. It’s an atmospheric experience, a story about a man desperately fighting for what he believes, to fulfil a promise he once made to a little girl, and to save the city from a tyrant despite the odds. If you’re a fan of atmospheric games, espionage or FPS games in general, you should definitely give this one a