'Dishonored', a game by Bethesda Softworks.
'Dishonored', a game by Bethesda Softworks.
New "AAA" quality I.P. can be a hit-or-miss product -- probably one reason why so many game companies are content to churn out sequel after sequel for franchises that have proven themselves worth the effort. Bethesda, which is still riding high off of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, has recently released the vengeance tale Dishonored -- a title that is sure to be a hit.
In Dishonored, the player takes the role of Corvo Attano. He's the personal bodyguard to the Empress of the City of Dunwall who had recently returned from an unsuccessful trip to other principalities with hopes to find a cure to the rat plague that's infested Dunwall. Soon after his return, however, the Empress is slain and her daughter kidnapped. With nobody other than Corvo as a witness, the bodyguard is imprisoned and sentenced to death by a corrupt few in powerful positions within the city. With the help of an underground revolutionary group, Corvo is able to escape his incarceration. This is where the story of the dishonored bodyguard-turned-assassin begins.
While intriguing, the overarching plot is rather canned with variations of it appearing in games like Capcom's fairly recent action title Asura's Wrath. How the story is presented, however, more than makes up for it being one that's been done before; and the setting of a dystopian city with industrial revolution era roots proves quite appealing.
Before its release, Dishonored was billed as a stealth game (a dying breed according to some). Bethesda wasn't incorrect in calling the game as such, yet there are ways in which Dishonored can be played that would throw stealth out the window. In fact, stealth gameplay is just one of the options players have as the game can just as effectively be played aggressively -- pistol in hand. Of course, a mix of the two styles works perfectly fine.
Stealth gameplay works rather industry-standard. The player lurks in the shadows a-la Splinter Cell, runs along rooftops a-la Assassin's Creed, and does his best to stay hidden to achieve his goals -- only revealing himself when absolutely necessary. Luckily, thanks to a touch of the supernatural, Corvo has a few tricks to help him find a means to each mission's end such as the ability to take temporary possession of a host body. Going stealth also means finding non-violent ways of dispatching targets, such as turning up the steam on one; or poisoning the tea of another.
Aggro is much more action oriented and, one must admit, entertaining. There is a cost, however, for viciously slaying one's enemies rather than covertly taking care of business as violent and dangerous encounters with those known as Weepers (people infected by the plague) become increasingly frequent. The game sees subtle changes as well should the player choose a darker and more violent path in the way NPCs interact with Corvo. Organic changes in story presentation due to play style is something not seen in many games and gives a better overall presentation than simply giving the player a message stating "You've lost karma".
The missions themselves have a lot to them. Sure, just getting the basics done can be trouble enough, but each one also has a number of side quests (some of which have side quests of their own). Taking part in these optional tasks does impact gameplay -- typically for the better. If nothing else, they'll help Corvo grow stronger; making for a slightly easier time down the road.
When it comes to presentation, Dishonored satisfies. Its art style won't appeal to everybody, but it has its own distinct look and relishes within it. Characters look good, yet unrealistic -- a sign that the developers at Arcane were more concerned with setting a certain mood than they were trying to accurately portray the human body. (Some faces, for example, come off as overly long.) Still, for a game utilizing the mildly outdated Unreal Engine 3, it simply looks good.
Audio, however, isn't quite so spot on. For example the amount of ambient NPC dialogue isn't there, which leads to NPCs repeating phrases enough that the player will notice. Actual conversational dialogue, however, is excellently done. Also, for as nice as the (sparse) soundtrack is, it suffers from intermittent yet mild popping.
2012 has been a fairly busy year in gaming and has already seen a number of great games. The Bethesda-published Dishonored ranks right up there with some of the best of them and should be in the running for many Game of the Year awards come year-end. As original I.P. goes, few who give Dishonored a go should find themselves disappointed with the experience.
Final Game Guys grade: A-
(Bethesda supplied a copy of this game for review.)