STAFF REVIEW of Dishonored (Xbox 360)

Monday, October 8, 2012.
by Brent Roberts

Dishonored Box art There are men whose hearts are pure and find salvation in upholding justice for others while vanquishing evil, and then there are men whose hearts are blackened and poisoned by thoughts and actions of undermining those who would oppose their rise to ultimate power. The Empress holds her own council and trusts them to assist her in comforting and assisting her people during this dark time of death and decay. My name is Corvo and I am a high ranking official within the Empress' bodyguards. I have been dispatched on a mission of peace and aid from the neighboring lands, and upon my return, my world is turned on its head. I have been falsely accused by the Empress' advisers for the murder of the Empress and the abduction of her daughter! Send me away on a false mission of aid for our suffering people, and upon my return, they dare accuse me, Corvo, of killing the Empress and abducting her daughter, when the truth is that I'm made to be the scapegoat of their conspiracies for their own coup! Those traitorous, deceitful, conspiring officials! Now the townspeople of Dunwall are faring worse and the land is in the midst of a plague that is killing hundreds every day, and no cure has been found yet and some believe that there is a darker plot behind the curtain that has yet to be revealed. All I know is that the Empress' little girl has been abducted, and now it is up to me to find her and seek vengeance on those who were behind these horrific tragedies. It is time for me to make my own freedom, to silence those who played a role in constructing these events. My choice is my own; however on my path will I won't be alone. I once heard "To every man his choice, to every man his fate" and these vile, corrupted persons of power have taken away my choice, so now I will decide their fate.

When Bethesda sets off to create a world of deception, assassinations, stealth, and more, they look to some of the stand out qualities of other titles in an effort to combine everything that once was good and make it great. Dishonored possesses qualities that are reminiscent of other top tier games and magically infuses them together to create a world where your choice determines your fate, and the fates of others as well. Keeping to the viewpoint of first person, Dishonored, in a nutshell, combines the stealth of Deus Ex, with the brutality of assassinations from Assassins Creed, the character depth and beauty of Elder Scrolls and the innovation of gameplay choice where you control your own fate. With regards to the stealth aspect of Dishonored, you are given multiple paths to explore as you traverse the city on your way to your objective. This can range from scampering across rooftops, to navigating alleyways and back avenues, to even swimming under water through sewer systems. These alternate pathways can also grant you items to pick up such as health and coin, and can even give you some surprises. The stealth aspect of Dishonored is so open, that it is even possible to go through the entire game and not kill anything, not even boss characters. If however, you do get detected, it's time to dual wield weapons and powers, and fight to win.

In Dishonored, fighting is always an option and if you fancy yourself some dismembering confrontations, then Dishonored is happy to oblige. With the press of one button you can bring up a quick selection menu where you can chose what power or weapon or both you wish to fight with. As well you have the ability to hot key these weapons and powers to the D Pad which allows you to select them on the fly. When it comes time to fight blocking is your savior and counter attacking will lead to a cinematic death that would have even Mortal Kombat cheering away. Controlling your character is very responsive at times and everything you do in the game is fairly straightforward so getting used to running and sliding and traversing obstacles to climb to new heights is very easy to do.

There are some innovative tweaks to the character development system that allows Dishonored to make the experience more interactive. There are multiple types of character enhancement items that you can find throughout the city and every one of them allows you some form of enhancement or upgrade to your character's skill sets. For example, there is an ability called Blink which acts as an instantaneous, user teleportation power. When you charge the power up you will see an icon as to where your character will land, and even if your character will climb up when teleported. This allows you to scramble up onto higher levels and rooftops of the city and avoid detection from the guards, dogs, and traps patrolling below. This ability and other upgrades can be purchased or enhanced through the finding of Runes. Runes can be rewards from side quests, or scattered throughout the many areas of Dishonored, but once found act as a sort of spiritual currency which allows you to purchase new abilities and upgrade existing ones.

Every power grants you a surface benefit, but how it's applied in situations can determine whether or not you get a hidden bonus, let me explain how that works. There is a power called Bend Time which in its first level will allow you to slow time for a short while, and then when you upgrade it you can stop time completely while your movement isn't affected at all. Now on the surface this makes infiltration and assassinations much easier, but if you apply it in combat, you gain the ability to stop bullets in mid-flight and even collect them out of the air and put them into your inventory. Other character enhancements you can find throughout Dishonored are the Bone Charms. These small artifacts can bestow either good or bad things upon your character. Originally only a small amount of Bone Charms can be used simultaneously, however, like almost everything else for your character, the ability to hold more active Bone Charms is also available, for a price. Not only will you find health items, coins, and a massive amount of empty bottles while on your quest, but you can also stumble across blueprints that will enable your character access to future upgrades that normally would not be available.

One of the biggest innovations of Dishonored is how the game itself will adapt to your play style and base how the game unfolds on your Chaos rating. While Dishonored contains a moral choice code, the Chaos rating is based off of factors such as collateral damage and deaths that you cause, violent actions, and more and it's this rating that will determine mission outcomes and how the game unfolds before your eyes. This is where your choice ultimately effects everything about the game so when you play your game, you are really playing your game and not a scripted set of predetermined events and outcomes. This also plays a major role in how the game handles and manages its many optional quests. While some are off the beaten path and away from prying eyes, there are some that are built within the main missions as well and how you chose to approach these will also determine the future of your game in Dishonored.

The setting for all of this corruption takes place in the city of Dunwall which could be compared to London during the Black Death. The city is divided into those fighting over power and those fighting to survive and hope has all but been forgotten by the city's residents. Even though there is misery, suffering, and death all around you, Dishonored takes advantage and utilizes the Unreal graphics engine into producing what could be called an interactive piece of art. You really get a sense for the suffering when you witness acts such as guards throwing wrapped dead bodies off the bridge and into the water while people are begging for some form of salvation, and it's this visual connection that really immerses you into the peril of the city and the distinct differences between those with means, and those that are meant to suffer.

A key aspect to a stealth focused game has to be the sound. Not only must the ambient music make you feel like you are in the environment, but it must also cause an emotion throughout the game to help tie everything else together. Dishonored takes all these aspects and goes above and beyond how sound are implemented in the game. For a successful seize of control, one must have power, and knowledge is power. As you traverse the many avenues you will overhear guards talking which will gain you valuable information, providing you haven't killed them already. This is where the sound really plays to its strengths as you will uncover new quests; learn new ways to achieve your goals, and more. So not only do you have a score that makes you feel like you are right there with everyone, but it's through other areas of sound that you gain more options and knowledge of your surrounding environment and quest missions.

In today's world gamers are treated to countless sequels of preexisting, successful games. Usually when companies are struggling to develop something new, they can find quick cash by going back and releasing classic games with a slight upgraded feel. Bethesda though, continues to develop new and innovative games, and that attention to quality and detail shines through in Dishonored. There are very few games you can buy today that offer so many amazing aspects from other top tier titles while innovating new elements to provide a brilliant combination that depends on one thing only, your actions. What choices will you make? How will your actions be perceived by others? It's time to end the corruption, silence the crooked tongues of deception, and uncover the truth to the mystery of Dunwall's sorrows. The choice is yours to make, welcome to Dishonored.

Overall: 9.6 / 10
Gameplay: 9.5 / 10
Visuals: 9.7 / 10
Sound: 9.6 / 10


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