Dishonored is a refreshingly stealthy change of pace in a first-person-shooter market crowded with Call of Battlefield-type games that seem like they were produced by Michael Bay. Don’t get us wrong—we love blowing stuff up, and we love killing terrorists, but sometimes we like to take a break from the frantic action and unwind with a night of stealthy throat slitting and neck snapping. After all, a man’s got to relax. This is what Dishonored delivers; a game based on stealth, tactics, and the delightful task of mastering a broad range of mystical abilities, providing us with a much-needed change of scenery in an FPS landscape dominated by desert warfare shooters, Borderlands 2 notwithstanding.
Defensive moves are just as important to master as offensive skills, and are critical to staying alive.
In Dishonored you play as security-guard-turned-assassin Corvo Attano who gets framed for murdering the Queen, causing you to set out to recapture your good name and rid the city of the corrupt people conspiring against you. The game’s structure is similar to Deus Ex: Human Revolution in that you hang out in a hub city where you can buy gear, have weapons made, and receive missions from locals. When you’re ready to embark on a mission you simply head to the waterfront to be transported to the next mission area. We like that the game gives you the freedom to either chill or kill at your leisure, and it’s also fun to return from a mission and prepare your loadout for the next one, as well.
The main missions are mostly assassination jobs where you’re given details about a human target and allowed to decide how to handle it once you arrive at the kill zone. You can either go in guns or knives blazing, or if you’re in a forgiving mood, you can go nonlethal by knocking the enemies unconscious through various means. On our first play-through we decided to kill everyone in sight since we were having a bad day, and the result was both gory and gratifying. We particularly enjoyed slashing enemies’ jugular veins, which would unleash a torrent of blood from their necks. Even though the killing was almost nonstop, it never got old, as the game features several-dozen death animations and each one is interesting and unique. When we were fighting a barrage of enemies, we had to combine abilities, such as summoning rats to nibble at our foes while slowing time so we could kill our enemies while they were preoccupied with the varmints.
On our second play-through we tried to not kill anyone, and the game changed dramatically. The stealth approach forced us to be much more creative in how we approached situations and required us to rely more on our abilities to use magic and skills instead of blunt force trauma. The Dark Vision ability helped us sneak around since it let us see enemies through walls and let us map out paths more precisely to evade guards. The game’s primary ability is called Blink and we used it generously when being stealthy, as it let us run with super speed in and out of cover undetected and it let us scale roof tops effortlessly, too.
The Blink ability lets you rush enemies then disappear in a blink of an eye.
Dispatching foes is accomplished via a variety of interesting weapons designed to work either at close or long range, and you can hold two weapons at once and use each according to how you’d like to play the game. The default melee weapon is a sword, but you get to choose between two different ranged weapons, including a wooden flintlock pistol or a crossbow that supports several different arrows. We weren’t fans of the pistol since it would wake up the neighborhood and its use always brought a flood of angry guards directly to our location. We much preferred the crossbow as it allowed us to use different types of darts including regular darts, sleeping darts, and incendiary darts. This helped us kill people quickly and quietly at range while we remained hidden in the shadows.
Over time you can upgrade skills by finding hidden runes and applying them to specific skill trees like in an RPG. The runes are located all over the city and to find them you use a beating heart that you hold in your hand, which is always a cool thing to hold. Foraging around the city looking for runes helped to mix up the gameplay and we liked the change of pace it provided.
The game took us roughly 12 hours to complete the first time, and that was with all of the side missions completed, of which there are about five in total. The optional quests enhance the main story and also pay off pretty well in loot.
The campaign is short but Dishonored includes two different endings that correspond to how many people you killed or didn’t kill during the game, so most people will want to play through the game twice. As you progress through the game, Dishonored gives you an overall chaos score that lets you know if you’re on track for a low-chaos ending or the high-chaos ending, allowing you to adjust your tactics along the way to fulfill your goals.
Though you can play as a pacifist and sneak around enemies, we chose to show them the business end of our broadsword.
Dishonored’s Unreal-based graphics look superb, with running waterways and dark, moody environments. We played it on an Intel Core i7-2700K processor overclocked to 4.43GHz with an Nvidia GTX 660 Ti video card and all settings maxed out at 1080p and the game played flawlessly. One of the drawbacks to its silky-smooth frame rate is the presence of somewhat low textures, but it’s a tradeoff we’re OK with.
We had been looking forward to Dishonored for a while since it promised a mixture of gameplay elements pulled from several games we’ve loved: Thief, BioShock, and Deus Ex. Now that we’ve slashed our way through it a few times, we’re happy to report that it more than met our lofty expectations, and was enjoyable both times we played it through. Whether we were pulling the old smash-and-grab or skulking around and snapping necks, it was a blast, and the variety of the gameplay was a welcome addition to our gaming stable. We’ve gotten so used to games where the sole objective is to kill everyone in sight that having our objective be to not kill was refreshing. And of course, if we snapped, we liked to be able to go on a bloody rampage mid-mission, as well. Variety truly is the spice of life.