+Polished stealth mechanics
+Impressive level design
-Sword combat doesn't always feel right
-Enemies sometimes detect you even while hidden
Final score: 9 / 10
Controller support: Yes
OS: Windows Vista / Windows 7
Processor: 3.0 GHz dual core or better
Memory: 4 GB system RAM
Hard Disk Space: 9 GB
Video Card: DirectX 9 compatible with 512 MB video RAM or better (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 / ATI Radeon HD 5850)
Sound: Windows compatible sound card
OS: Windows Vista / Windows 7 (enhanced for 64-bit OS)
Processor: 2.4 GHz quad core or better (enhanced for multi-core processors)
Memory: 4 GB system RAM
Hard Disk Space: 9 GB
Video Card: DirectX 9 compatible with 768 MB video RAM or better (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 / ATI Radeon HD 5850)
Sound: Windows compatible sound card
Stealth is hard for a game to pull off, as developers sometimes make it too easy to get past non-playable characters or too hard. Throw in the other challenges faced by a regular game, like creating an engaging story filled with unique heroes and villains, and it's no wonder that stealth-heavy titles have become a rarity.
Dishonored, however, promises to go against the current trend in the industry and proudly flaunts its stealth-based gameplay, while combining it with a special steampunk-inspired world and a novel story.
Does the new title from Arkane Studios manage to achieve its lofty goals or do its attempts at stealth come up short? Let's find out.
Avenge your Empress ...
... with the help of friends
Dishonored takes place in the city of Dunwall, a city-state with a heavy steampunk influence ruled over by an Empress. You are Corvo, her loyal bodyguard, who just came back from a lengthy trip in which you tried to find a cure for the plague that's affecting the city.
Your reunion with the Empress is short lived, however, as a group of supernatural assassins quickly overpower you, kill the Empress, and kidnap her little girl. The Spymaster and the High Overseer team up and blame Corvo for the assassination. Luckily, you get to escape custody and must now clear your name by saving the little princess while uncovering the plot.
The whole story is quite engaging and filled with all sorts of memorable characters, from Corvo's allies, to his enemies and even secondary NPCs, like Granny Rags or Slackjaw. What's more, the actual city of Dunwall plays its own part in the plot, managing to offer a great backdrop for the adventures of the silent hero.
While you do notice a few betrayals before they happen, the whole story manages to feel fresh and, depending on your actions and the level of chaos your actions generate, you’re in for quite a few different conclusions.
Stealth is the core mechanic in Dishonored but this doesn't mean that you're forced to stay crouched and in the shadows. If you prefer a more direct approach, you can easily invest in Corvo's offensive skills, fill him up with ammo and weapons, and start leaving a bloody trail through Dunwall.
This type of playthrough, however, is discouraged in a variety of ways. First, for every person killed, the ending becomes darker and you're faced on the streets with more rats and Weepers, who are people that’ve been turned into zombie-like creatures by the plague. You also have a limited amount of bullets for your gun and bolts for your crossbow, so managing them is essential.
Fortunately, playing stealthily in Dishonored isn't that hard and even clumsier players, like myself sometimes, can complete missions with minimal bloodshed. In case you're prone to errors, there's a quicksave and quickload function that comes in handy when you're detected or when the situation becomes dire.
Choice is one of the game's crucial aspects, as you can decide on a variety of things, from what route you take during a mission, to what guards you eliminate or how you deal with the primary targets. You can simply kill them in different ways, from poison to the good old blade-in-the-back, or you can choose creative and non-lethal ways of taking them down.
In terms of combat, Dishonored performs quite well, as Corvo can wield a sword in one hand and various other things in the other, from a pistol, to a crossbow or different supernatural abilities. These can range from a sort of teleportation skill, called Blink, to passive ones, like Dark Vision, which allows him to see through walls, or Time Freeze, which slows or completely freezes time. There are also offensive abilities, like the Devouring Swarm, that summons a group of rats to attack targets, or the Wind Blast, which can throw enemies off their feet, as well as break doors or send projectiles back to their origins.
While you'll certainly have fun with the supernatural powers, the pistol and crossbow aren't that impressive and the sword fighting is a bit hit and miss, literally, as some of your attacks can easily strike the target or often miss due to some mysterious force. Enemy attacks, however, can easily hit you and even clip through their allies to hit your fragile body.
Even if Dunwall isn't an open world, you'll explore its various districts throughout your adventures with a lot of freedom. From using tunnels and sewers, or rooftops and pipes, you'll be able to uncover a variety of ways to get around as well as different secrets, including special runes, that can enhance your supernatural abilities, to bone charms that offer different passive abilities.
Enemies are pretty varied and quite smart, at least on most occasions. Stealth in Dishonored is based on their view fields so, as long as you stay behind objects, you'll be able to escape their vigilance. Patrol routes and behavior tend to vary, depending on how important they are, so you'll always need to be on your toes.
Besides the lengthy main quest, there are also plenty of side activities scattered throughout Dunwall, so, depending on how inclined you are to complete them, you'll be spending plenty of time with Dishonored.
Make new allies ...
... and take down old enemies
Visuals and Sound
Dishonored offers a stark visual experience by combining realistic graphics with a steampunk-inspired style that's quite evident when looking at the different devices used by Corvo and found throughout Dunwall.
The game also features a grayish hue, like many other shooters, but there are certain areas, like the Golden Cat Bathhouse, where sharp colors and intense visuals complement the action. Sadly, there are still some pixelated textures in plenty of areas and, given the fact that it's powered by the Unreal Engine, plenty of things will pop into view, especially when loading a new zone.
In terms of sound, Dishonored performs very well, as the orchestral score is quite good and the voice acting is top notch, largely thanks to famous actors like John Slattery, Chloe Grace Moretz, Brad Dourif, or Susan Sarandon.
Use non-lethal approaches ...
... or bloodier ones
Dishonored is an impressive first-person stealth experience, managing to emphasize subtlety while still allowing players to engage in more violent actions during their quests in Dunwall.
Corvo's adventures are quite engaging and, while there may be a few faults, like the AI that feels a bit too smart or the hit and miss sword-based combat, the game is still quite impressive and will entertain gamers for many hours and several playthroughs thanks to the array of choices that can be explored.
I actually felt the AI being too stupid was a bigger issue than "too smart". Sure they seem to spot you too easily sometimes, but more often they DON'T spot you when they should or could. Or they find a body or something else and too easily go back to a normal patrol route.
Once I get around to playing this, I’ll be playing it on one of the consoles. As cool as Dishonored looks, and as much as I want to end up loving it, I’m skeptical. I was beyond psyched for Deus Ex: Human Revolution, pre-ordered it, and ended up pretty disappointed, and that’s far from the first time. So I followed the advice of one of my coworkers at DISH and I’ve sworn off buying any games until I’ve rented them first, which has of course, saved me from buying a number of games, and saved me a good deal of money. So this way I can rent it (for PS3 or 360) without the risk of dropping $60 on a disappointment. Heck, if I don’t like it, I won’t even feel like I wasted a few bucks on the rental like I used to when I rented games from those kiosks since DISH’s Blockbuster @Home is a pay-by-the-month service. Dishonored is already in my queue so I’ll get to play it soon, and I'm truly hoping that it’ll live up to the considerable hype.