Dishonored has the unfortunate task of having to win players over with a new IP during a season of established juggernauts being released at the tail end of the current console cycle. It looks like an also-ran that might be a little fun, and could put a stop gap in your desire to play the upcoming Assassin’s Creed. What you think you’ve been seeing isn’t always the truth. First, this is not a salve to soothe the Assassin’s Creed wait. Dishonored is its own unique game, one that is clever and fun most of the time, but is far more reminiscent of the Thief series.
Bethesda’s Dishonored has some cobbled together aspects that are worrisome. For instance the animation is not always spectacular. Video games today utilize artistic license in world creation where that persnickety Uncanny Valley can take the player out of the game. However there’s a version of that valley when it comes to animation that niggles at your mind as you try to figure out why things are so wrong.
A blatant example of this is a scene with the character Admiral Havelock, who is shooting his pistol. The man’s holster is located on his chest, a unique location that distinguishes him. The problem is that during the scene Havelock clumsily places the pistol against his chest, let’s go, it than transposes itself up an inch and magically into the holster. It’s awkward and takes you out of the experience, which is important in a game like Dishonored where the player feels so immersed in the character’s story. All of this is brought up to point out that there are glaring flaws in Dishonored, but that all falls away as you have an obscene amount of fun with the game.
The story conceit is pure cliché and is there only to provide some reason for your antics about the world. You’re the Lord Protector, Corvo, and you have failed your Empress letting her die and the precious princess Emily is taken. You’re found at the scene and, surprise, you take the fall. Now months later you’re tasked with bringing down the new regime, getting vengeance, and restoring the proper order.
Dishonored is a sneaking around game, but rather than just being an assassin with a crossbow and knife you’re given some mystical powers. Abilities like animal and human possession, a form of teleportation, and the most useful ability to see enemies through walls and their line of sight, take the game to a familiarly interesting level. The latter powers were constantly mapped to the d-pad during my playthrough because of their usefulness in sneaking about.
Gameplay is simple, but varied enough to keep missions interesting. In your right hand you hold a blade, activated by the right trigger. In your left you hold either a projectile weapon, a special heart that leads to important items, or a magical ability. Think of BioShock with a lot of squat walking and silent takedowns, which makes sense with the work developer Arkane Studios did on BioShock 2. You can quickly cycle to other powers or weapons with the right bumper, or map the most used items to the d-pad.
Where the game shines is in how you choose to play. Dishonored makes you interested in how things turn out because you’re invested in what type of man Corvo chooses to be. Without spoiling anything I’ll explain a bit about my actions in an early mission.
A high level official is to be killed, and information about young Emily’s location is to be recovered. I decide that even though Corvo was emotionally destroyed, at his core he is a Lord Protector. The betrayal has not changed that, but he is now willing to kill for his own ends. So each mission he decides, based upon what he learns about the target whether they should live or die. This time around the man is so despicable that Corvo decided to shame him in the worst way possible.