The more niche a genre is, the more you appreciate any instalment that comes along in it. For every 10 First Person Shooters that come along, you might be lucky if you have even one in the style of Dishonored. Nevertheless, rarity doesn’t make a game good, however much we may hope so; and so, we need to take a look at what really makes Dishonoured tick…
Dishonored stars Corvo Attano, a silent yet resilient bodyguard to the Empress in the city of Dunwell. Shortly after returning from an aid mission to get assistance in dealing with a plague epidemic, Corvo is forced to watch as the Empress is killed and her daughter, Emily is kidnapped. From there it’s a journey of revenge, as Corvo seeks to right these wrongs.
Dishonored reminds me of a lot of other games. The primary inspiration is definitely the Thief series, except “thief” can be replaced with “assassin” in the job description of the protagonist. The next series is Bioshock, which lends similar magical powers, although they are more styled to an assassin’s needs in this one. Lastly, and this is forgiveable because the same studio made it, the underrated hidden gem Dark Messiah of Might and Magic lends its versatile and pleasurable combat system. All of these elements are used in their own manner, and go beyond a lifting of ideas, into an evolution of how they are implemented.
Freedom is emphasized a lot in this game. You may use a low-key or high-impact approach; you can go over the rooftops or under the sewers. Even upon reaching a target, you may instead choose another fate for them other than death; sometimes much more unpleasant a one even. The game rewards the player for a non-lethal run, but even remaining unseen can be a challenge as well. The amount of people the player kills affects the “chaos” level in the city, and changes the appearance of subsequent levels, most notably in the final level, which can be completely different in two different playthroughs.
The city of Dunwell is also beautiful, in a rather sad and tragic way due to the plague overrunning it. The entire world deeply resembles post-industrial England in the 19th century, albeit with a somewhat more fantastical set of technology. These are implemented into the plot and allow for some wonderful steampunk contraptions. The game also rewards exploration outside of the main quests, with plenty of hidden little items and people to help enhance the story of the city.
Dishonored is a challenging, fun and moving game; a true gem. Its only flaw is that it is far too short, even with collectibles and two endings extending the plot. The player is left wanting a lot more; and with the extent to which they have made this entire world, one can only hope that sequels will come soon. But it’s a good ride while it lasts.