Wednesday, October 24, 2012

From the Shadows: Dishonored Review

Old friend of the site Dan Smith stops by with a review of Dishonored. The new shooter from Bethesda is turning lots of heads with its stealth-action gameplay and unique mechanics. What did Dan think about the hot shooting dudes action? Read on to find out!

Dishonored is a hard game to recommend, but it’d be irresponsible for me to suggest that it is not worth your investment. Make no mistakes, at this time, Dishonored is my favorite game of 2012. In a year that has left me feeling uninspired, it makes a startling appearance. This is a new IP, at the tail end of a console cycle, and there’s no reason why it should exist in this economic climate, but it does. In a time where this extended generation manages to seemingly spill out only sequels, reboots, and (admittedly interesting) downloadables, Dishonored seems to stand out as this uniquely original thing. That said, Dishonored isn’t a very original game at all when you boil it down.

It chooses not to simply stand on the shoulders of giants, but to build on them. It takes the best of games like Thief and Deus Ex, and then throws them into this amazing, decaying urban wasteland that seems to take a strong direction from Bioshock’s loving embrace of atmosphere. It takes the more frustrating points of these games and manages to mostly correct them, leaving you with a very refined, enjoyable experience.

Let me say this first and foremost, if you play Dishonored as an action game (and you can, it is competent in that regard), you will likely not enjoy your time with the game. Dishonored is very much in the same league as the aforementioned games in that stealth is really the defining characteristic, and it does it very well. It is a game about exploration, about options, about surveying situations and building your experiences. You can easily move about the environment with a grace and swiftness that really lends itself to this play style. It is a game of finding your own way, and there are opportunities to do so at every turn.

She's looking at you like she wants it.

The game features the main character, Corvo, trying to redeem himself after being wrongfully accused for murdering the very Empress he has sworn his life to protect. It is very quickly revealed to you who is behind this, and after gaining some help, you manage to escape from prison and meet up with a group of Empire Loyalists who will serve as your hub for a large portion of the game. The story falls flat in many places, but the atmosphere and world around it seems so full and rich that I had a hard time faulting it.  The city of Dunwall is very much on par with Rapture, and is one of the best parts of the game.

Although broken down into a mission format and not truly open-world, the areas are humongous and labyrinthine. The coil around and back on themselves, creating a dense, often times vertical landscape to traverse and explore. Which you might be able to make your way from one end of the level to the end in a matter of minutes, you’d be skipping out on hours and hours of content in-between. Sprawling side-quests and runes (Dishonored’s version of skill points, which are able to simply be located in the environment) lay nestled in this space, and there is all sorts of interesting stories to find out by being observant. I can’t express enough how brightly Dishonored shines when you look away from your quest marker for just a moment.

Gotham! This is your reckoning!

All of that said, Dishonored is a painfully brief game. It feels as if I am being childish to be so negative about this, as if I am saying “Your game is so good, there’s not enough of it!” and perhaps I am. The game will end much more quickly than you will expect, and the ending may not satisfy you in the way you were expecting. To be frank, I don’t think the game you get is worth the $60 price tag, but I do think it’s one of the best game experiences I have ever had, and I want more of the same to exist. It’s hard to feel this way, it’s conflicting, but I can’t in good faith suggest you spend the full price on it if you don’t have the sort of disposable income to make the price irrelevant. I finished the story in 8 hours, and while I am going back to try some new things out, I’d like to imagine I am fairly typical. There’s this 4 hour number floating around, and I hear that’s a guy who just slashed his way through it. I could easily picture doing the same thing, if I didn’t give the game the time it deserves.

Dishonored is a fantastic game, and when it inevitably is on sale this coming season, I’d strongly recommend it to anyone on the fence. It’s great.

Dan Smith is an assassin, as well as a casual Spaceman. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.


  1. Great review!

    I do have to say that the design of the mask is so great. Every time I see it it just makes me feel uncomfortable.

  2. Effing awesome review, Dan! I think I'm definitely the sort that would enjoy the shit out of this game...once it goes on sale.