In a time when big game publishers are more concerned with cashing in on well established franchise with their annual or bi-annual sequel, it is becoming more and more rare for new original ideas in gaming to get developed and released. Dishonored is one of the few original intellectual properties for 2013. The cost of developing a big title game is in the millions and thus can be a high risk when introducing something new to the masses when you know that you can sell them something they are already familiar with and simply tack on a number on the end.
Well, Arkane Studios took that risk and Bethesda trusted and supported their creative vision. It paid off big. The end result is an incredibly imaginative game that is dripping with stylish character and gameplay variety that separates it out from the majority of the games on the market.
While playing through Dishonored I was feeling refreshed and excited to experience something completely new and original. A similar feeling I had when I first played Bioshock several years back. While it gathers a lot of influences from games like Bioshock, Half-Life 2, Thief, and Assassin’s Creed, yet the game is nothing like those, it merely takes those influences and adds its own original flare to clearly distinguish itself apart from the masses.
Visually the game looks and feels like a living breathing oil painting. A unique art style that hasn’t been seen in other games and it works exceptionally well here, giving Dishonored a very distinctive original look and feel. Combine that with a dark and gloomy city and level design that feels a little familiar, mixing old world architecture styles from England, Europe, and WWII era German camps, with subtle influences from Half-Life 2’s City 17. Then infest the city of Dunwall with crime, disease, and corruption and it begins to develop its own unique character. It all works well in providing an immersive and believable experience that supports the strong revenge focused story.
The dark and gloomy art style combined with the living oil painting effect set the games grimacing tone.
The story is well written and plotted out. After you are framed, you are driven by justice and revenge followed by some harsh twists that make you feel like a used sucker as you’re trying to do the right thing. The lead characters and voice acting here are top-notch, enhancing the immersive story experience. There is a lot of variety in your target characters that you are sent to assassinate. Before you end up facing them you’re exposed to the back story of who they are and their role in the city of Dunwall.
Almost immediately you get a few supernatural abilities and powers, similar to Bioshock‘s plasmids, yet these feel original. Abilities like Blink which allows you to teleport short distances to locations you can see, this encourages a good deal of verticality that allows sneak by patrols via the rooftops or interior ledges. Bend Time which slows or completely stops time, and Possession which allows you to teleport into and take control of animals and eventually people. There are a few others like Wind Blast and Devouring Swarm, which would summon a swarm of rats to attack and eat anyone in their reach, but these were big ones for me.
Dishonored provides a wide range of combat and tactics, leaving it up to you to make your own gameplay style.
Combine those abilities with a sword and mini crossbow dart gun provided for some very fun gameplay scenarios. You do get a gun too, but I rarely used it, the melee action is so much fun and bloody gruesome. The level design and gameplay provided a lot of open-ended freedom and choices on tackling enemies and you progressed through the levels to your main objectives.
The gameplay encourages going the stealth route as much as possible, but the most fun is when you unexpectedly get discovered by the patrolling officers and all hell breaks loose. It is at these times when you panic a little, yet utilizing a blend of your powers and weapons, you feel empowered to take on the overwhelming situation. It makes for some fun gameplay situations and keeps you on your toes. Because of the freedom of choices and tactical options you could play through the game a few times and have completely different experiences each time.
Overall the end result of Dishonored is impressive. I completed the game twice, the first time doing a mix of stealth and full on attacking action, the second time going full stealth without ever being spotted. Since there are so many possibilities in how you play with the freedom to tackle each situation in different ways, even after completing it twice, it begs to be played again. I’ll eventually go back and play it again, next time I’ll go for a heavy combat route to see how much chaos can be caused while still remaining in some form of control.
This is one of those original games that leaves a lasting impressions as it does so many things right. The visual creative direction and art style, the vast variety in gameplay, fun level design and compelling story. It is easily one of the best games of the year and destined to become a classic among the gaming community.
Video: Dishonored Launch Trailer
- Dishnored on Amazon
- Official Dishonored site
- Arkane Studios
- Dishonored on Facebook
- IGN review (9.2)
- Game Trailers review (8.7)
- Game Informer review (8.75)
- My Top 10 Games of 2012
What did you think about Dishonored? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below and thank you for reading.