150 of 172 people found the following review helpful
Easily a GOTY Contender 94%,
This review is from: Dishonored - Xbox 360 (Video Game)
Visuals=95/100 (Terrific Art Style; technically sound well enough)
Narative=86/100 (Very Inconsistent Overall Narrative makes up for dense world and endearing characters)
Sound=94/100 (Great voice acting and terrific sound design drive the game)
Game Play=100/100 (Truly emergent game play and player choice allows for so many ways to play)
Replay Value=93/100 (Multiple play styles provide for an endless amount of ways to play. Game can take around 15-20 hours if you want to)
You remember Looking Glass Studios, right? The famous company who revolutionized PC games in the 90's? In general, LGS was one of the best studios ever, spawning some of the most innnovative game play ideas, which in turn has a lasting impact on games today. They are one of the most important video game studios to ever exist, a truly maverick studio that gave way to game innovation that still has a lasting impact. Why, do you ask, does this concern Dishonored? Well, I'm happy to state that Dishonored is the latest game to truly take inspiration from the Looking Glass legacy. Dishonored is easily one of the best games of the year, and it's one of those games that truly doesn't fall into any neat genre. An Immersive simulation* is the best genre Dishonored falls into, and it's the best game in this all-too-small genre since Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
There is much to talk about concerning Dishonored. Let's start with it's fiction. Dishonored's fiction, for the most part, succeeds. It's a brand new IP that truly feels fresh, and it's both distinct and memorable. You are Corvo Attano, a former legendary body guard, now a rogue assassin as the result of being framed by the corrupt leadership of Dunwall. Straightforward enough, right? Well, the somewhat straightforward story doesn't at all reflect the fact that Dishonored's insane world is anything but straightforward. Its personal revenge driven story isn't all that exciting by itself, but it truly falls upon a unique setting that manages to transcend its general plot, and makes for something extremely memorable. Dishonored's characters are interesting, its art style is an oasis in the horrendously vapid desert of "realistic" visual styles, and Dunwall is a stunning, engrossing location. It all adds up to make one of the most unique gaming experiences of the year.
Dishonored has quite possibly one of the best settings in a video game since Fallout 3's Capital Wasteland. Dunwall serves as a backdrop for the plot, and it's an extremely imaginative location with tons of absolutely enticing political and social over tones. Whale oil, political corruption (always a staple!), class division, population purification, rats, assassins, giant machinated monstrosities, and industrialization are all embedded within Dishonored's awesome world. Oh, and disease. Lot's and lot's of disease. It's all set in a stunning amalgam of late 18th century/early 19th century Europe and the futuristic tendencies of Half-Life 2 (particularity the Combine structures). It is a killer set up in a vibrant environment, and it's simulation game play model falls upon some memorable locales, interesting characters, and all end up making Dishonored a great experience. Along the way, a unique cast of characters rounds out the story, from assassins to natural philosophers, corrupt political leaders and horrifying zombies who weep blood. Dishonored as a new IP shines, and it's truly excellent.
Unfortunately, the story of Dishonored isn't perfect. Dishonored is well written, features interesting characters, and has a beautifully realized world but it's narrative structure is somewhat inconsistent. Its ending is a tad abrupt, and it sags with its narrative thrust at times. Most importantly, the game really didn't capitalize on the Outsider, which was a shame given how interesting the character was. You feel it doesn't dig as deep into the character as you wanted it to, and since the character is so intriguing it ultimately feels like a lost opportunity. HOWEVER, it's not a deal breaker, though. Even though the story doesn't reach its full narrative potential the whole way, its amazing art design, interesting characters, amazing setting, and player driven story telling don't let some story shortcomings suck up the whole experience. You shouldn't be worried about the plot overall, because Dishonored is ultimately a memorable experience.
The technical side came out unscathed, and while they probably aren't the most technically impressive around, Dishonored proves art direction wipes the floor with blistering tech. Having said that, it was the sound that almost even more impressive. The Sound design is outstanding. It's carefully crafted to the point of a sound scape. At the risk of sounding pretentious, it really does work for the game like prose does for a novel. The voice acting is just as good, with some huge names on the roster. Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking), Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs), Carrie Fisher (Star Wars), Brad Douriff (One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest), John Slattery (Mad Men), and Chloe Grace-Moertz all lend their voice talents to Dishonored. We all know that having big talent on board makes sure the characters get the voices they deserve, and Dishonored succeeds with its characters.
Oh, and as a side note, no asinine morality systems! I won't spoil anything, but for those who are sick of game developer's obvious failures to implement interesting moral choice will be pleased at Dishonored's Chaos System. Basically, your actions and how many enemies you kill affect the rest of the game in permutations and numerous incremental changes within the world, not through binary, A-B-C type changes. It's refreshing to see developers finally understanding how to really tackle "morality": leave it all up the player and let them decide for themselves, and instead stress consequence for their actions.
As nice as this all is, Dishonored's game play is easily the shining star. Dishonored is the newest game in the "immersive simulation" genre, where numerous genres and storytelling collide into one experience. Dishonored is a true spiritual successor to the Looking Glass pedigree, and those who long for the days of Thief and Deus Ex (two of the game's main influence) will be excited once they get their hands on this one. Don't fret though. This isn't a "lite" version of anything that came before it. You are going to get a new game experience; this is not a carbon copy of either game series. Instead, Dishonored keeps LGS's spirit deep within their design philosophies, and they created something unique and fresh. It's a game that refuses to be lassoed by genre conventions and spits in the face of the focus-group and play testers, offering a truly amazing mix of stealth, first person action, sword play, complemented with a sick arsenal of (mixable!) magic and gadgets.
As expected, the best part is how Dishonored focuses on emergent game play. As a result of the terrific game design, the game truly rewards replay and gives you the amazing thing we call player freedom. The levels themselves only make this even better. Dishonored is not open-world, as each level is a mission, with a hub level in between each mission (think something like Monster Hunter). However, like Crysis, each level is essentially a sandbox; and how! Aside from the baffling amount of combat freedom, the levels themselves are extremely sprawling and open ended, carefully suited to match and reward every play style any gamer chooses to do so. The combat here is extremely deep, and you can take your own approach in any way you seem fit, from sneaky stealth to all out action (and yes, you can play through the whole game without killing a SINGLE person!), as well as mix between the two. Basically, if you think you can do it, you probably can. In fact, players have done things the game makers themselves didn't know was previous possible! That's just awesome. Just wait and see what happens when the creative players get their hands on this one and experiment with the game play.
Each of the nine missions constantly reward exploration like no other game I've seen. There are so many ways to accomplish your objective, and in addition to the huge, extremely well made levels, the numerous side missions alongside the regular mission will provide even more playtime. The huge levels surely provide for some truly open ended game play, and you will want to do just that. Plus, no other game will want you to explore everything the levels have to offer, and doing so yields plenty of great rewards. It's the only way to get ruins and find the bone charms in order to alter your play style as you see fit.
To accomplish this, Dishonored's power and weapon system had to be extremely varied and flexible. Dishonored doesn't let you down. By collecting runes, bone charms, and money throughout the game, your play style is truly customizable in a vast amount of ways. Want to upgrade your crossbow so it sets your enemies on fire? You can do that. Want to choke an enemy out at the speed of light and be a general stealth machine? You can do that too! What's more, you can upgrade the numerous powers in order to help you specialize the play style you want to go for. Stealth players will be able to upgrade their level of vision, while those who prefer summoning rats will be able to do that to. Plus, being able to equip numerous powers in order to, say, improve your swimming speed, or being able to improve the effects of your elixirs. Dishonored's RPG level customization ensures you that, even with a game that will take you around twenty hours (and you should take that long), you will want to play it again and again, just to see what else you can do. It's a big layer of player freedom of an already player driven game, and that is all the more refreshing in a world of hand-holding, linearity, and restrictive game play. Dishonored's game play really has the joy of discovery within it, and it's up to you to discover all that can be done with the game play system.
With the various NPC's around, you'll need all the tools you can get. Their AI, when they become your potential enemy, is some of the best I've ever come across. The game's ability really does hinge on the NPC AI, and thankfully, Dishonored's AI is intelligent enough to support this (although you should play on the highest difficulty level to support this). Dishonored's advanced AI system allows for some truly unique AI, a dynamic system that controls the enemies through numerous factors. Sight, sound, perception, state of alertness, and every change to the world around you effects what happens in the mission. Playing carefully and being aware of everything you do is crucial to surviving the story, and it ensures that the encounters you come across in the game will make you think.
Dishonored is really one of those games that we don't see too often. Enjoy it. For me, this is easily the best game of 2012. Unless something ends up surprising me this year, I don't see Dishonored losing out the GOTY crown. It is games like this that make me believe that video games still have a pulse. The legacy of Looking Glass Studios still radiates through the game industry, and games like Dishonored prove it. So get off the fence and get it. You won't regret it!
PS: If you're interested in what I mean be immersive simulation, check out the comment box for an article describing the genre, by Steve Gaynor of Indie Game fame.
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Showing 1-10 of 31 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 9, 2012 2:29:59 PM PDT
Posted on Oct 9, 2012 4:25:52 PM PDT
Tim Schiavelli says:
Thanks for the excellent review and the interesting link! I was a huge fan of the LGS games, and even seeing the box art pictures in that article gave me goosebumps (I also cracked up over the "JP: Trespasser" reference, as I'm the only person I know who both remembers that game and actually enjoyed it). So I rushed out and traded a few old games in for Dishonored this afternoon... can't wait to explore Dunwall tonight! :-)
Posted on Oct 10, 2012 4:50:18 AM PDT
Neutral Person says:
This game is another grand example of being great without the need of Online Multiplayer to back it up. And I can't believe some people said this game can be beaten in 4 hours. I'm guessing some people only played it for that long.
Posted on Oct 10, 2012 8:52:31 AM PDT
Excellent review. Two thumbs up.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 10, 2012 11:45:42 AM PDT
Thanks bro! Your review was great too. Nice to see fellow VGFers sticking up for this great game.
Posted on Oct 10, 2012 1:14:59 PM PDT
Amazon Customer says:
this review bears almost no resemblance to the game i'm currently playing. if this is game of the year i will cheerfully set both my 360 and PS3 on fire and never look back
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 10, 2012 1:29:48 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 11, 2012 12:40:20 AM PDT
You know, I could say the same exact thing about your review, and frankly, your experience with the game bears no resemblance to the game I played. Sorry you disagree.
Posted on Oct 11, 2012 10:12:42 AM PDT
Great review and I couldn't agree more. As soon as I beat the game I immediately started playing through it again. I also agree with what you said about the story. It was a bit disappointing but at the end of the day it did what it had to do, and that was give me a reason to go after a target. Very refreshing to play a game like this. Last time a played a game that felt refreshing and new was bioshock.
Posted on Oct 11, 2012 12:17:19 PM PDT
H. Amireh says:
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 11, 2012 2:04:37 PM PDT
Neutral Person says:
Nah, not likely. Halo is becoming more like Call of Duty in the sense of production values. I doubt most people can agree that repetition earns it Game of the Year.