on May 14, 2013
It took me a while before I finally decided to get this game. When Dishonored was originally released I was mildly interested in it, but not enough to jump on it right away. But as time went by and I found out more about the game, I got more and more intrigued, and now that it's at a very reasonable price, I took a chance and bought the game. It was a chance I'm glad I took. It's quite difficult to classify the type of game that Dishonored is because the gameplay is basically a combination of several different genres. It has first-person shooter elements, yet it's not a first-person shooter. It has stealth elements, yet it's not purely a stealth game. It even has some free-roaming elements with multiple routes you can take to reach your goal, yet (you guessed it) it's not a free-roaming game. All these elements were basically put into a blender and mixed together to form what is truly a unique gaming experience. You play as Corvo Attano, the Royal Protector of an empress who rules over the city of Dunwall which resembles a mid-1800s England. In Dunwall, whaling is a national past-time and the oil extracted from the whales is used as a power source for things such as vehicles, weaponry, and utilities, making for a booming industrial age for the city and the surrounding lands. Unfortunately, a deadly rat plague is decimating the city and causing lots of civil unrest.
After returning from a special assignment to seek aid against the plague from neighboring countries, Corvo meets with his empress, but their reunion is short-lived when the empress is assassinated by mysterious assailants as a result of a plot concocted by members of her own cabinet, and poor Corvo is framed for the murder and thrown in prison to be executed. An unknown party eventually offers a helping hand to Corvo and he is able to escape from the prison. Afterwards, his new benefactors recruit the former Royal Protector as their assassin and give him the task of doing away with those who framed him and murdered the empress, all in the hopes of putting the late empress's daughter on her rightful throne. While the story for Dishonored is a bit light from a narrative standpoint, it provides a very intriguing and attention grabbing tale through lots of notes, journals, and audiographs (audio recordings) that you find throughout missions, not to mention plenty of moments where you can listen in on conversations that not only provide mission clues, but also provide further insight on the in-game world and its lore. The most noticeable characteristic about this game is its emphasis on making choices. Pretty much everything you do or don't do in this game will have a measurable impact on how you succeed on your missions, on which missions you will or will not be able to undertake, and even how the story ends. For every action you take there WILL be some form of reaction.
Corvo has a nice collection of weapons and magic abilities that will aid him on his missions, which you can access through a weapon wheel or hot key them to the directional buttons. He always wields a blade in his right hand, and with his left hand he can use other projectile weapons such as a pistol, a crossbow (with standard, explosive, or sedative bolts), grenades, or a special mine that shoots out metal shards when an enemy makes contact with it. These weapons can be upgraded between missions at Corvo's hideout with a particular inventor named Piero, and bringing him special blueprints that can be found during missions provides Corvo with other upgrades (use the lenses on his mask to zoom in on distant enemies or points of interest, have his boots make less noise when he moves around, or increase the durability of his armor). More ammunition and restorative items can also be purchased from Piero, or found during missions in different locations or looted from downed enemies. Aside from his projectile weapons, Corvo can use his left hand to wield different magic abilities he gains from the mysterious, supernatural being known as the Outsider.
A couple of his most important abilities which let him sneak around much more easily are Blink, which lets him teleport to distant spots with pinpoint precision, and Dark Vision, which lets him see nearby enemies and special objects through walls and other obstructions. Other magic abilities he gains include being able to summon a swarm of rats to attack enemies, use possession to temporarily take control of animals or people, slow down/stop time to further assist in either stealth or combat, use a windblast to push back or kill enemies, and have the bodies of slain enemies disintegrate into ash to avoid having them discovered by other enemies. You don't automatically gain these powers or their respective upgrades as the story goes on though, instead you have to buy them by collecting runes which are scattered throughout the levels. Bone charms can also be found in each level and equipping them offers little bonuses such as being able to move more quickly while sneaking, swinging your sword more quickly, gaining more health when using a health potion, etc. The exact locations of runes and bone charms can be pointed out to you with the item known as the Heart, but actually getting to them can be tricky at times, especially when they're surrounded by many enemies or locked in safes. Even though collecting these things are optional, it's normally worth the time to get a hold of as many of them as you can, especially the runes.
Each mission you go on will put you in a rather expansive level where the goal is normally to get into a well guarded building or hideout, eliminate a target, and then make your way out in one piece. The environments themselves aren't all that different from each other (normally lots of buildings, mansions, and occasionally some sewers), but they're very well laid out and give you lots of options with regards to completing your missions. While you're pretty much always going from point A to point B and your goal is pointed out to you by an on-screen cursor, there are normally multiple routes you can take to get to where you need to go. For example, if you need to get past a security gate with an electrical field that will incinerate anyone but a city guard, you can do one of several things: cut the power to the electrical field and stroll right through the gate, go around the gate by using a nearby alley or a rooftop, possess a city guard and walk through the electrical field, etc. Or if you need to get into a well defended building you can teleport and jump your way up to get in through a second floor window or possess a rat and get in the building through a ventilation duct. You normally have many routes to take to your goal, it's just up to you to find them. Another aspect in which you have options is in dealing with your enemies. When sneaking up behind an enemy or other characters you can choose to kill them with a quick stab in the neck or grab them in a chokehold to knock them out, after which you can move the body and hide it somewhere so it doesn't get discovered. If you don't want to take out the enemy and simply need a key they're carrying to get past a locked door, you can pickpocket them and then leave the enemy alone.
Choosing whether or not to kill someone does more than just affect the way you play the game, it also affects how civilians and friendly NPCs view you, which in the long run dictates whether you get the more favorable ending or the darker ending. In this regard, the game's Chaos system works very much like a more realistic rendition of your classic video game karma system. Dealing with your enemies in a non-lethal manner and helping other characters keeps Chaos at a low level, whereas ruthlessly slaying all those in front of you will raise your Chaos level. Even if you only kill enemies and spare innocents, being too bloodthirsty has an impact on your overall image; society tends to look down on ruthless killers in spite of how righteous their goals may be. That's not to say that you can't kill anyone if you want the good ending. Killing a handful of enemies or targets here and there won't affect the Chaos level all that much, but a high body count (about 10 or more per mission) will create some negative vibes and raise the Chaos levels. A high Chaos level will result in the presence of more enemies and dangers to stand in your way. As I assume most gamers did when they played this game, I rarely killed enemies, no more than 5 per mission, and beat the game with a low Chaos level. It's actually possible to beat this game without taking a single life; even your main assassination targets can be dealt with through non-lethal (and very clever) means, although in several cases they normally involve going off the beaten path and completing optional side missions for other characters.
Speaking of enemies, there's not a huge variety to them, but they do keep things interesting. The city guards, thugs, and assassins of Dunwall can all be dealt with in the same manner whether it's through stealth or direct combat, and while most use guns and swords, others have special weapons or abilities of their own like using whiskey bottles to blow fire breath at you or their own teleportation abilities. Weepers are somewhat different; they're people who have succumbed to the later stages of the rat plague with blood "weeping" from their eyes (and they vomit out a lot of blood too). Similarly to zombies, they shamble around aimlessly and automatically attack anyone else within reach by biting them, but they can be incapacitated or killed just as easily as any regular human enemy. The most unique enemies are the Tallboys, which are heavily armored city guards on mechanical stilts armed with explosive arrow launchers. Not only are they the most physically imposing enemies, but they cannot be knocked unconscious (under normal circumstances), so if you're going for a no-kill playthrough, then they basically have to be avoided completely.
Other enemies include swarms of rats, guard dogs, large water mollusks that spit acid, and even hostile fish who will attack you if you swim too close to them (killing these enemies has no impact on your Chaos level). I have only one complaint with Dishonored: the combat isn't the best. While it is fun to cut into your enemies with your blade, shoot them with your weapons, or fling them away with a blast of wind, the first-person perspective doesn't make physical combat all that graceful, although I will say that the way Corvo kills certain important targets is quite awesome. One other thing I should mention is that it's very easy to make a mistake in this game that will cause you to fail a mission. One very memorable screw up was when I knocked out a group of thugs while sneaking into their hideout, then when I returned later to talk to their leader, he attacked me and the mission failed because he found the knocked out thugs in his hideout (I was unaware that I didn't actually have to knock out the thugs when I first entered their hideout).
Thankfully, the game has one of the best save systems I've ever encountered, so if you happen to do something stupid like unintentionally kill someone you didn't mean to kill, then you can easily load a previous save and undo the mistake. The game autosaves pretty regularly and you can manually save your game at any time when outside of combat. Each time the game saves, instead of overwriting previous saves, it stores it in the game's save file so you can have multiple saves even in one mission. You can even replay completed missions from the main menu, but loading an older mission will have you lose your progress on later missions. In the end, Dishonored is more of a thinking man's (or woman's) game and rewards the patient gamer who takes the time to explore and think his way past obstacles and challenges. I like how this game actually encourages you to plan everything out and makes you consider whether to take a life or to spare one. That being said, you still have the option to go in guns blazing and go for your standard video game "killfest", but again, this will result in more enemies to deal with and a less favorable ending (although I imagine some gamers won't care one way or the other). While Dishonored isn't everyone's cup of tea and doesn't have the best combat, it is definitely one of the most interesting of all the games I've played and it has lots of replay value for those who like to see all the different ways they can complete different tasks.
This part will cover the two DLCs for Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall and its sequel The Brigmore Witches. These two DLCs let you take up the blade of Daud, the assassin who murdered the empress and kick started Corvo's adventure in the main game. The story actually begins with the player experiencing the opening scene of the main game with the empress's murder from Daud's point of view. After the deed is done, Daud is contacted by the Outsider and is sent on his final mission before he meets his fated end. Controlling Daud is, as expected, very similar to controlling Corvo and he'll be making use of a lot of the same weapons and abilities, although there are a few differences with Daud's gameplay. Like Corvo, he wields a blade in his right hand and with his left hand he can use his ranged weapons and magic abilities. Starting with The Knife of Dunwall, Daud's weapons include a wristbow (that shoots the usual normal, explosive, and sedative bolts), a pistol, grenades, and new weapons such as arc mines (which vaporizes enemies), stun mines (which knocks out enemies), and choke dust (which momentarily disorients enemies so you can attack or escape from them).
In The Brigmore Witches, the choke dust can be upgraded to baffle dust, which will have disoriented enemies forget you are there and they will go back to their regular patrols. It actually would have been nice if these new weapons had been available for Corvo in the main game since they're all quite useful when using a stealthy approach. Daud has the same Bend Time and Shadow Kill abilities as Corvo, although he lacks the Rat Swarm and Windblast abilities. Fortunately, his other abilities are improvements over Corvo's. Daud's version of Blink allows him to teleport to distant spots, but with the added benefit of freezing time as long as the player doesn't move Daud with the left stick. This allows the player to aim and time teleportations with much greater precision, even in the middle of a jump. His Void Gaze works like a combination of Corvo's Dark Vision and Heart item: it lets him see enemies and important items through walls, and also points out the locations of runes and bone charms (although it lacks the range of the Heart). Daud can also summon one of his assassins to fight alongside him for a time. In The Brigmore Witches, Daud gains the Pull ability, which lets him telekinetically pull items and even enemies towards him. This ability can be very handy in pick pocketing enemies or grabbing other important items from a safe vantage point.
Between missions, Daud can buy more ammunition and recovery items, as well as upgrades to his weapons and gadgets. He can even purchase favors from his assassins and paid contacts that have certain effects on his missions. These favors include runes being left in easier to find locations, safe combinations being etched on walls, and alternate entry points being opened up. Another addition in The Brigmore Witches are corrupted bone charms, which offer both advantages and disadvantages to Daud's performance. One lets Daud do more damage to his enemies with his blade, but also has him swing his blade more slowly, and another one has Daud lose mana instead of health when suffering damage from enemy attacks, but it also keeps him from regenerating his mana. Just like in the main game, Chaos plays a role in changing up the gameplay and the story's ending, but to a somewhat lesser degree than the main game. The player can make Daud carve his way past all his enemies, knock them all out for a no-kill playthrough, or anything in between (although Daud going the fully non-lethal route doesn't make that much sense to me from a story perspective since, unlike the silent protagonist Corvo, Daud has already been established as a ruthless assassin in the main game).
Most of the enemies are basically the same as the ones in the main game, except for three new enemies: the tough butchers who wield powered buzz saws that can kill you quickly if you're not careful, witches with deadly supernatural powers, and gravehounds that relentlessly attack you until they're completely pulverized. The stories for the DLCs are also quite interesting and add a further layer of depth to the tale of Dishonored, all from a very interesting perspective. These DLCs are worth a purchase if you loved the main game of Dishonored and they add a hefty amount of extra gameplay for those who like to take their time and explore their surroundings. Aside from the great gameplay, just finding out about Daud's previously unknown role in the main game's story and seeing how his tale ties in with Corvo's makes getting these DLCs a worthy investment.