When this game came out, everyone simply loved it, no matter what they played it on. For me, however, I honestly got the impression from the trailers that it was trying to be “Dark Half-Life” or something, and while I was interested in playing it, I knew it wasn’t a game I had to play right away. As a result it wound up something I picked up in a sale and then landed in the dark void known as the “steam backlog.” (And every PC gamer who reads this is now nodding their heads knowing EXACTLY what I mean.) Fast forward to now and I found myself expecting to be playing nothing but the newest titles in my “must play” list. However, that was not to be due to delays and in one case, the demo of a game being so underwhelming it dropped away. So, with some time to visit that void, I pulled this title out of it… and, I should not have ignored it for so long.
Story: Welcome back to Dunwall! As Corvo, you have just spent several months overseas trying to get other empires in the world to lend yours a hand, as Dunwall, despite the vast and impressive expanse of the lands, is in trouble. A plague has taken the land, spread by rats who seemed to have come out of nowhere, and those infected are doomed to die a slow and agonizing death. The very direness of your mission is evident by the fact that you are the one who went. Under normal circumstances, a diplomat or other dignitary would be sent and you would remain in your normal place as the personal bodyguard for the Empress herself.
But as you reunite and retake your place, you also will find out quickly that sometimes one man isn’t enough, as forces teleport in, kill her right in front of you, and then vanish, leaving you to take the blame for her death. And so, now you wait, your rank expunged and your honor destroyed, as the time of your death by execution draws near.
But this is only the beginning of your tale, for the key to your cell is delivered to you as well as a note saying that someone both knows you did not murder the Empress, and would like your help in restoring the line of the throne and, in the process, perhaps clearing your name.
From this point you will begin the real game in which you will be sent on missions to rescue, kidnap, and eliminate various important people who are backing the one behind the assassination Corvo is now blamed for. From here the main story will be told out between these missions, keeping it very tactical for the most part. However, if you are interested in the details, you can find them via conversations you will have and overhear as well as various notes and letters you can find as you play. The end result is an “ok” story written very well, that you can either basically ignore or spend the time you feel is worth it to flesh out. I will admit, I enjoy seeing the details in the story pushed through what you observed. And while I found this one very basic even with that, it’s still a breath of fresh air when so many games make a point to spoon-feed you everything, so I definitely appreciate this.
Graphics: Dishonored is a first person title where the developer overall knew how to make it look good even as they aimed for a somewhat stylized image. The general motif of the world around you is steam-punk mixed with a smidge of science fiction. From here the varied condition of the world from Aristocratic to decayed and ruined keep each area having it’s own feel. As a result, prepare for a feast for the eyes, as you will never get board with one area over another.
Unfortunately, the other characters you will meet are a lot more effected by the style. To describe them all quickly, they are basically charactures like you might get done by an artist on a beach boardwalk that have been 3D modeled accordingly. While in combat and focusing on the behaviors of the enemy, you will not notice this very much, just about anytime you are in a friendly area or in a conversation it becomes painfully apparent, greatly reducing the look of the moment. The only exception seems to be the one called the Outsider, but that may well be the odd lighting used when you encounter him.
Sound: I’m afraid there isn’t much to be expected from the music in this game. What is here is generally background and only exists to heighten the tension once you’ve been found and someone (most likely a group of guards, dogs, and whatever else they are employing in the area) is trying their best to get to you. And to that end, it does a really good job. The unfortunate part is it really doesn’t stand out, nor does anything composed for this game shy of the end credits.
But that is also about all that is unfortunate to the audio of this game. When in a conversation or listening to one, everything is very well voice acted and you can easily believe what you are hearing. Which is a good thing as these audio clues are one of the ways you will find your goals (main an optional), as well as a way to know when to expect a guard to wander your way or to go do another patrol. You will want to take these seriously.
And finally the sound effects will also be almost as important and pleasing. All the weapons sound as you would expect, allowing you a guess at what is being used to try to kill you, with the exception of some grenades, which do not have enough meat in the explosion for my liking. But at the same time hearing the enemy yell to get you to come out when they think they know where you are (or whistle when they have no clue) are more great audio touches you can use to help you know when you should be cautious vs when you can get away with anything.
Gameplay: Dishonored is a First Person Shooter, but one clearly leveraged around the idea of stealth game-play. You can’t really run-and-gun your way through this adventure like you could most. Rather you will spend your time moving around to avoid being detected, taking control of various devices to assist you, and either avoiding combat entirely or making sure when you do fight, you have the upper hand before it even begins. Should you choose to fight, you will find yourself a glass cannon, so while you can do a lot of damage quickly, straight out combat is generally never a good idea.
However, this is not a problem for the game, as you will be given plenty of options on how to proceed. You may have a specific mission to complete, but the game is very “open-worldy” about your environments so you will have no issues with a lack of options on how you want to handle any given one. And that includes just how lethal you want to be. You have within your power the ability to do anything from leave no man, woman, or child alive, to killing absolutely no one, including the target. All the choices are yours while you complete your mission and everything has at least one lethal and non-lethal answer for you to choose from.
In addition to this, early on you will meet a character known as The Outsider, who will brand Corvo with his mark and grant you powers most humans do not have, starting with the teleportation power you saw during the Empress’ assassination and telling you that you can gain additional powers as you play. You will gain this power by collecting runes during your mission and spending them any time you want to gain or upgrade your powers, giving you a nice super-natural edge to your activities.
Unfortunately, this also leads to one of the two real weaknesses in the gameplay. With all these choices available to you the game is exceptionally easy. I played a fairly lethal choice myself on normal skill level, but by the end of the game, I found myself having bought all of 4 powers out of ten in total despite having at least 18 runes left over. The reason for this was that I was just having such an easy time I didn’t want to slow down and gain any new skills… at all. In fact, the only reason I bought a 4th was to experiment with slowing down time to take down the one actually hard enemy you will encounter in the entire game.
The other issue is the AI. At times it shows glimmers of real promise, like when a reprogrammed wall of light incinerates a guard, the others will stop before running head-long into it, showing a level of self-control I rarely see in any game’s selection of enemies. But at the same time, I somehow managed to watch 8 allies in a life-or-death battle with rats trying to eat their faces decide I too was an enemy for killing one before it could join the hoard, and had an assassin miss me completely with their sword from behind when I didn’t see them at all for tossing a body into a river. And then his friend was just as ineffective when I through him into the same damn river since he teleported right in front of me! It really is a mixed bag.
Bugs: Overall this game ran amazingly well, but on occasion I noticed a specific issue with it I do need to warn you about:
- Kinda-Frozen? Yeah, this game does have an odd freezing issue, but I’m not sure that describes it right. For me this issue only occurred when I streamed the game via the Nvidia Shadowplay program, quit to shut down the recorder, and came back to play without resetting Windows (about 3 times in total). I do not know why this caused anything but if I did this, it would randomly “freeze.” Getting out of it was as easy as ALT-TABing out and into the game, but it could happen again anytime once it happened, so the best idea was to save, get out, and restart the PC. I do not know why this happened, and due to the exact requirements, I would expect next to no one to find the problem, but I need to report it.
Overall: There is no denying this is a very good game when all is said and done. It looks great, even today for the most part. It sounds amazing, and plays solid, delivering on the promises made about the game. Now if only it was a more challenging title and the AI didn’t go completely retarded at times, it could have been a complete knock-out. But as it stands, this is one of those games that as long as you like the First Person view, will give you the freedom to find your way to play it, and you will probably enjoy it for that reason alone.
Source’s Listed System Requirements:
- 3.0 Ghz dual core processor
- 3GB RAM
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 460/ATI Radeon HD 5850 with 512MB VRAM
- Windows Vista/7
- 9 GB hard drive space
- Broadband Connection
- AMD Phenom II 6X 1100T (6 core) processor running at 3.3 Ghz
- 8GB RAM
- Nvidia Geforece 760 GTX with 2GB VRAM
- Broadband Connection
- and Windows 7