New IPs tend to get overhyped, with advertising taking up every single inch of any game reviewing site and it feels that the game developers are spending more on advertising then the product they are selling game. Unfortunately it turns out to be a bit rubbish and not sell very well (Im looking at you Bulletstorm). Dishonored is none of these things and is instead a brand new IP that is beautiful in its creation, from its storyline, to its combat and scenery and, there is actually visible repercussions to how you decide to play.
You are Corvo, the elite bodyguard to the Empress of Dunwall, one of the cities that makes up the steam punk Victorian environment you inhabit. After being sent on a mission to try and find help for a mysterious plague that is causing the population to fester and the many rats that occupy the city to attack any and all humans on sight, Corvo returns to the Empress and witnesses her bloody murder, which he is powerless to stop. Corvo is immediately implicated in her murder, is stripped of his Lord Protector status and thrown into prison, as the late Empress’ advisor’s take over power and turn the whole city into a dictatorship. The rest of the game follows using Corvo’s skills to help out the underground resistance to the new regime, by systematically dismantling it piece by piece and to save the Empress’ daughter who has essentially been kidnapped.
The comparisons between Dishonored and the Hitman series are huge, and very complimentary. Each area is essentially your playground to do what you want with. Prefer to stay in the shadows and use the rooftops to stay away from the many guards that occupy it? Feel free. Rather go on a murderous rampage and kill any and all before you with your trusty knife and gun? Also a viable option. Your actions directly affect the enemies you face, if you do decide to go to the way of the serial killer than the city becomes darker, security becomes tighter and the rats that can eat you alive in seconds infest the city even more; on the otherhand, simply knocking out or avoiding the guards makes your life easier in the long run but adds a larger dimension on hiding bodies and continuous stealth.
For once, decisions that you make actually show a clear palpable effect and the term ‘sandbox’ is actually accurate. Every mission allows you to make your job easier or harder depending on your choices and decisions. Very early on, you are asked to kill two high ranking brothers whose votes are vital to keep the current dictatorship going with some kind of legitimacy. By helping out a local gang and breaking into an apartment, the leader of the gang can wipe the brothers off the face of the earth without you getting your hands dirty; Corvo’s desires are given by the game plot, but the personality, whether cold blooded killer or master thief, is completely down to the way you play.
The Hitman comparisons continue with the sheer amount of scenarios you are placed in; within the first 5 hours of play, you will have broken out of prison, attacked the leader of a cult, helped out an old granny kill some gang members as she thinks that you are her long dead husband, and broken into a brothel and tortured a sexually deviant art collector. It compares favourably to the mammoth that is Skyrim, and it would be a sincere shame if Arkane Studios do not make use of the amazing world they have created with further sequels or DLC.
All of this would make little to no difference if the game mechanics were not up to scratch, yet this is not a problem at all. Dishonoured gives Corvo a set of powers, unlocked by completing side quests and searching the landscape for runes, that allow him to have the edge in combat. These powers vary from short term teleporting , taking control of animals and humans to get past areas undetected ,to completely stopping time to get the jump on your enemies. Combat is definitely strong but the guns that you have at the very beginning seems to be incredibly overpowered and full frontal combat with your knife manages to look like you are attacking with a plastic spoon rather than a mystic blade, making face to face action not as satisfying as it should be.
The mystic of your surroundings is beyond impressive and, although it wont win many awards for being the prettiest game on the market at the moment, the care shown in creating this world is completely evident and is something you buy into very easily ,which is a massive achievement for a brand spanking new IP. Think of the first Bioshock in terms of what Dishonoured emphasises in the graphics department, with a very solid voice cast and almost comic book like characters dotted around the game.
Quibbles are far and few between: escaping the guards that you face is probably easier than it should be as they sometimes fall into the Metal Gear Solid trap of having memories comparable to dead fish. Corvo feels overly strong in some senses, with the scenarios thrown at you becoming easier as you turn into a one man army with further upgrades, rather than a hugely gifted individual that has his vulnerabilities. Climbing can also be a bit hit and miss, especially with Blink, the teleporting ability, as lining it up perfectly can be difficult when all you want to do is escape, causing some unnecessary deaths that the player cannot avoid.
Dishonored is hands down one of the best games I have had the pleasure to play this year, with expansive areas, a satisfying stealth system and a steam punk beauty that makes it clearly stand out from the crowd. Anyone who enjoyed the Thief series or Skyrim should see this as a natural progression for the gamer to turn too, and I for one look forward to the inevitable sequel which will have a heck of a job to match what Arkane Studios have managed here.