Dishonored is a stellar video game, for the most part. It’s a wonderfully crafted game that I suggest you pick up right now if you haven’t got it in your collection, but heed my warning, for there are a few hiccups along the way that prevent the experience from being outstanding from start to finish, most notably, the way in which the quality of the mission structure plummets after a certain plot twist toward the end of the story.
Revisiting Dishonored in 2015, there is still nothing quite like it. Thief is the closest that a game has come to replicating the thrill of sneaking around in first person as a deadly assassin, but as a complete package it lacked a certain something in comparison. Dishonored’s greatest achievement is the plethora of options it provides gamers with in terms of both approaching objectives as well as completing them. The multitude of pathways and play-styles is fantastically overwhelming. After the first couple of missions, you’ll begin to get used to the distinct mission structure – the element of the game that really sets it apart. You’ll find yourself tasked with eliminating or capturing certain targets whilst being occupied with a number of interesting side quests and optional objectives along the way.
The city of Dunwall is a joy to roam around due to the fantastic, watercolor-like art style that the game uses as well as the effort that has gone into the lore of the world through items such as audio-graphs and books. On top of this, you will often stumble across guards or people who might just be having a general conversation or will be talking about useful mission information – therefore it is a good idea to listen to these every time you come across them in order to gather more clues, perhaps of someones whereabouts or a hidden treasure. It’s also refreshing that the story itself revolves not around saving the world and being a hero like most adventure games, but – despite being a master assassin – is simply about rescuing your daughter (who is the heir to the throne) and trying to avoid the plague.
The way the game plays is also a joy to behold. Firstly, it’s important to know that Dishonored plays host to a number of different play styles. If you were to be playing through the game stealthily without trying to kill or alert anyone, you would be playing in a low chaos state. However, go all guns blazing and you’ll be playing the high chaos version of the game. You can also play around with your own mix of the two, but ultimately whichever way you play there is always plenty of opportunities to have fun. Sneaking around quietly and avoiding guards is fun in its own right, but using the games plethora of special powers to inflict some creative kills is what really makes the high chaos play through come into its own.
Perhaps you’re having trouble with guards firing bullets at you – in this case, you could use the bend time power to slow down the bullet before using the possession power to take control of the guard and put him in front of the bullet. Deactivate the powers and watch carnage unfold. Alternatively, you could summon a pack of rats to chomp at his heels – the element of choice really is amazing. Dishonored is not a game that you’ll want to play once and be done with. Instead, you’ll want to go back and see what would have happened had you done something differently or used a different route.
One standout mission takes place at a ball. Your target is one of three sisters, all of whom are dressed in the same outfit except for the color of the garments. As Corvo, your job is to identify which one your target is by getting clues from other guests at the party and deciphering which sister needs to meet the end of your blade. As a player you get a great sense of satisfaction snooping around, tapping into your inner troublemaker. In all, this mission structure never grows tiresome and I would loved to have seen more of it, but unfortunately the game takes a turn for the worse when a certain plot twist occurs.
The structure picks itself back up eventually, but the missions that take place in between are not nearly of the same standard. The only reason I can think of as to why the developers would have opted to change the structure of the missions was to add variety. Maybe they thought that players would be getting bored of the same idea chapter after chapter, or maybe it was just a choice that had to be made to work with the direction that the story was now going, but there is no denying that at this point the game does not play to its strengths.
The classic instance then occurs whereby you are stripped of all of your weapons and gear even though you have been working to acquire those items throughout the game. It’s as though part of your progress is just gone. There is a side quest that allows you to retrieve it all, but I didn’t dare to attempt it because without the equipment that was actually the destination of the objective, I struggled to bypass the hurdles along the way and so I gave up and soldiered on with the main quest. Gradually I got a few things back by finding items within the world, but I never retrieved my bow so playing stealthily became more difficult towards the finale.
A high difficulty is fine when you feel well equipped to deal with the challenge at hand, but when your items have been taken away from you it becomes more harsh than challenging. Nevertheless, the type of final mission that you get is then decided depending on how you have been playing the game. For example, a high chaos playthrough leads to darker consequences – quite literally in fact – as the final mission takes place at night. However, if you were to play the game in a low chaos state, the final mission would take place on a sunny day and whilst the main objective would remain the same, there would be less guards to contend with along the way.
Dishonored then, is a fantastic game that could have been an exhilarating one. A poor design choice about two thirds into the game unfortunately stops it from being a 10/10 product, but it is a must-buy nonetheless. You will have never played anything like Dishonored, and you will be more than willing to play through it more than once, and for that it will be remembered not for its shortcomings but for its individuality and its successes.