Unreal Game Review: Dishonored

Shhhh. Be vewy vewy quiet. I’m hunting guards.

The game has a central mechanic that makes it both unique compared to other stealth games, and a hell of a lot easier than most of them. It’s called “blink” and it’s a simple teleport spell that can instantly transport you to anywhere about 30 feet away. While Assassin’s Creed has you shuffling along rooftop ledges and perfectly timing your approach on unsuspecting enemies, Dishonored can be bothered with none of that. Guard way over there has his back turned? Blink up to him and stick a knife in his larynx. Secret bonus item at the top of a tall tower? Blink, blink, blink, you’re there. Part of the enjoyment of stealth games is figuring out how exactly to get around without being seen, but with blink, as fun as it may be, it does neuter some of the challenge pretty significantly.  Between blink, shadow kill and infinite silent sprint, by the end of the game, there’s nothing that can stop or detect you.

The story of Dishonored is weak at best, but I guess that’s what you expect from a game where the official tagline is “Revenge solves everything.” There’s potential for a really good story here, but it’s only mediocre and a waste of a very talented voice cast that includes Chloe Moretz, Susan Sarandon, Lena Headey, Carrie Fisher and John Slattery. The game is rather short at only eight hours or so (and that’s with finding 80% of the bonus items and doing sidequests), but it thankfully does throw in a twist that creates two more solid bonus levels just when you think the game’s going to end, which would have made it absurdly short if it had. Still, it doesn’t quite feel worth a full $60 in the day an age of similar games that give you ten times that much playtime. This one-size-fits-all pricing model is what’s wrong with gaming, but the budgets are so big on games like these, there’s no way around it. The consequence, however, is that gamers are picking up used copies of games like this that they deem worth $30 or $40 instead of $60.

This game is from Bethesda, best known for Fallout and Skyrim, and they’ve improved a few things from those games. Combat is much, much more fluid, which would have killed a game revolving around assassins if it was subpar. Graphically, however, the game struggles. On Xbox the textures are noticeably muddy and Bethesda still can’t craft a convincing looking human being to save their lives. They don’t have that horrifying fixed stare anymore, but they still look more like marionettes than people. Even if the graphics aren’t great however, the art direction is spectacular, as they brought in the lead designer of the environments for Half-Life, and you’ll be able to tell that’s the case almost immediately.

Well gee, that looks familiar.

Dishonored is a very fun game, though not particularly challenging. Sure, you’ll save after every guard kill lest you round and set an alarm off, but generally, it’s the most relaxed stealth game in recent memory. That’s not necessary a bad thing, but it might be to those who spent $60 on an eight hour game, one of which was probably just staring at loading screens after every reload.

It just needs a bit…more. A bit more story, a bit more areas to explore, a bit more moves and items to make non-lethal not painfully boring. I was promised a more upbeat ending if I avoided murder, but the story was so thin I found I didn’t really care how it turned out and just wanted to have fun making rats eat people.

It’s not as strategic as Hitman or Assassin’s Creed nor as engaging as Deus Ex, but it’s a very fun bit of fluff with some pretty cool and creative mechanics and ideas. Pick it up used in a month or two, or rent it if you can.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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  1. @Shan: Because of people like you we can’t have nice things around here. It’s a story driven original IP, if you want multiplayer and 15$ DLC every few months go play CoD.

  2. Easy mistake to make, but you are incorrect in saying the game was developed by the same team who did Skyrim/Fallout 3.

    Bethesda Softworks is the publisher of all three titles, but Bethesday Game Studios is the studio that developed both Fallout 3 and Skyrim whereas Arkane Studios developed Dishonored. This explains why the combat feels completely different as well as the games overall engine…not related to Bethesda Game Studios whatsoever.

    Opinion-wise, I have to say I disagree with your criticism
    of character design and graphics, as they blew me away continuously when it came to uniqueness and environmental details. It didn’t aim for completely realistic and I’m glad.

    I think this game is an amazing accomplishment for being only the third full game in a young studio’s portfolio and makes me excited to see what they can do next.

  3. Honestly I tried playing this game the first way too Paul, silent sneaky and totally non lethal. And I kept looking at all the powers I wasn’t using and the cool traps I couldn’t do anything with. After the first level I really was starting to hate it and haven’t gone back since. I think I might go back and give it another try lethally and see if its more fun.

  4. Dishonored certainly looks unique and cool, but its reputedly short length gives me pause and makes me think that it’s probably a ‘rental only game’. I suppose I’m a bit cynical after some highly anticipated games that didn’t live up to my expectations have left me feeling like I’d bought an incomplete game (seriously, what kind of ending was that in Deus Ex: Human Revolution?). These days I follow some advice I got from one of my coworkers at DISH and I don’t buy a game until after I’ve rented it and had a chance to log some hours on it. It’s saved me a good deal of money in the past six/seven months. So Dishonored is already in my Blockbuster @Home queue, and I’ll get to play it soon without the risk of dropping sixty bucks on it.

  5. I ALMOST got the “Clean Hands” achievement. ALMOST. But there were two people (TWO!!!) that I couldn’t seem to get around killing. I’ll probably give it another shot after enjoying a super-crazy, lethal run-through this weekend.

    Well-worth the sixty bucks, considering how often I intend to play it.

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