It is hard to review a game like Dishonored in the typical fashion; by which, I primarily mean that assigning this title a numerical score is pointless. Giving scores for video games is pretty asinine in my book, but I have been asked to do it and scores are what casual readers expect. What is important is what I have to say about Dishonored, and the details in the following paragraphs of what worked and which parts faltered heavily. So, I would ask that readers continue on and ignore the score at the bottom.
Dishonored is developed by Arkane Studios, published by Bethesda Softworks, and is a new IP set in the fictional city of Dunwall. Players take control of Corvo, the former royal protector, who is framed for the murder of the empress and now must team up with the loyalist to put her daughter, the rightful heir, on the throne. A clear-cut and predictable story for a new IP, but that is the important part, that it is something new and original, not a sequel, copy, or reboot.
That is one of the big positives for Dishonored, along with the fact that it has a decent powers system that will require multiple playthroughs to experience everything—though all anyone needs is blink—the gameplay and controls are not cumbersome, with level design that allows for freedom in how the player chooses to handle a mission. Quick load times help travel to feel easy and fast, while the steampunk motif, art, and incredible sound and genuinely forlorn and eerie music bring the world of Dishonored together into a beautiful presentation, helped by interesting characters and good voice actors from a cast of Hollywood names.
Also, one of the coolest things about Dishonored is that the player’s actions affect numerous things in the game. Not only is the ending different and what NPC’s say altered, but even the weather is affected by the player’s chaos rating. Stilling one’s hand from killing too many people means less rats and weepers to deal with during missions, which can be a bonus in gameplay. Things like this are what I wish more games would embrace.
So why not just give it a high score and move on?
I wanted to play Dishonored once I saw the first round of trailers, with my only trepidation being that I was unsure of exactly how much Bethesda had a hand in the game. I was concerned though when friends told me that it was repetitive and boring with a lackluster story, finding out that most of them had not even finished the game. I wondered if perhaps others were expecting too much though. At first Dishonored seemed amazing, beautiful, downright delightful, with just a few glitches, like enemy AIs getting stuck or not seeing me when I was standing right in front of them, breaking into a restricted zone.
My biggest complaint was about the autosave spots when the player dies, respawning them in scenarios where it is almost impossible to not die at least once again, or leaving them unable to go back to attempting a stealthy approach for the missions. It is almost as if Dishonored punishes players, giving few second chances at perfection, which is perhaps more of their statement on the theme of consequences. Players can attack these missions with brutality or mercy, straightforward approach or stealth, but embracing subtlety and pacifism is harder, with few mechanics to back it up. Dishonored could benefit a lot from a more in-depth stealth system.
I could overlook most of those problems easily, but what is unforgivable in Dishonored is how bland the enemies and combat becomes so early on. The player is a super-powered killing machine going up against regular soldiers, with the exception of some that have been improved through technology. The balance to that is that one or two good shots at close range will still kill Corvo, but after a certain point, I found myself taking on entire rooms full of soldiers without having to use a health potion. And although playing through the game with stealth is harder, it allows for one-shotting almost any enemy.
I was at least hoping for a good boss battle or event at the end, but was left unsatisfied. I think my disappointment with boss battles lately has been well documented, and Dishonored’s quick and abrupt ending just furthered my annoyance. About halfway through the game I was only finishing it to write this review, and could not wait for the ending to get here, but had hoped to be pleasantly surprised by it. I do not think I have ever uninstalled a game so quickly after beating it.
Dishonored had a lot of potential, and I kept seeing people compare it to Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but I think it is mechanically more comparable to Bioshock and something the developers wanted to be more like Thief, but it succeeds and fails in some of these areas, trying to take a new IP and do what others had done before them, but without taking the time to perfect each of the added elements, causing the game to fail at a lot. I would like to see a sequel that the developers put a little more time and care into, but doubt I will return to this one, but others may feel differently.
If the article has given readers a good view of Dishonored so far, there is no reason to go past this point, but there is just something about seeing that number, isn’t there?
I am going to award Dishonored 2.5 wild cars out of 5, because there is a lot I liked, and a lot I did not, but my view is subjective, especially when considered that most of what I did enjoy was not the meat of the gameplay. Ignore the numerical score, pay more attention to the words, and when in doubt, gamers should try it out for themselves.