Release date: 2012
Developer: Arkane Studios
Genre: Action Adventure
Spieldauer: 15 Stunden
A lovechild to stealth games with its own faults
Dishonored is a mix of genres. It’s a shooter, but also a stealth/sneaking game. It combines a fictional steampunk version of Victorian London with small firearms and magical spell. It comprises three great games in one, namely Half Life 2, Bioshock, and Thief. Does the game dishonour their memory? Let’s find out!
As stated before, the game takes place in the fantastic city of Dunwall during a catastrophic rat plague, carrying off a vast amount of the population. While the noble society remains less effected, the lesser fortunate people die out on the streets or turn into so called “weepers”, mindless zombies, who carry the infection and attack on sight. In order to find a cure, the bodyguard of the empress, us, is being sent away. When Corvo returns empty handed at the beginning of the game, he finds himself in a conspiracy against the empress and witnesses her assassination, for which he ultimately gets frame. To top it all of her majesties daughter and only child Emily gets kidnapped. Corvo escapes custody thanks to the help of a supernatural being, joins a group of loyalists and tries to uncover the conspiracy, with the hope of rescuing Emily and returning her to the throne.
After his escape Corvo finds himself in a seemingly open world, which in fact is more of a sequence of relatively linear levels. Naturally, at the start of the game Corvo has only a limited number of tools and weapons, of which his illusiveness is the most useful one. Like in games such as Thief or Splinter Cell, Corvo can take out guards from behind, either just to send them to the realms of dreams or to end their lives. This gives the player the option to play through the game without killing a single enemy, whilst making it a lot more challenging. If the player decides to make use of the numerous lethal gadgets and arms like the crossbow, pistol or hand grenades, progression may seem faster, but the game balances this by spawning a mass of new enemies with each triggered alarm. Also, the number of corpses in Corvo’s wake rise the number of rat swarms populating the streets, as well as increasing his ‚chaos level‘. Said level is divided into three different states, low, middle, and high, each one resulting in a different ending. This motivates sneaky players to be as stealthy as possible, though the reward for unnoticed trespassing is more of personal victory.
Use the force, Corvo…
Also, the magical skills given to Corvo by the Outsider, the supernatural entity mentioned before, aid him in his exiled life as the most wanted person of all of Dunwall. In order to gain or improve his skills, the player has to spend runes which can be found all over the levels and decide on either improving attributes like health or agility, or using them to gain access to some mighty abilities such as teleportation or bending time. These spells especially make the game a little bit too easy, as they give you the opportunity to quickly approach an enemy, take him out, and return with his body without any notice. When the player has upgraded the bend time spell up to level two, the game gets even more easier, as one can literally just pass the enemies. Though casting these spells does cost mana, the amount of potions to replenish health and mana is enormous. There are even passive bonuses from so called ‚Bone charms‘, which e.g. grant mana for drinking tap water.
As mentioned before the game seems to be open world, but is in fact carefully separated into small level segments, which are surprisingly versatile. Though the player is always inside the city of Dunwall, he gets to see all the various places, from the sewers crawling with Weepers, to the magnificent buildings of the nobility. The levels are designed to offer a wide variety of ways to approach your goal, like going over the roof tops, through the houses, pose as a rat using the possession spell and sneak through the tubes, or swimming through the water. However, games like Thief do intertwine their levels better, or at least they do mask their compartmentation more subtly: Once completed, the player rarely wants to go back, and especially the discovering of every hidden place or route is quite tiring. One often finds oneself taking one route just to find out that it was, in fact, a route for the completion of an alternate goal, leaving you disappointed to return from where you started. Like when you use a ventilation system, just to drop next to the poison stash for the target, which in fact you don’t want to kill.
Dishonored uses the Unreal 3 Engine, which is not obvious immediately due to the comic-look, which at that time stood out amongst other ego shooters and is in fact still quite pretty. The steampunk setting and especially enemies like the walkers or electric barriers bring back memories of the legendary Half Life 2, and the design of the characters fits well into the overall concept. The Bioshock-like look concerning the faces, however, is more a question of personal taste. I for myself like it, and I think it suits the atmosphere quite well.
The same accounts for the sound: The music, at times reminding of Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, at others of Thief, underlines the atmosphere of desperation hanging over the city. The voiceover work is also well done and fits the characters quite well. All in all, a well designed game.
It were big footsteps I was expecting Dishonored trying to walk in, and I knew that it would not be able to fit in them: Half Life 2 with its variety of settings and a story, seemingly notelessly carrying you from one level to the next. Thief, the sovereign among the stealth games, with its steampunk universe, the mystical story and the different groups and their ambitions. And alas Bioshock, with its dystopian, maniacal and at times breathtaking underwater world Rapture and it’s inhabitants, pumped up with plasmids. To even try to put all of it into one game was what I expected of the game. But this wasn’t the vision of the developers of Dishonored. They did, however, take some parts, the important parts, and cleverly combined them to a finely rounded game, which is fun to play and an honourable tribute to these paragons. The sneaking, fighting and the graphics – to me, it was a reminiscence of these great games, and it makes Dishonored shine all the brighter in their memory.
So, if you did play one of the above mentioned games or you’re just curious, try it and see for yourself. I am pretty sure you will not regret it, and you might even get a taste for its sequel, Dishonored 2, which is equally enjoyable.