Monday, March 11, 2013

Review: Dishonored (2012)

Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Assassination isn’t really my thing, sneaking about, finding the target and getting rid of them is something that comes very hard to me. Oh…um…I mean in a video game, never really tried it in real life. Anyway it’s not a game mechanic that really draws me. When a game gives me a choice of going about things, I often leave the sneaking to the professionals, grab my guns and make like a John Woo movie. Dishonored was something very different for me; I went out of my way to be sneaky, I enjoyed the challenged and what’s more I’m hoping a sequel is around the corner cause I want more.

So what happened? How did this game get me to act differently? Well first off the game play was brilliantly done. A lot of effort has been put into offering the players many different tools and letting these tools be fully explored in the city of Dunwall. You want to blink around like Nightcrawler on acid? Well guess what, you have every opportunity to do that. Hate combat? You don’t have to touch a single enemy if you want. Want your name to be feared? Through discretion out and burn any enemy that gets in your way.

Of course choice means nothing, if there are no consequences and this is where I think Dishonored truly shines. Go in guns blazing and the city watch will make future levels harder with more guards, traps etc. Take some quests that are evil in nature and see the world become a darker place as plague spreads. I went into the game with a normal mentality of collect everything. Unfortunately collecting everything means taking some less than savoury quests on, and even as early as the second level I was knee deep in plague victims. This made me assess what I really wanted to accomplish as such I replayed earlier levels to get an outcome and city state I was satisfied in. This normally never happens with me.

Sometimes a gun is the only way to win a knife fight.
Yet it’s not just the freedom in game play that grabbed me, but the story and setting. While yes the story is a pretty simple tale of revenge, the richness of the Dunwall setting allows it to feel more complicated than it is. Corvo Attano can be one of the noblest of characters, or despicable, your choice. Right from the outset I tried to make him an honorble man, with doing small things like playing hide and seek with the Empress’s daughter Emily, helping those he found in trouble, and trying to be an all round nice guy. As such I was hooked in the story, and found the ending I had gone out of my way to attain, one of the most satisfying I’ve encountered in a while.

Art direction really helps with the steam punk feel of Dishonored. What some might see as cartoonish, the style really allows for grotesque caricatures of the ones Corvo is hunting. The look of the game’s characters are also helped with the voice talent on call. Susan Sarandon, Michael Madsen, Brad Dourif and Chloe Grace Moretz all lend their talent to create characters that were more than just stock characters.

Learn to fear Tall Boys.
If there was one problem with the game, it’s the length of it. I’m a slow player, but this game took me 8 or so hours over the course of 3 days. That’s really quick for me, so I can imagine big gamers knocking this out in an afternoon. I can understand the minds behind this game focusing a lot on individual levels and giving the players numerous ways to finish each; in that regards it does offer replayability, but the journey was over so quick I really wanted more.

If you haven’t played this game already, I suggest you go back and give it a go. Even if it’s not the style of game you normally play, it’s well worth it and it may surprise you. While it isn’t a long game, it is a satisfying one, this is one of the gems of last year, and deserves all the recognition it gets.

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