Bethesda launch yet another top title to steal thunder away from the standard run of the mill shooters that make up gamers staple diets these days. A stealth laden steam punk stunner that will leave you begging for more after every return visit.
Just how much entertainment can Bethesda Softworks wring out of one title? Well, if that ‘one title‘ in question just happens to be their latest sneaky spectacular ‘Dishonored‘ then get ready for pint-sized portion’s of freshly squeezed gaming goodness. This cyber punk/steamer is being hailed be all and sundry as the most ‘intelligent‘ game of the year or the most ‘intellectual‘ title of 2012 to name but a couple of the compliments to be lauded on this sizzler of a stealth stunner, but we are here to tell you, good GmP readers, that it is so much more than mere ‘mind over muscle‘. Dishonored is both the beauty and beast all wrapped up in one delectable dish of double-dealing, death and destruction.
So good, in fact, is this latest glut of gorgeous gaming that it is possible that we may well have to write and capture two reviews, or possibly even three, just to cover all of the different view points from which you can approach this diverse delight. First on the agenda comes the opportunity to play through Dishonored in a very ‘un-typical’ first person shooter style. We say ‘UN-typical’ because, even though you can leap into the action that awaits you in Dishonored with cannons blazing and blades flashing, you will still find yourself being able to take advantage of the simply awesome ‘mystical powers‘ that are granted to you at the start of the game by an enigmatic character, ( no spoilers pur-leease! ), who pops in and out of your game like some kind of Gothic Will O’ the Wisp. This mysterious stranger bestows upon your Angel of Death some truly inspired attributes, all of which, when correctly upgraded and utilised, will take even your all out sprint into the excellent Dishonored into new realms that other shooters simply cannot reach.
Then, of course, there is the developers preferred methodology. The stealth slasher game play. This is by far and away the more challenging of the two instances from which you can get your teeth into Dishonored.
Blending all that Bethesda have mastered from their other highly successful franchises, such as The Elder Scrolls and Bioshock to name but two, Dishonored, when played through as the creeping assassin Corvo, offers up more than mere avoiding lights or sneaking past ‘checkpoint charlie‘ guards as you navigate your way through darkened alleys and across rain soaked rooftops stalking your prey from the shadows like some kind of mechanically masked figure of the macabre.
But this is getting ahead of ourselves. Let us first gush with grateful gratitude in reference to the achingly beautiful graphics that await you in Bethesda’s latest title extraordinaire.
Visually Dishonored takes on a sun bleached look at a fictitious river city named ‘Dunwall‘, in what looks almost like London’s early history, as we step into the shoes of Royal Bodyguard Corvo Attano. The story is centred around the life of young Corvo as he is charged with the protection of the Royal family, and in particular the Empress and her young daughter Emily, the game begins with the young man Corvo returning to his homeland to be greeted by his own friends and family alike, as players are introduced to the games controls and movements in what is, in effect, a basic tutorial.
Following your arrival on the shores of Dunwall you will have the opportunity to get better acquainted with the nuances of the stealth mode fundamentals by playing a game of ‘Hide and Seek‘ with the young Princess Emily. We advise you all to take advantage of this tutelage, as to bypass this without participating is to forego the opportunity to practice the ‘crouch and peek‘ method that you will most certainly require in the more difficult stages of the game.
After getting to grips with ‘peek a boo‘ Corvo is then required to attend a private audience with the Empress only for things to take a definite turn for the worst as a band of murderous assassins slay the Empirical figurehead and kidnap the young Princess Emily leaving behind nothing more than a blood soaked corpse and a stunned Corvo as evidence of the crime. Needless to say the figure of blame for the outrageous act of carnage points firmly at the young Mr Attano. From here on in Dishonored takes players on a rollercoaster ride of simply stunning game play action and complex missions as you seek to exact lethal revenge on those behind the conspiracy.
All the while in the background players must contend with a virulent strain of Plague that is sweeping the nation and reducing its population to scavengers and its towns to rubble. The rat’s are, quite literally, everywhere, and should you stray too close to a lair or a marauding pack of these red-eyed ravagers then be prepared for a full on fight for your life as these are not the cowering test subjects cornered in labs, these are street wise and hungry and their favoured bill of fare is Human.
This blend of man-made and natural disasters has wrought havoc on the environment, and as result players will notice that the piles of corpses that are stacked high in the streets are almost as numerous as the shattered windows and heaps of broken bricks that Corvo must scramble across as he flits from cover to cover in search of his assigned targets.
The flavour of this broken world permeates even the peeling wallpaper and ‘stick to your boots‘ stained carpets of the local brothels and cat houses as the atmosphere of a realm experiencing its final death throes eats into the very walls of the crumbling architecture, and seeps from every pore of the downtrodden citizens of this beleaguered populous.
The game play itself only add’s to the overall experience of Dishonored and regardless of which path you choose, be it stealth or shooter, the action is superb in its execution and second to none in its genre for ingenuity. Preferring, as we always do, to opt for the more difficult challenge, we will concentrate on the stealth aspect of the game above all else, as lets face it this is where the true heart of Bethesda’s scintillating title lies.
Beginning your quest, for that dish that is best served cold, you will set out at the start of each mission armed with tools of the assassin’s trade that have been made available to you by the head of your new-found allies, of the resistance, and his trusted accomplice, Piero, who constructs all of the wonderfully ingenious weapons and tools of war that will so aid your assault on the ‘Overseers‘ and their bad guy ‘overlords‘. Each of these wondrous new additions to you personal arsenal is fully upgradable, as are those magical mystical powers bestowed upon you by our mysterious benefactor.
As you get down to the ‘nitty-gritty‘ of the game play, traversing the environments and deciding whether or not to sacrifice or show mercy to your intended targets, you will notice that the Dishonored subtleties play an enormous part in the success of its format, and in no small part do they have game changing effects on Corvo, your missions and ultimately the outcome of the very game itself.
In a rather nice touch Bethesda have introduced a kind of ‘morality meter‘ to the proceedings in Dishonored. This means that you will be judged at the end of each level not only on your performance within the mission itself, but also on how many times you opted to avoid the kill or actually chose to terminate with extreme prejudice your unfortunate victims.
The ‘End of Level’ mission statistics offer up an opportunity to see where you performed best, and at what particular methods of movement and murder, but it is here that players are first treated to the hitherto unseen insight that is the outstanding ‘Chaos System‘.
This format for future events and outcomes is affected by everything you do within the confines of your current mission parameters. Everything you do will affect your ‘Chaos Rating’ and, as such, you must be constantly mindful of the dangers facing you, not only of immediate issues such as enemy soldiers, guards or plague ridden ‘weepers‘ and rats, but also such things as avoiding watchtowers, wall lights and rewiring traps will require your decision making processes.
In particular it is worth paying attention to the more subtle things such as the guards slavering wolfhound that, whilst not counting towards your Chaos Rating should you opt to kill them as opposed to avoiding them, they ‘will‘, nevertheless still be able to affect the Chaos Rating should they detect you. It is in small details, such as these, that Dishonored hits all of the right notes with players as the game comes together with all of its relevant parts combining to make one beautifully crafted symphony.
At the mention of ”weepers‘ and ‘wolfhounds‘ we can sense that there will be a few eyebrows raising in the style of a Roger Moore inspired movement. These are but a a deadly duet of the foes that you will encounter as you scour Dunwall for objectives and targets. But without wanting to give away too much of the games secrets we will, then, with a slight smile on our lips tantalize you further at the mention of Hagfish, Rats, Overseer’s, Officer’s and who could ignore the hooded sword wielding assassins that materialise and vanish at will? Oh yes, there are surprises ‘a-plenty‘ awaiting you in this first-rate title.
But, a straight A to B type title Dishonored is most definitely not, so expect a good amount of side missions, that as we stated earlier will require you to pay attention to books and collectables that you will find scattered about the game zones, as there may well be hidden consequences or bonuses to performing the correct act of morality for the situation.
A mention must be made to the collectables in Dishonored as it is with these ‘Runes‘ and ‘Bone Charms’ that Corvo is able to purchase additional skills as well as enhance already attained abilities. The Bone Charms are static bonuses that whilst not being upgradable the amount that you are permitted to carry about your person at any one time ‘is‘. So, when you realise that these voodoo styled totems grant your character additional benefits such as making the packs of deadly rats avoid stripping your still twitching carcass to the bone, then perhaps you may begin to see the advantages of locating these hand crafted lovelies?
The ‘Runes‘ are an altogether more in-depth affair. With the Runes come not minor, albeit important, bonuses, but they bring the currency that is necessary to ‘buy‘ and upgrade the mystery man’s mystical powers. And when you see the kinds of additional attributes that you can get your hands on you will soon begin to appreciate just why you must locate these talismanic runes as soon as possible.
At the first meeting with the enigmatic figure with the esoteric appearance, Corvo is given a still beating heart to better assist him in his locating of magic items such as the Runes and the Bone Charms and so, when equipped, the heart will reveal the locations, but not the paths, to these items.
But that’s not all, the heart also whispers to you, in sweet feminine tones, and offers up insights on your environment and even the dirty little secrets wich members of the public who you point this ‘all-seeing thumper’ at are keeping close to their chest. Grisly but great nonetheless.
The list of attributes that the Runes affect hits the ten mark, but four of those are ‘passive‘ skills, such as Vitality for extra health and Agility for better movement. These automatically come into play once you have purchased them with the required number of Runes. The six ‘active‘ skills are, in order of appearance but not in order off attainment as you may purchase whichever of the powers you desire without having to do so in sequence, Dark Vision, Blink, Possession, Bend Time, Devouring Swarm and Windblast.
All of these, without exception, are of impressive use and benefit to Corvo in his quest to save Princess Emily and find his Empresses killers and bring them to justice. All are bought with Runes, and all are upgraded with the same Nordic styled tokens. The beauty of them, however, is that they can be combined as pairs. So, for example, should you be at a particularly tricky point in the game where you must avoid the gaze of alerted guards but are in a position that would require you to normally make a mad panic dash for cover you can instead use the Dark Vision to locate your enemies and then quickly switch to Blink and be magically transported across to the safety of your desired cover without ever having to place yourself in harms way. Experimenting and practising with these powers will bring more precise results, and will so aid you with fantastic results toward your goals.
Dishonored is, without a shadow of a doubt, the finest game we have encountered for some time, and one that we are sure will receive the awards, plaudits and acclaim that it truly deserves. In an age where hardcore gamers complain daily about the dumbed down controls and game play contained in their favourite franchises because of developers pandering to a more casual audience, it is, then, with great enthusiasm that we bring to you this review of a title that has everything that all gamers have been waiting for. This highly thoughtful and challenging title makes players use that big grey squashy thing between their ears once again, and not before time. If you have been looking at recent announcements and demo’s, from Resident Evil to Silent Hill, and asking yourself ‘where did it all go wrong?‘ then Dishonored will once again restore your faith in developers and reignite that passionate fire that has been long extinguished in your gamers heart. Top marks then for our top title of 2012. Dishonored gets a well deserved 10 out of 10