Dishonored Review (PS3, Xbox 360)

Assassin's freed.

Set in a kind of dystopian diesel-punk industrial city, Dishonored is a mechanical master-work of clockwork intricacies.

Dishonored Tallboys

You begin your journey through Dishonored with a failure. Your in-game avatar – Corvo Attano – fails in his role as royal bodyguard. A team of assassins materialises from thin air, murders the Empress you’re charged with protecting and kidnaps her daughter Emily. Guards rush in, find you with the body of the Empress and immediately arrest you. You are, literally, Dishonored.

You’re tortured, imprisoned and quickly find out that you were framed (obviously) by a group staging a coup. But you have a mysterious ally who enables your escape and you soon meet up with a band of loyalists who have their own plan.

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Richly Layered Settings

The backdrop to this twisting tale is a crumbling city state, beset with a plague spread by rats and ruled over by a mixture of strict military regime and archaic religious zeal. Dunwall is modelled as a curious mix of London in two themes: Jacobian architecture and social splendour mixed with the authoritarian dystopia depicted in V for Vendetta or Orwell’s 1984. It’s a port town and everything seems to revolve around their whaling industry. Fortunes are made from it, foodstuffs are predominantly whale-based and the oil rendered from these unfortunate beasts powers most of the more modern technology around Dunwall.

That technology includes Arc Pylons and Walls of Light which will hinder your progress through each mission, whether you decide to approach it stealthily or not. Both of these electrical marvels will mean a swift death should you encounter them unprepared but both can be turned on your foe thanks to the inclusion of rewire tools. Add one of these collectible – or purchasable – gadgets to the device’s fuse box and it will reverse the effects of the deadly apparatus in question. Arc Pylons guard an area and zap you if you get too close, a Wall of Light acts as a terminal barrier that allows enemies to pass but ends your life instantly.

Rewiring them turns their deadly effects on your enemies but there is another way around them. If you can locate the power source – a container of glowing Whale Oil, plugged into the wall – you can remove it and shut off the deadly device completely. Whale Oil containers are also volatile, so it’s possible to shoot them from a distance, with your pistol or crossbow, and explode them in your enemies’ faces – a trick which is particularly useful later in the game when you’re facing the iconic “Tallboy” enemies. These are basically stilt walkers with armour and incendiary bows but they carry jars of Whale Oil on their backs, offering a convenient weak point with which to dispatch them.

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Technology isn’t the only means to dispatch an enemy: you’re also bestowed with magical abilities very early on by a mysterious ally, called the Outsider, who appears to you from another-dimension. He marks your hand, awarding you with the ability to upgrade and utilise a series of supernatural powers. The most useful of these is the Blink ability, which allows you to teleport over short distances at almost instantaneous speeds. It’s imperative for moving between cover if you’re being stealthy and also for climbing to find new routes through and around guarded areas.

Other powers you’ll be able to upgrade include the ability to possess rats and other animals – even humans if you upgrade enough. You’ll be able to wield a whirlwind-like attack which works like a Force Push, call on a swarm of hungry rats to dispose of your slain enemies or to slay them for you, see in the dark and through walls and slow or stop time around you. You can also upgrade your abilities to allow you greater agility, health, combat skills or have your enemies turn to ash when you kill them – negating the need to hide bodies in order to remain stealthy.

These upgrades are paid for with discovered Runes that are hidden around the mission areas and can be searched for with a beating heart given to you by the Outsider. As long as it is equipped, the heart will reveal the locations of Runes and Bone Charms – which themselves offer a small boost to your abilities and can be stacked to give you many combinations of skill boosting powers. The heart can also be pointed at characters and it whispers their secrets to you, enabling the discovery of new ways through missions.

What’s good:

  • You really can approach every scenario in a multitude of ways.
  • The evolving setting is complex and interesting.
  • Great use of supernatural powers to augment your skills.

What’s bad:

  • The crumbling city’s landscape becomes a little bland.
  • Some elements of the narrative are left unexplained.
  • Can be quite unforgiving on all but the easiest difficulty setting.

An Evolving Game World

Perhaps the most striking thing about Dishonored is the way the later stages of the game change, depending on how you’ve approached earlier missions. If you go through killing everyone and blowing things up, you’ll invoke a lot of chaos in the game world and later missions will be darker and more difficult to navigate stealthily. If you’re unreservedly violent, that pays off with certain dialogue at key points and with the end of game sequence drawing reference to it.

Although you’re never forced to play in a more subtle and quiet manner, it is encouraged that you kill as few enemies as possible and even attempt to traverse missions without being spotted at all. There are markers on the mission-complete round ups for this but despite multiple attempts, I was never able to complete a mission without being seen at all – indication that there are challenges there which will stretch the game’s playability well beyond the eight to ten hours it takes to run through series of missions. Or perhaps just indication of how much I prefer stabbing to hiding.

Dishonored is a complex game, although there are only nine distinct missions, there’s a lot involved in each one of them. The ability to return to any mission you’ve already completed and play through it in numerous ways not only provides plenty of longevity, it also encourages you to experiment and learn the intricacies of the game. This is not a first person shooter and it’s not a stealth game: it’s both and neither all at once. Dishonored is complex in its design and function but it’s also narratively smart and well scripted for its stellar cast of actors. Names on the bill include Lena Heady, Chloë Grace Moretz, Michael Madsen and Susan Sarandon – all established, well known actors lending their considerable talents to this tale.

Score: 9/10

49 Comments

  1. Hype train! All aboard!

    • Sorry, i’m still in borderlands right now and i don’t like it when i have to be in two trains at the same time

      • Kinda messy if they are going in different directions!! :O

  2. I want this.

    Think I’ll wait until the Steam sale though, unless it goes on offer before then.

    • Damn.
      Thought I’d pressed stop in time to add the last line. :(

  3. I want this.

    Think I’ll wait until the Steam sale though, unless it goes on offer before then.

    Great review, by the way, for what sounds like a great game.

  4. Getting similar good reviews around 90 all over, so I guess it can almost live up to the massive hype, which IMO was a bit to much.

    Picking it up Friday, got a good deal in my local Gamestop.

  5. Sounds right up my street, shame they’ve decided to launch it at the same time as everything else. If they’d released this around may I’d have been all over it on day 1. I reckon I’ll add this to lovefilm and put it as high priority.
    Good review as usual.

  6. all those screens aren’t in-game are they?!

    Never really paid any attention to this title before now but this review makes me very interested!

  7. Ridiculous release week with 4 retail games & 12 PSN titles.
    XCOM for me this week & one two things off the PSN

    I get why MoH is Honor, it’s an American award that we don’t have here & as such there is no translation to English from American English, but I don’t understand why Dishonored hasn’t been translated. I’m going to be an annoying fart who writes Dishonoured in comments sections.

    • Why would they translate the title? It’s the name of the game. They’re not calling the game “Entehrt” in Germany. Why should the UK get a special treatment?
      I’m guessing the dev studio is US based or they want to appeal to the bigger market (the US). Why people care so much about the spelling is beyond me.

      • The devs (Arkane) are French.

        In fact, when asked why they spelling was wrong (which i felt was quite a rude question to ask a dev), their reply was “we are French!”.

        That was enough for the crowd. :)

      • As far as I know the Franch and the British aren’t exactly best friends. Maybe they did it on purpose to piss the general public off. :P

      • ” I’m French. Why do you think I have this outrageous accent, you silly king? “

    • Ill be right there with you! Ill be making sure to add in the “U” in my desktop shortcuts.

    • I’m glad i’m not the only one thinking this! I just put ‘dishonoured’ in the search bar at the top of the site and was puzzled when nothing showed up!!

  8. Lets just hope it works on ps3, am sure someone pointed out to me they using different engine to fallout etc but its Bethesda you would be amazed

    • Bethesda are rubbish developers when it comes to the PS3 but fortunately they are only publishers this time around. I’m sure you’ll be fine :)

      • Oh thank goodness, was going wait & hear people moaning about the lag fest but since they just publishing, day 1 but hopefully

      • Yeah, don’t be put off by seeing Bethesda on the front of the game box – Games that they publish tend to be pretty bug free.

        Its only the games that they develop that seem to have little niggles.

      • Its not open world so it shouldn’t struggle much I’m sure.

      • It’s Unreal Engine 3, by the way.

      • Thank god for that as seeing enemy patrols floating up then dropping in front of you which gives away your position would be annoying as hell.

        Unlike the TES and Fallout series, Dishonoured(i will spell it that way) is not an open world game and doesn’t use the Creation engine thus being bug free.

    • I reviewed the PS3 version and not once did I encounter any issues.

  9. Cannot wait for this one :) Got my pre-order down

  10. I was going to pre-order, but i thought i would try to finish up a couple of games so that i could do some trade ins – Subsequently, i forgot to preorder with someone like game (well, i forgot to preorder at all as it goes!) & i have been spending all my time playing Borderlands & not finishing the game/s that i was intending to trade, so i’m just going to have to take my chances i think!

    In fact, i think i’ll have a look on my lunch & see if online stores are still taking pre-orders. No reason not to if i won’t be trading anything i guess!

    Either way, i will make it my mission to have this on Friday. Utterly blew me away at egx.

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