If you’re looking for a modern take on Deus Ex, this stealth-based action-adventure won’t disappoint.
Over the years, there have been numerous stealth games that revitalized the genre, including Metal Gear Solid 4, Hitman Absolution, Mark of the Ninja and of course, Deus Ex, among many others, but none like Dishonored. Bethesda Softworks’s stealth game mixes several elements and the result is a unique title that’s satisfying to play thanks to the freedom available to complete its missions, the entertaining powers at your disposal and the detailed environments around you.
In Dishonored, you assume the role of Lord Protector Corvo Attano, the bodyguard of the Empress of the Isles. Corvo has spent some time abroad and the reason for his recent journey involved looking for a cure to the plague that’s infecting his beloved country. But soon after arriving to his homeland, Corvo’s framed for the murder of the empress and the abduction of her daughter. Your adventure begins in Colridge Prison where you need to escape before your execution. Luckily, a resistance group known as the Loyalists know that your imprisonment is a conspiracy and not only will they help you, but also figure out how to imbue Corvo with magical abilities that will help him reclaim Dunwall and assassinate everyone who conspired against him.
Traversing the environments is one of the Dishonored’s strongest points. By pressing B, you enter stealth mode which means that your character moves slowly and avoids making noise. Usually, you’ll move in the shadows and use objects in your environment as cover. But what fun would hiding be if you didn’t have some weapons to kill enemies that get in your way? Additionally, Corvo can dual-wield those weapons which means that you can have a sword in your right hand and a crossbow or gun in your left hand. Going guns blazing and killing everything that gets in your way is possible, but the game encourages you to use stealth as your main ally, so you’ll spend most of your time crouching, hiding, running and killing enemies from the back.
Should everything else fail, you can take the “guns blazing” approach and shoot and slash everything around you, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s hard to survive when there are more that two foes trying to kill you and they can do that in a few seconds if you’re not careful. On the opposite side of the spectrum, this is one of those games that you can finish without killing a single enemy and while this is certainly up to each player, it’s great to see it as an option.
Although the missions are exactly the same to everyone, different players with different playstyles can complete them in the way they prefer: you can kill all enemies, don’t kill anyone, infiltrate using an underground path, gracefully jump from rooftop to rooftop, go off the beaten path to collect secret items and the list of possibilities goes on and on. The result is usually the same regardless of the path you choose (though trying to kill everything certainly takes some time and you can die several times if you’re not careful,) but how you get to that point is up to each player and that level of freedom and choice is impressive. Also, the game adapts to different playstyles, so if you, like me, find most stealth games intimidating, you’ll find Dishonored more accessible and entertaining.
Apart from the aforementioned arsenal of weapons, Corvo also has access to special spells and magical abilities and this is where Dishonored becomes different from its peers. These abilities, consume mana every time you use them, but they allow you to do some creative things. You can teleport nearby, propel enemies into the air using a powerful gust of wind, slow down everything around you, summon a pack of rats that eats your enemies alive and so on.
Combining your arsenal of weapons and these magical abilities make Dishonored a blast once you figure out some of the more creative ways of dispatching enemies. You could, for instance, pause time, enter a room with several enemies, throw an explosive grenade, leave the room and see the explosive unfold from the keyhole. There are endless possibilities to the same scenario, but if you take a few seconds to analyze the tools at hand, you can achieve some amazing things.
There’s also a chaos meter which is basically a disguised morality system in which the story changes according to some of your actions. In this case, the chaos meter is affected by the number of people you kill during missions and the higher the number, the more rats and weepers (zombie-like creatures that roam some of the cities you visit) you’ll have to face and the “darker” the story will become.
Structurally, Dishonored is simple yet effective. At the beginning of your quest, you need to talk to people to accept a mission. Soon after that, you can accept side-quests, which usually involve assassinating an alternative target who’s hiding somewhere. It’s worth mentioning that while you’re in your hideout, you can also improve your weapons and equipment or purchase additional ammunition.
One of the best parts about Dishonored is that you can play it however you want. If you want to be patient, plan your every move and creatively combine magic powers with the array of weapons you have at your disposal, you can definitely do that. On the other hand, if you want a game that doesn’t punish every mistake you make or if you want a stealth game that lets you improvised once you’ve been spotted, Dishonored is also that game. In a way, Dishonored bridges the gap between hardcore stealth games with one that doesn’t feel overly punishing and that’s its biggest triumph.
While I played Dishonored I ran into some technical problems, though none of them soured my experience, they were more than noticeable. There were some detection collision problems and some of the characters moved in contrived ways (such as floating above ground.) To be fair, I only noticed these issues because the game looks terrific most of the times. Also, I love the universe that Bethesda crafted around this game and some of the characters resonated with me, but despite all that, I was never invested in the story, since it simply felt like something that was there to encourage me to kill enemies and that’s it.
In conclusion, Dishonored is a stealth game that has the potential to attract fans of the genre and newcomers alike. It achieves that with lavishly created levels, fun powers that allow you to improvise and carefully laid out scenarios that you can approach however you want. There may be some graphical missteps here and there, but if you’re looking for a modern take on Deus Ex, this stealth-based action-adventure won’t disappoint.