15 November 2012 | bob the moo
A little too much a jack of all trades and could have done with more to do, but still an enjoyable game
I was fortunate to be able to borrow Dishonored from a friend rather than buy it – although the names behind the game and the marketing had made me want to get it anyway. The plot of this game sees you imprisoned for killing the Empress – the woman you were employed at the highest level to protect. You escape the prison and join up with a band committed to removing those who seized power after the assassination, a band who have plans that can make use of your powers of stealth and cunning. How you proceed is up to you – you can kill everyone you meet by stealth, incapacitate them and hide their unconscious bodies or slip by everyone without being seen and complete the story with foes removed but no actual blood on your hands.
The game plays very well in this regard because you can approach missions in different ways. I tended to go for stealth and non-violent removal of guards just to make life easier (I never had to worried about being spotted by those behind me if I left nobody behind me!) and it was only when things got dicey when I resorted to killing. I liked that dealing with the overall targets had the same options, so it was possible to hunt down information to discredit somebody publicly instead of just stabbing them in a room. The mix of styles allows for several playthroughs and I found it quite satisfying to play it how with a natural approach and then also try to do it as a complete ghost and then as a total killing machine – each approach has its own challenges and this I enjoyed. I could have done with some more meat on the bone though, in particular because the game has elements of open-world gaming to it and could have done with more.
What I mean by this is that there are collectibles that help you develop your character (which is very much a sandbox thing) but yet the game works in levels and has a clear end point. You can replay levels but you reset to your level and power on your first playthrough when you do so. There are side missions (again open world) but they mostly fit in with the main story to the point where they do not feel like distractions – they don't add much time to the game because in most cases they involve a slight change of route to do them. I would have liked more of this because the game is pretty short; I don't game for long periods but even playing for no more than a few hours a night, I was able to sneak my way through the game even doing the side missions – it would have nice to have had more in the way of random encounters and more meat to those that did exist (the safes are a good example – but their reward is hardly worth it). The lack of these distractions does tend to mean that route 1 is the clearest way to go, meaning a shorter game.
It is still well designed though and I liked the various ways of getting through areas, the gameplay was varied and for those that seek achievements, the spread of them is such to force you to play with or without magic, with or without killing anyone etc. Visually the game is a good idea with not so brilliant delivery. The semi-steampunk Victorian world of machines and old weapons is one that appeals to me and in any specific example I liked it. However as a full world I was surprised by how rather basic it was in design but also delivery. The graphics are good – but not quite "this generation" good. Some of the rendering and details are poor although the slightly cartoony feel to the characters etc do help cover this as being deliberate. It still looks good and the key thing is it plays smoothly, but the delivery never quite lives up to the concept.
Overall though, this is an enjoyable stealth game with opinions in how you want to approach it, which adds life to the game. I was finished within a few weeks though (on limited playing time) and I am glad that I did not pay for the game. Probably one for a rental unless you are an achievement chaser and a stealth game fan, in which case there is probably more life from it. Enjoyable game – just not enough to it to really be great.