Review: Dishonored / Developer: Arkane Studios / Publisher: Bethesda / Platform: Xbox, PS3, PC / Release Date: Out Now
Developed by Arkane Studios, Dishonored puts you in control of the disgraced Corvo Atto, former bodyguard to Empress Jessamine Kaldwin of the industrial city of Dunwall (in which the game is set). Falsely accused of her assassination and the kidnap of her daughter, Atto finds himself on death row before being rescued by the Loyalists, which is where the fun begins…
Armed with a pistol, cutlass and a suite of supernatural powers (imbued upon you by the mysterious Outsider), Dishonored truly makes you feel like an efficient assassin. One of the more satisfying aspects of the game is the ability to approach any scenario in a myriad of ways. Whether you attack with force, silently silence your enemies or, like mist in the wind, glide through the levels without dispatching a single foe; it is your choice. Enticing as it is to avoid drawing blood, the urge to kill does prove to be irresistible at times. It’s also frighteningly easy to do with your many abilities; summon a swarm of rats to devour flesh and bone, lay a spike trap to amputate stray limbs from wandering enemies… or just stab them in the face. The most useful ability is blink, which allows Atto to teleport. This helps in numerous ways, particularly when up against foes with the same ability, and you’ll find yourself falling back on it regularly. There is a good variety of enemy types, each providing their own challenge with different strengths and weaknesses against certain attacks. Combat is a joy and it’s always fun when fighting one on one, racing to see who can fire the first round from their flintlock pistol, as if it were a duel over honour. It‘s these small moments that make the game extremely enjoyable.
The look of the game, from Dunwall through to its inhabitants (both good and bad), has its own style, strange yet familiar; It’s dystopian steampunk, with that extra twist. The buildings have strong edges and their narrowness is slightly exaggerated, giving the sensation of being oppressed by the architecture itself. The different classes of society are highlighted with every level in the game, from the sewers in which people have assembled make shift shelters, to the party filled mansions and the palatial symbols of power. Each new mission provides a contrasting visual aesthetic to the previous one. The narrative is one of the game’s strongest points, twisting and turning with many genuine moments of shock or surprise. This is neatly complimented by a compelling musical score and a strong voice cast that includes Susan Sarandon, Michael Madsen, Chloe Moretz and genre heavyweights Carrie Fisher and Lena Headey.
With Dishonored, Arkane Studios has achieved the seemingly impossible; Amid sequels and worn out franchises they’ve provided a new IP with fresh ideas. Make no mistake this is a true contender for game of the year.