Thursday, January 10, 2013

Esther Plays: Dishonored

Usually around the scheduled school breaks, I find a video game to occupy my time. This is because by the time breaks come along, I find that I desire nothing else than to sprawl myself out on a couch with a three-foot long Twizzler in one hand and a game controller in the other. I had been interested in playing Dishonored for a while, after I saw the intriguing trailer. (Ages 16+)

I'm a big fan of steam-punk style games. I'm also a big fan of the stealth genre, ever since Beyond Good and Evil. I have just recently finished the game. So, how good was it?


This is the tale of Corvo Attano, the silent and unsurprisingly handsome bodyguard of the Empress of a fictional land.

Don't you want to hug him?

The empire is in chaos. A deadly plague is sweeping the city and turning everyone into angry jerks. (This is probably because they are vomiting blood and their brains are turning into mush, but manners are still important.) Just as Corvo gets home from a long trip, the Empress he is supposed to be protecting is killed in front of his eyes. In other words, he's terrible at his job. He is framed by the government for his boss's murder, and is sentenced to be executed. With the help of some allies, he escapes and sets out to take revenge against those who wronged him. Apparently Corvo is bad at protecting people because he's really, really good at knocking people out.

The plot is streamlined and easy to follow, with just enough intrigue to keep you interested. There are very few plot twists, however, and all are predictable. As fantastic as the setting is, with its brooding skies, strange machines, and dilapidated buildings, there isn't a lot of story here. As you traverse the surroundings, it would be nice to have larger snippets of the history of the city you're trying to change. It would allow for an immersing experience. However, the main plot is pleasing and has a tight narrative, so getting bored shouldn't be an issue.

If you chose to kill everyone who has wronged you, the story acts out differently. The more you kill, the more the plague spreads, the more plague victims you see, and more rats try to rip the flesh off your bones. You also  get a different ending.

If you chose to be a saint, then you get a happier ending and less things trying to kill you at the end of the story. You can get through the game without killing anyone, a plot which I chose to follow.

The variations for the story are very nice, however each of the endings are unsatisfying. For all the work you put into not killing people, which can be very hard, you get a rather short and non-immersing ending. If you chose to join the dark side, surprise, you get a rather short and non-immersing ending. I would have rather had one really good ending than have several slapped-together ones.


Gameplay is the best part of Dishonored. Because the way you act affects the story, you may want to play through again just to see how your actions affected the world around you. It feels great to successfully get through a level without being detected by anyone, or to jump from a high building directly onto the person you're targeting.

The stealth aspect of the game is made stronger with the presence of magic. A magical spirit has taken interest in you, and has blessed you with the power of being awesome. These powers include teleportation, seeing through walls, controlling people's minds, summoning swarms of rats, and turning your enemies into ash. In order to get these powers, you buy them with runes, magical objects that you find throughout the game. You will probably find yourself searching everywhere for these runes, and it is a lot of fun to collect them all.

However, you don't need any powers to beat the game, really. And only two powers are actually incredibly useful. The other powers, while flashy, only offer different solutions to the problems you can solve in a more straight-forward way. Most of the powers are offensively based, which doesn't offer a lot for the players who are trying to get through the game without killing anyone. In the end, I had a ton of runes to spend because there were no powers left that I hadn't maxed out that weren't used to slaughter rooms of people.

If you do use the powers to kill people, you will find the game ridiculously easy. People really don't stand a chance against Corvo when he is a demi-god of insane proportions.

They turned to ash a few seconds after this was taken.
This imbalance is a little infuriating, but then it's also cool to blast your way through your enemies in a flashy, dramatic blur. It's kind of like you're a ballerina dancing through the city with strobe lights sewn onto your tutu, except the strobe lights happen to be lasers.

The combat is fleshed out and stealth is really good, so you'll have fun however you play. It's a shame that the game isn't fleshed out in many other areas, however. Your enemies are all clones of each other, just with different faces. There are a lot of cases of unique dialogue, but you'll also hear the same pieces of dialogue repeated every level. If I took a shot every time I heard someone say, "Stupid rats, stupid plague, stupid god****", I would die of alcohol poisoning. It's also strange how sometimes your enemies are blissfully unaware of you at times, but a few moments later have superhuman hearing.

It's also a shame that everyone in the city is basically evil. Since there are so many soldiers, you would think one of them was at least a moral sort of person. However, everyone is corrupt. The lack of variation makes it very easy for all your enemies to blur together, and make you question if the city is even worth saving.

You can also collect bone charms, which offer superficial bonuses to your character. For example, one lets your breathe underwater longer. Some of them are very useful, but for some reason I never felt inclined to hunt for them.

Fighting, sneaking, and infiltrating are great fun. It's also fun to find no-kill solutions to your enemies. The city is built in such a way that you'll find there are half a dozen ways to get into any building, and it's fun to test them out.


The art direction is very good, and the buildings are clean-cut and clear. I especially like the lighting, which seems perfectly placed. I found that the faces of most characters were rather ugly and less detailed compared to the rest of the surroundings, which is a shame. Still, a very pretty game. It runs very slow if your computer doesn't have a good graphics card.


The voice acting of this game is awesome. Corvo never speaks, which is something I find kind of stupid, but all of the other characters do. The villains are especially well done, which isn't saying much because everyone is basically evil. However, I found the delivery of all the lines very well-done, even though the lines are often repeated a lot. There isn't much in the way of a soundtrack, which is all and good. It would be kind of hard to get in the stealthy mood with To Glory playing in the background. Sometimes I found sounds to miss their cue, like when a bottle drops and the sound of broken glass comes too slowly.


Dishonored is a good game, but something holds it from greatness. While the gameplay is fleshed out and there are a lot of things to collect, plot is lacking and character interactions are shallow. The only way to humanely deal with enemies is to sneak by them or to choke them out, which gets rather repetitive. The characters represented are usually only on the darker side of the personality spectrum, and it would be nice to have enemies who weren't so obviously bad. It would have added depth to the game. All three of the endings are unsatisfying. Still, it's a great game and should not be missed just because it misses a few places.


1 comment:

  1. A very nice review Esther. It made me want to play the game and I laughed a few times there.