Review: Dishonored (Xbox 360)
I have a lot of time for Bethesda. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind was the first game I bought for the original Xbox, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was the first game I bought for the Xbox 360, and Fallout 3 is one of my favourite games of all time. In recent years, as far as I’m concerned, the name Bethesda is linked to quality. At least, that’s the case when they develop a game – but when it comes to games they publish it’s been a bit of a mixed bag. I didn’t think much of Star Trek: Legacy, but I really enjoyed WET. I didn’t think much of Brink, but I loved Fallout: New Vegas. I didn’t think much of Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, but RAGE exceeded my expectations and proved to be more than just a pretty face. It goes to show that you can’t predict the quality of a game just from the name of its publisher. Dishonored was developed by Arkane Studios who brought us Bioshock 2, a game which I found disappointing following the brilliance of its predecessor. This chunk of text was my thought process before I started playing Dishonored. In other words, especially as I managed to avoid all screenshots and videos in the build-up to its release, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.
My first impressions weren’t very good. I played for about an hour – did a bit of sneaking and a bit of killing – and it didn’t grab me, plus I had a few things to be getting on with, so I saved the game and switched it off. Three days came and went and I still didn’t feel like playing Dishonored. I couldn’t put my finger on why but, as I said, it just didn’t grab me. I decided to play it anyway, because I had to, and I’m really glad I did.
The city of Dunwall, modelled after Victorian London, is a dirty, rat infested, plague-ridden, hell hole, but its future could be much brighter if it wasn’t for the oppressive regime in charge. This is a videogame review, and people often turn to games to escape the harsh realities in the world, so I’ll avoid being too serious, but the inequalities in this game, with a magnifying glass held up to the class system, runs parallel to the ongoing real world recession. In one part of the city, the wealthy, with their extravagant parties, enjoy their lives of luxury. In another part of the city, just beyond the walls which save the rich from having to mix with the poor, a curfew is enforced with violence, and the less fortunate are left to die in streets infested by rats who are only too happy to fill their bellies.
You play a royal bodyguard named Corvo Attano and when the empress, the woman you have sworn to protect, is killed right in front of your eyes, you find yourself framed for her murder. That’s a pretty bad day at the office but to make matters worse, her daughter Emily, who is next in line for the throne, is kidnapped. You’re thrown into prison and the person responsible for the death of the empress and the disappearance of her daughter stands right in front of you and gloats about how you’ll be executed and no-one will ever discover the truth – but you have other ideas. Corvo has plenty of tricks up his sleeve, from being a dab hand at slicing and dicing people to teleportation (this ability is called “Blink” in the game) and other magical powers, and he’ll need to make good use of them if he’s to succeed in his task.
Stealth plays a big part in Dishonored and anyone familiar with the brilliant Thief series or Bethesda’s recent Elder Scrolls titles will know what to expect. In most missions you’ll have one or two main targets, who must be assassinated, but other than those individuals it should be perfectly possible to sneak around and take care of your other objectives without so much as bumping into an enemy let alone having to kill them. In my case, and this is reminiscent of every other stealth game I have played, things went a little differently. There were times when bodies were piled up in front of me after a sneak attack turned out to be not quite as sneaky as I had planned. There were other times when I threw stealth completely out the window and was running around knifing people like a total psychopath.
There are multiple endings to Dishonored and, due to my unhinged knife-happy tendencies – which, apparently, made me an unsuitable role model – the ending I got was dark and twisted. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. With different endings, depending on how you approach the missions at hand, plus a variety of magical powers – most of which I hardly used, there’s definitely some replay value here.
There are a couple of negative things you may have read about Dishonored; the graphics are ugly and the game is 6 hours long. The game is only ugly when it’s meant to be ugly. I think it’s a quite attractive game, in a gloomy kind of way. The stylised characters, which are Burtonesque, are certainly “no Sharon Stone” but they’re a perfect fit for the twisted world they inhabit. As for the “6 hours” thing, that’s a lot of nonsense if you play the game as it’s meant to be played. Yes, it’s possible to fly through the game if you focus on the main story and ignore all the side missions, but why would you want to do a thing like that?
I really enjoyed Dishonored and Arkane Studios did a great job of creating a world which, when it grabbed my attention, held me until the end credits rolled. The inclusion of stars from film and TV helps bring attention to a game but it can sometimes be a distraction. It’s testament to the quality of writing, and the talent of the stars, that I didn’t even notice the voices of Susan Sarandon, Brad Dourif, and Lena Headey. Dishonored is a great game and if your money isn’t tied up in massive titles such as Assassin’s Creed 3 and Halo 4 then this might be the game for you.