Dishonored is a first person stealth adventure game set in the fictional city of Dunwall, a place that seems to be going through a period that is akin to the industrial revolution. It’s also suffering through a seemingly mysterious and incurable plague spread by rats. You play Corvo Attano, the personal bodyguard of the Empress of Dunwall. The game begins with your return from a months long mission to see if anyone else in the world has encountered the rat plague and if they could offer any insight into how to save the population. Predictably, she’s assassinated and you are the lead suspect in her murder, which also lands you in gaol.
It’s obvious that the game doesn’t just begin and end in the gaol and your first goal is to sneak out with some assistance from conspirators who will most likely need you to help them. When you do get out, it’s been about six months since you were captured and you meet the conspirators who helped you escape, Admiral Havelock and Lord Pendleton. The rest of the plot is pretty pedestrian, but it’s really the gameplay and the design itself that really shines about the title.
Whilst the storyline takes itself quite seriously, the art direction is – in my mind at least – quite the opposite of that, especially in the character designs. Faces have exaggerated features such as cheeks, mouths and much larger than usual eyes, which in some characters adds quite a sinister look. Dunwall is seen as a dark and partially polluted city in the midst of an immense transformation from agricultural to industrial output. Even if there is sunshine, the lighting seems subdued. It gives a slight Holmesian London feel. Except the population speaks in American accents. That takes a bit of the believability out of it.
The fun thing about the gameplay is the unique magical powers given to you by The Outsider. They can get you out of trouble in a blink and create some really innovative ways to get the job done. In fact, much of the game play is quite similar to 2011’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution. That and not using any ranged weapons and either knocking out or stabbing everyone to death. Apart from the crossbow and some innovative use of The Outsider powers, there’s literally no need to fire a gun to kill anyone. In fact, the ultimate challenge is to get through the entire game, having not killed a soul and never being detected.
I thought the game was plenty of fun, allowed scope for both exploration and experimentation to pass the mission. However, I did find Dishonored quite short in its plot line and there don’t seem to be the large number of missions as its futuristic contemporary, Human Revolution. It is slightly hobbled by the fact that the entire game is set in the city state of Dunwall, but it could have been expanded if Dunwall was the capital of a nation and the conspiracy didn’t begin and end there.