Dishonored: Stealth has never been so fun

Dishonored: Stealth has never been so fun

Photo courtesy of dishonored.com

A stealth game taking place in a Victorian-style steam punk land that promotes exploration but still manages to feel balanced by way of super natural powers; this is something that sounds like I would get up early in the morning to buy on day one…because I did.

In this game we play the oddly named Corvo, a master assassin who is framed with killing the empress he was supposed to protect and later is tasked with seeking revenge and rescuing the new empress who has been kidnapped.

If you’re thinking this all sounds generic, it’s because it is; people trying to gain power over a kingdom and saving the helpless princess isn’t exactly ground breaking in videogames, but the story is irrelevant. The gameplay which allows you to stop time, see through walls, summon rats, possess bodies, teleport, and use an energy blat made of wind.

It’s what would happen if they combined Bioshock with Assassin’s Creed with a little bit of Half Life 2 thrown in. It’s very stylized, with characters and scenery looking like they’re from a painting. In addition the controls are very rarely taken from you and you’re never bogged down with cutscenes. The main objective in each level is to assassinate your target but the option is also present to let them live or just passive-aggressively ruin their lives.

Dishonored does somewhat have a moral choice system, but in the end it just leads to good ending, bad ending or really bad ending. To get one or the other, you simply have to not kill people, which is hard with all the flavors of powers you have.

Your weapons include swords, guns, arrows, bombs, and a talking half-mechanical heart that can reveal the inner most secrets of the landscape and your fellow man. But the real meat of the game is your powers, which can seemingly be used in whatever style you want.

Let’s take three random powers: rats, possession, and stop time. These three can be used in almost any given situation.

For example, you want to do a no-kill stealth run. You could summon some rats as a distraction while you sneak by using time stop to sneak past the next check point. Possess one of the guards there and deactivate their security system to make it easier to go undetected.

If you’re low on health and you are swarmed with enemies in a closed off room and you just want to escape: stop time, summon rats, possess one rat and leave the room via an air duct, emerging in the next room over.

The game’s level design really comes alive the most when it compliments your powers in that you can tackle each obstacle the way you want to. So if the gameplay is great, the visuals are pretty, and the levels are encouraging, all that’s left is a good plot to wrap it all up…unfortunately this where Dishonored fails for me.

That generic set up is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the game’s lackluster story. Almost nothing is explained about the characters other than “he’s good” and “he’s bad.”

Dishonored falls into the same trap that a lot of games make in that Corvo has almost no back story explained at any point. A colleague said my exploits were “legendary” and all I could think of was “Really? I’m legendary, what did I do?”

While it is nice to get to kill some of the guys who framed me, I also have to kill their associates which I know nothing about. There’s no satisfaction there to be had, so at least Corvo isn’t the only character who is poorly developed.

At the start the of the game, we’re led to believe that after the people who framed you took over, things all went to hell but we never get to see that transition. The same is said for the ending; we don’t see the fate of the kingdom get better or worse respectively. It’s just explained that it happens through a small cutscene.

Despite a boring story and one-dimensional characters, I still highly recommend the game for its gameplay if nothing else; even if you’re not a fan of stealth games, its tight controls and good level design makes it so you can approach each scenario differently depending on your preferred gaming style.
When was the last time you: took control of a fish to swim in a sewer system then took control of a rat to go through the ventilation, warped across a balcony to your target, stopped time to chop his head off then used his head to hold a shrapnel bomb, then thrown said trap at the guard that was supposed to be protecting him?

Because for Corvo that’s a typical Tuesday afternoon.