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Dishonored PS3 Review

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

By

Dishonored Cover

Dishonored Cover

Image © Bethesda
I must remain unseen. Not only am I concerned about the general chaos and fear my many recent murders have created in a city that thinks I betrayed it but I just don’t have the firepower for what’s going to come down upon me if an alarm is triggered. Between my character and my goal march a dozen well-armed soldiers, skitter countless rats carrying the plague, and stand electrical fences and alarms that will blow me into several pieces. I have some unusual supernatural powers that I could use to teleport upward for a high path or I could even possess a rat and find a low path. Maybe I’ll even bend time. Or, perhaps, I’ll just throw a grenade into that line of soldiers and see what happens. Welcome to the world of “Dishonored,” an incredibly ambitious action game that will absolutely connect with its target demo but suffers just enough from lackluster gameplay and storytelling to fall short of its true potential. It looks amazing and features a brand of gameplay that we haven’t seen this year. And yet it’s not quite as entertaining as one would hope. It’s like an art movie that is easy to admire but hard to love.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
  • Developer: Arkane Studios
  • ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
  • Genre: Role-Playing/First-Person Shooter
  • Pros: Gorgeous Graphics, A-List Voice Work, Ambitious Gameplay
  • Cons: Repetitive Missions, Dull Storytelling, Abundance of Trial-and-Error Gameplay

With echoes of “Deus Ex,” “Bioshock,” and “Assassin’s Creed,” you take on the role of Corvo Attano, a bodyguard to the Empress of Dunwall, a Victorian British whaling city with elements of Steampunk that has been overrun by the plague. You have just returned from a mission to investigate how to stop the disease when the Empress is killed in front of you, her daughter is stolen, and you are framed for the murder. After a hasty escape from jail, you’re united with a resistance front who task you with assassinating the key targets behind the reason for your downfall. The game is then comprised of story missions (with optional/side missions/objectives within them) in different settings around the city that change depending on how you accomplished the previous assignment. Leave a trail of bodies and make future assignments more difficult due to increased guard quantities and the rats that death brings. “Dishonored” is one of those games in which nearly every choice has a result and it could even be one you don’t realize until hours later.

Gameplay

Dishonored #1

Dishonored #1

Image © Bethesda

“Dishonored” is what you make it. Some have reported it’s very short in length and those players simply must be using crossbow bolts, grenades, and bullets instead of stealth and ignoring side missions and general exploration. If you kill everything in front of you including the fish and rats, it probably won’t take you long. Others will explore for hours, even days, finding different paths from point A to point B and the game’s many, many secrets. “Dishonored” is the kind of game in which you come to a door that can’t be opened and you’re surprised since so much of the city can be explored. You can use a power to blink up to abandoned apartments to loot or sneak through the sewers to find people trying to live down there. In general, stealth requires high or low paths. Going through the middle leads to beheaded guards.

As the game progresses, “Dishonored” has echoes of RPG elements in that you can upgrade your equipment and switch out your supernatural skills. Combat doesn’t change drastically throughout the game but your new abilities can often give you new ways to avoid it. In one situation, I was on the upper floor of a party and had to get past four guards. Their rotation through the hallways was too precise to sneak by and I was discovered on multiple attempts, only bringing more guards and absolute chaos. I tried various options, including throwing bottles to get one to come, knocking him out, and trying to hide the body. Didn’t work. After some frustrating options, I landed on a brilliant scheme to use my Bend Time power to go all Neo (or Max Payne) on three of them standing together with my sleep darts.

I offer this “Dishonored” anecdote for two reasons, the different responses to it that have left me as conflicted on my overall reaction to Bethesda’s game as any in years. On one hand, there’s something incredibly satisfactory about figuring out an action-based puzzle after an hour of struggling with it. On the other, spending an hour trying to get past four guards is simply annoying. There are multiple times in “Dishonored” (unless you’re big on many saves) in which you’ll find yourself stuck in a situation that requires a ton of trial-and-error. There’s no way out, I’ll try A. And then B. And, eventually, H. I wished that “Dishonored” had more room for error and didn’t feel so often like I was trying to solve a puzzle that gave the illusion of multiple answers but really only had one or two that would keep me alive.

I also wish “Dishonored” had more variety in its gameplay when it comes to the mission structure. “Go find this guy. Kill him.” It’s often the optional objectives and exploration of the city of Dunwall (trying to find Runes, Bone Charms, and the hundreds of books & notes that can be read in your spare time) that’s more captivating than the actual missions. Too much of the story of "Dishonored" felt like it was being told to me in cut scenes instead of something I was actually experiencing. The gameplay here is stunningly ambitious and the setting is one of the best of the gaming year but they serve an overly familiar story.

Graphics & Sound

“Dishonored” looks and sounds amazing (check out our screenshot gallery for a closer look. Technically, it’s one of the most notable games of the year and Dunwall is one of the year's most engaging environments. From the very beginning, I found myself pausing and looking at the scenery, from the way gulls circle the river in the stunning opening scenes to the detail of rooms that many players will never even find later in the game. The designers of “Dishonored” have created a complete world to the degree that one gets the impression that every building, every NPC, and even every rotting corpse has a story that they know. It helps the quality of the production to have A-list voice talent as well including Susan Sarandon, Brad Dourif, Carrie Fisher, and Chloe Grace Moretz.

Overall

Dishonored #5

Dishonored #5

Image © Bethesda
The push and pull of admiration and enjoyment worked at me throughout “Dishonored.” It’s a beautiful game with ambitious gameplay…so why aren’t I loving it? Where is that visceral reaction we have to the best video games? Where is that emotional hook? “Dishonored” is a game that simply should be played by most gamers because of the remarkable concepts at play and the stunning presentation but I wish I loved it more wholeheartedly. It’s such a malleable experience that your game could be very different from mine. Maybe I just need to play it again. I’ll try and cause less chaos this time.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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