Dishonored review

Written by Joe Martin

October 8, 2012 | 08:12

Tags: #arkane #dishonored #harvey-smith

Companies: #arkane-studios #bethesda #bethesda-softworks

Dishonored Review

What's just as important as understanding Dishonored's creative goal though is to understand where it slots in with the wider industry, because it's one of the first games I've seen which really takes on the lessons of games like Mirror's Edge and The Witcher. These were games which mostly devoted themselves to exploring particular ideas, such as movement and long-term consequences and which were remarkable for the way the presented these ideas. Dishonored is remarkable for incorporating these into a new, cohesive whole.

The way movement is handled in Dishonored is the most obvious example of this, with Mirror's Edge and Thief being clear influences. Corvo can run, jump and slide around his environment with gleeful fluidity, but he can also use his teleportation abilities to get the drop on anyone and possession to find new paths by taking over fish or rats.

It's hard to express how simply joyful moving around in Dishonored can be, or how many tactical options are opened by the breadth of Corvo's toolkit. I've spent hours launching frontal attacks where I slide at a guards legs and slash at his ankles as I pass or brazenly walking straight towards them only to teleport behind them just as they grow suspicious - taking advantage of their momentary confusion to throttle them. I've vaulted off of rooftops, spun to face the wall and teleported through open windows as I fell. I've frozen time, leapt and plucked grenades out of the air. I've done this because it satisfies me to move in these ways...

Dishonored review Dishonored Review
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More than that though, I've gone out of my way to do it just so I can explore the limits of what's possible and it's here that Dishonored really excels. It's not just that it feels a little bit free-runnery; it's that the way you move is a way for you to understand the environments and challenges around you. Playing Dishonored you understand how real the world is; that Dunwall isn't built out of climbable textures and non-climbable textures, but...just walls. Maybe they can be overcome, maybe not - that's up to you.

This is a reflection of how Dunwall was built, of course. Levels were built, tools were bestowed, testing began and Arkane plugged the critical gaps but left the others. It's an approach which gives the city a fantastic realness.

There's only one place where the design falters, in fact and that's in the staticness of the world. Whether it's just an oversight or a deliberate choice, you can't do things like stack boxes or barrels to form platforms or barricades and that occasionally causes the simulation to crumble. It's not that you particularly need it at any point, as you can teleport anywhere as it is, but when a grenade goes off next to a barrel on a ledge and it doesn't fall off...well, it's noticeable.

These rare occasions when the simulation is revealed for what it is are the only places where Dishonored really fails. There's a point at the start of the third mission when you're given a tutorial screen telling you only to 'Play your way', for example, while screen prompts will interfere to let you know an Outsider's rune is nearby. These are nice concessions for those who want to tackle the game on Easy difficulty, but at a higher level they feel like a needless intrusion.

Dishonored review Dishonored Review
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Then again though, this is the sort of stuff that games do all the time and that's usually overlooked. The fact that it's such a glaring flaw in Dishonored should speak volumes about the quality and cohesion of the whole. These are tiny niggles worth mentioning not because they ruin the game, but because they illuminate how good Dishonored is everywhere else - and also because I want Arkane to take on the feedback and iron this little crease out, if possible.

But enough of that; now it's your turn to send a message. If you're serious about games and, like me, have watched bitterly as intelligent and purposeful titles of this scale have become increasingly rare then you should feel obligated to buy Dishonored. Consider it a message to the rest of the industry: 'More of this, please.'

And even if you don't feel that strongly then still buy it anyway because, after all the big words and fancy philosophising, Dishonored is also just heaps of fun.
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  • Overall
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October 14 2021 | 15:04