A reincarnated Victorian-era London suffering from deadly and widespread plague provides the background of Arkane Studios’ latest blockbuster Dishonored, which places you in the shoes of the Empress’s personal bodyguard, wrongly framed for her murder.
The aspect I love most about this game was how I found myself immersed in the storyline of Dishonored; something which can be alienating in other games, particularly when exploring radical plotlines with unbelievable twists. The writing actually works to encourage the player to empathise with the character of Corvo Attano, and, despite fairly predictable game-changing curveballs, a combination of the first-person style and the fairly extensive longevity of the game allows you to become engrossed in the universe of Dunwall. The choices made mid-game also contribute directly to the ending you experience, which is made explicit before playing, allowing you to make informed decisions on the type of play-style you want to take on.
I would imagine ‘Choice’ was a key-word running through the minds of the development team over at Arkane Studios when considering level-design and gameplay elements of Dishonored. The game caters to your personal play-style and preference; are you the kind of person who wants to take on the world guns (and crossbow) blazing, engage in brutal swordplay, and utilise deadly steampunk-esque gadgets to vanquish your enemies? Would you rather hide in the shadows, possess the vermin littering the streets to take otherwise inaccessible paths to your target, and teleport away out of sight if you’re spotted? Maybe you think the best approach is a combination of both aggression and stealth, wiping out the opposition without a whisper. Whatever you choose, you’ll have a fantastic time progressing through the levels and watching the story unfold before you.
Having played through the game in its entirety, I can safely say the soundtrack was nothing particularly special; Dishonored is lacking in moments where the audio makes your hair stand on edge because it fits so perfectly; it remains fairly ambient and acts as background noise. Greater enjoyment comes from gameplay aspects such as mid-air assassinations enabling you to jump from a great height without taking damage and landing silently on your target; and the magical abilities available to unlock through collection of ‘runes’, enabling you to stop time, teleport and call a swarm of deadly plague rats, amongst others. The graphics are fairly standard for a game of this generation; although the overall cartoon-esque feel to the design creates a slight contradiction alongside the events of the game.
For a student budget, perhaps this game will be a taxing strain on your bank balance; as is the standard for a newly released games, it retails for £30 on Steam and around £35 on console. There are four different difficulty levels which not only alter the amount of damage you take, but also how perceptive enemies are, and how much health and mama you restore from drinking potions, leaving a lot of potential gameplay time for the completionists out there, but anywhere between 6-12 hours for those who just want to give it a one-over. Despite that, it’s a fantastic game which deserves to reside in your collection, particularly if you can grab it while on sale or pre-owned.