Tuesday, October 16, 2012

[REVIEW] Dishonored

Release Date: October 9, 2012
System Reviewed: Xbox 360
Plays Like: Deus Ex, Thief, BioShock

What's Great: First and foremost, the one thing I loved the most was the art direction. Thanks to art director Sebastien Mitton (BioShock 2) and designer Harvey Smith (the original System Shock, as well as the first two Deus Ex games), working with Viktor Antonov - the lead director on the game, who also helped create Half-Life 2 - you have this wondrous world, built on parts from steampunk, crossed with gothic architecture, and a little BioShock Infinite, as well. Fame isn't what I'm getting at here, it's the history these gentlemen have. With wondrous games under their belt, out on store shelves and praised by critics, you have this amalgamation of brilliant ideas that culminate in a blend of fantastic art direction and level design.

Going with said level design, the multiple ways to achieve your goal is splendid, being given various ways to complete objectives. You may start out with "kill this guy" as your objective, but on your way to the boat to depart, you are given a side mission to "spare this fellow", and by doing so, you open up another method of taking out your target. Hell, you may even befriend a particular shopkeep who offers to take care of a hit, but requires the combination to an aristocrat's safe in his abandoned home as payment. Furthermore, and it must be said, the absolute beauty in the game design is that you can go through your game and not kill one...fucking...soul.

Finally, there's the Chaos system, which doesn't act as a morality system, but more of how stable the game world is. With the rampant rat plague in the world, it turns our victims into "weepers", who spew the plague forth from their mouth, and attack anything but their own kind. The more dead bodies you leave in your wake, the more food the infested rats have, and with a food supply, their numbers grow, infecting more people. Further in the game, a higher Chaos in the world means more rats, more weepers, and more, well, chaos in the game, making it more difficult (or easy, depending on how you look at it) to make your marks. The Chaos system - combined with some key choices throughout the game - will eventually tell the end-tale to your story.

What's (Not So) Great: Unfortunately, when you spend more time to the gameplay, level design, and art direction, some things get put to the wayside. Key point: the story. Not only is it convolulted, it's burdened with many sub-plot-points. I can see it as a way to help build this new fictional world, but you have (let's count): Orwellian government control on the rise, plague-infested rats, whale oil, magic, kidnapped princess, and prohibition...there is a lot going on in the game world. Just let Penny Arcade take the lead on this one.

The controls can be difficult to learn, as a few things - such as trying to subdue an enemy from behind - may not be as clear to the game as they are to you; there have been many a time where I have hit [RB] to choke a guy out, and I just bring my sword up to block. The lack of a map is the one thing that absolutely bugged the shit out of me. There are even maps you find in the game of the layout, but for some reason, you can't bring it with you and reference it. I can see in areas where a map may end up breaking the game, but if you are the former Empress' bodyguard, who is in a seemingly not-so rag-tag group of misfits, who have access to armaments and a hideout the government has yet to find, you'd think you could carry a piece of parchment with a map on it.

Mission history isn't great. I wish we had something along the lines of Skyrim, at least, where the dialogue in the mission history menu would update itself when you perform a major milestone in your current mission. Instead, we get a "Kill this guy" line, and the blurb off to the right is just about the main target, and not about the currently selected (sub)mission.

Bottom Line: With a bevy of developers with a hell of a repertoire to boot, Dishonored has shaped up to be a hell of a fantastic new IP. The ending doesn't necessarily hint at future installments, but considering Dunwal is the capitol of just one of the four islands that make up the Isles (and that Corvo had been sent away to those islands prior the beginning of the game), there is, no doubt, more to explore in this world.

Grade: A

(Completed the game on Normal difficulty, earning 24 out of 50 Achievements, totaling 430 GamerScore. To avoid spoilers, I earned the "Just Dark Enough" Achievement, which indicates I had a low Chaos level when beating the game. If you want to see what that means, highlight the following text: a successful rescue of Emily put her on the throne, and rescuing Piero and Sokolov helped create a cure for the plague. Corvo, himself, played out his duty as bodyguard to Emily, and upon his passing, was buried in the same tomb that the Empress herself was buried.)