Friday, January 3, 2014

Dishonored (Xbox 360) Review

Dishonored is set in a unique world, where there was a sort of industrial revolution set about by the discovery of "whale oil".  It is harvested from whales (obviously), and is used to power many machines.  The world looks similar to ours, but has a very different atmosphere and developed in a unique way.  Currently, there is a plague hitting the town of Dunwall, and Corvo, the character you play as, was sent to another county to ask for aid.  Upon your return, you are framed for the murder of the empress and the kidnapping of her daughter.  Time to clear your name.

The characters of the world are slightly stylized, meaning they look human but have different proportions and don't look 100% realistic.  They look pretty good, as the style of characters fits well into the world that has been created.  There is a lot of spoken dialogue, as all the major characters are fully voiced, and the random guards and other characters have a few lines of dialogue as well.  The voices are done really well, too, which helps the immersion.

Basically, the goal of each mission is to eliminate a key target.  You will go to an area close to your target and must make your way to them, bypassing numerous guards and other hazards.  Usually, you will want to take the stealth approach, but you can throw down and fight if need be.  This isn't advisable, since the swordplay isn't very good in the game.  You can parry and attack, but being offensive is the best way to throw away your health.  Guards, well, guard, and can do so even when completely open.  A guy will be aiming his pistol at you, but can magically block your attack with his sword from his hip before your swing hits him (and you are the one with super powers?).  Plus, the first person perspective makes it harder to fight groups of enemies, and there will likely be at least one guy taking pot shots at you while you try to deal with his buddies.

The stealth controls, however, are spot on.  On the normal setting, guards rarely see you when they shouldn't, and it's pretty easy to hide from them, even when you are close.  When behind cover, you can "lean" to check around corners and people can't see you.  Bodies can be picked up and moved, so as to not give away your position.  You can also map four different items or powers to the d-pad for ease of equipping.  Activating your equipped power or item is a quick button press away.  I didn't have any issues with the controls through the whole game, since they are fairly simple, responsive and fairly intuitive.

There are a myriad of powers, devices and paths to reach your target.  The game dubs this "play your way", and it is appropriate.  There are several ways through each area, from on high, down low, street level, and sometimes by way of possessing a small animal and making your way through small holes.  Or you can use whatever combination of those you want.  It's fun and refreshing.  There's even lots of things in the environment, from collectibles to items and money, so exploration is good.

Your power choices will also help you get to your target.  As mentioned earlier, you can possess small animals to make use of alternate routes.  You can slow or stop time to run through infested areas.  My favorite power is the one you get by default, Blink.  It is a short range teleport that is insanely useful throughout the game.  You can move beyond guards that are staring right you, or reach a higher ledge to another room.  Another fun power is one that will automatically disintegrate enemies that are stealth killed.  No need to hide the body!

To complete the "play your way", there are also non-lethal ways to get rid of the main targets.  Exploring the environment or listening to others can clue you in to what you will need to do.  Because of this, you can compete the entire game without killing a single person (or animal!)  There's even an achievement for it, but it's actually a fun challenge to do anyway.  The levels are designed in such a great way to make all of that possible.  Being able to make your way through the game with any combination of powers and playstyle is my favorite part of the game.

There are 9 missions in Dishonored, and multiple ways to accomplish each.  The time to play these can vary greatly based on your preferred style.  If you just go through, and stealth kill who you can, and flee or fight when seen, you can make your way through the game in a few hours.  If you want to go through the game as a ghost, never being seen nor killing anyone, it will take a lot of saving and reloading.  That, in turn, will make the game take much longer (it took me about 15 hours to do it this way).  The game itself is fairly short, but didn't feel short at all, it felt just right.  Plus, with different ways to play, powers to try, things to find and quests to complete, there are many reasons to play through the game a few times.  If you are so inclined, there are also three pieces of DLC that give combat trials and extend the story by having you play as Daud, the man that assassinated the empress if you want to extend the experience further.

As if the different ways to play the game weren't enough reason to play it several times, those that want achievements or trophies will surely be doing it.  You will need to play through it twice, to get both high and low chaos achievements.  Thankfully there are none for difficulty, so play whatever level you are comfortable with.  There's several for doing various things, like using the powers to move fast, stealth killing people, and completing a level without being spotted.  The hardest and most time consuming are for finishing the game without killing anyone and one for not being seen for the entire game.  My favorite ones are for neutralizing the main targets in non-lethal ways.

If you like stealth-based games, you will likely enjoy Dishonored.  The story is pretty decent, but the gameplay is the best part of the package.  It may be on the short side, but the many ways to play and several different paths to take give it good replay value.  I'm still amazed that you can do the whole game without killing a single person.  It's easily the best stealth game I've played, and one of the best games I've played recently.

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