Dishonored Review: Tip-Toeing Around Chaos

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Vengeance is a beautiful thing in video games. Taking out the person or persons who offended you is rewarding and brings immense satisfaction of having the bastard pay. Dishonored makes things much more satisfying with the numerous options in which to take out your targets, but the consequences of your actions sometimes feel more like punishment.

You take the role of Corvo Attano, who was the former bodyguard of the now assassinated empress of Dunwall. After being framed for her murder it’s now your duty to take out the people who ruined your life, doing it quietly as a ghost or wreaking havoc and destruction.

The ability to accomplish a mission and take out a target in any manner possible shines through in this game. From using your abilities to take down enemies, to traversing the multiple paths in the environment, you can accomplish things any way you want.

Possess a rat and sneak your way into small holes in the building. Use your Blink ability to climb those buildings and keep an eagle eye view of the guards patrolling the streets. Guards catch you? Use Bend Time to slow time down and throw down a springrazor. Come back to normal time and the springrazor explodes tearing your enemies to shreds.

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Exploring the city of Dunwall is worthwhile even with its somewhat linear style of play. You are given singular missions, but the areas are open to exploration. You can find several side missions and characters to do jobs for which will also affect what happens to Dunwall, the citizens and even how you approach your current mission. While these side missions are helpful at times the incentive to accomplish them wasn’t strong. Some missions don’t offer that much help in your quest for revenge so it’s more of a distraction than helpful. Look for the ones that offer nice rewards though.

Exploring also helps with acquiring and upgrading your powers. The game’s collectibles, runes and bone charms, are hidden throughout each level. Runes are used to permanently improve your powers and receive new ones to your arsenal. Bone charms are used to slightly improve things like health, basic combat abilities and your weapons. These collectibles are worth exploring the environment deeply. The improvements are worth the danger, so you can become a better assassin.

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While all of these different options offer a rewarding sense of choice the combat can often feel like you’re going to be punished. The city is already in turmoil and your killing (or lack thereof) could lead to a more, or less, chaotic city. Killing guards can be entertaining with the number of options you have at your disposal, but there’s a punishing feeling in your gut knowing each of their deaths will only contribute to Dunwall’s troubles.

I once rewired an arc pylon ( a devastating machine that zaps enemies to ash) against the guards and while watching each being struck by bolts was entertaining, I immediately felt bad knowing I created more chaos. It may not be punishing you directly, but knowing you’re punishing Dunwall is just as disheartening and loses the appeal of interacting violently at all.

The chaos mechanic is also very binary in its representation. You either create low chaos or high chaos and the way it’s tallied is unknown most of the time. Finding out how much chaos you caused is only represented at the end of the mission so you have no idea how your actions have created chaos until after the fact. The score screen represents the chaos as a current total, so my guess is that even with my average four to five guard deaths those deaths could build up to high chaos eventually.

Overall, Dishonored is a blast to play. My recommendation is to play a mix of violence and stealth to get the most out of the creative options in your arsenal, trying not to worry about chaos. You can always go back and play stealthily to accomplish a low chaos playthrough. Remove the sense of punishment looming over you and Dishonored is one hell of a stealth game.

Dishonored is available through GameFanShop, Amazon and other retailers for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. For more reviews from Senior Stiv take a look at Joe Danger 2: The Movie.

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