I have no problem admitting that I am a Bethesda fan-boy. It’s a fact of my life that I LOVE Bethesda games. So when Dishonored was finally hitting shelves (and it was after pay-day) I was pumped for this game. Steam-Punk action stealth thriller set in a dilapidated alternative Victorian (kind of) London? Take my money – take all my money!
Obviously for the purposes of this review I am looking at the free version that was released as part of Xbox Games on Gold, so price won’t factor into my equation, but I will make note of it…later.
So back to dilapidated alternative Victorian London…I’m a paid killer who is the protector of the Empress of the (kind of) alternative Victorian British Empire, sounds tasty…I have returned from a voyage in search of help for a mysterious “plague”…go on…and then I see my charge murdered in front of my eyes and her daughters eyes and all before I’ve so much as finished the tutorial.
Now as epic and jaw dropping as it may sound, it felt hollow and didn’t lend itself to building any characterisation. Why do I care that a character who I have met for all of 30 seconds has been brutally murdered? Because the quest tells me I should…
To draw a comparison, I wanted my Uriel Septim! “Step forth prisoner, let me see your face,” (yes that was from memory…) Oblivion led you in, saw you fight back to back (although a staged event for sure) with your charge and then you see him cruelly murdered and victory snatched from you at the last. I feel that Dishonored could have had a more high paced and exciting start, but instead it felt drab and procedural.
That said, the pace does pick up and as the story begins to develop you find yourself being drawn into a world that although makes little sense, is both fantastical and terrifying. Two words: Granny Rags.
Granny Rags is an optional side mission on your first quest and kind of sums up the whole feel if NPCs in the game. She is eccentric, she is haggard, she has a deep back story that is hinted and teased at. Here we go I start to think, now we’re getting to the meat in this rat stew…
And then boom! “The forks go on the left. The forks go on the left. The forks go on the left.” Our poor Granny Rags appears to have some kind of brain aneurysm and can’t stop telling me the proper way to arrange my cutlery. Gently shaking my head, I leave the house, only to have her voice gently mock me about 100 ft up the road, still telling me the forks go on the left…
And this pretty much sets the tone going forward.
Now this is where things should (and kind of do) get interesting. Armed with a nice shiny blade and either a pistol or a crossbow (everything else in my opinion just isn’t worth the effort) I start creeping in the shadows, slicing open jugulars, rupturing aotors, and taking Fathers from families who are just doing what they have to do to survive…wait what was that last part? Oh, I made it up. Because the game seems to have no issue with telling me that anyone that isn’t Corvo has automatically qualified for the Death Sentence.
Anyhow, back to the mindless slaughter. There are quite a few magic abilities to choose from (8 in total) and each ability can be upgraded to a second tier to make it better. There are two types of magic upgrade, passive and active. The active magic abilities include being able to see through walls and jump long distances by (kind of) teleporting. The passive abilities balance this out by granting benefits to health and cool things like turning people to ash when you rip them from their families, so they have no body to bury…and so the guards don’t find them…that to.
Weapons are pretty standard and the styling is great. The crossbow looks immense and the steam-punk pistols really lend themselves to the style of the game. This is definitely an artistic plus point from the game. BUT, the lack of differentiation makes for a small pool of weapons to choose from. That sucks.
The more I tall about Fathers being ripped from families, I can hear people shouting, “But, Jesus, you can be stealthy and not kill anyone!” To this, I say, bullshit. The stealth mechanics take the patience of a saint (pun intended) and are bloody fiddly when they do come off. This lend itself to the game thinking that I want to stand on top of every single rock I come across, which seems to make me immediately 3 foot taller. There’s go stealth. Yes, I can strangle that guard instead of giving him a Chelsea smile that The Joker would be proud of…but in that case, don’t give me.a f*ck off knife!
This sub section is more than deserving of his question mark. What. Did. You. Do? It looks like they woke up a clone of Peter Moyne who had been in suspended animation since 1995 and then asked him to do the Graphic design! I have put a direct screen shot up. I say no more *shakes head and cries a single tear**.
More bugs than Starship Troopers
Bugs. Some of them made me want to laugh until i peed myself. Other ones made me question the point of humanity. I’ve seen many weird things in my playing of the game, dancing dead bodies, AI spinning on the spot, an Empress who won’t die and that breaks the game within the first 5 minutes. That is…impressive.
Need I say anymore?
AI should have got a career in stand up
Some of the things the AI come out with are absolute moments of gold (let’s leave Granny Rags out of this one). Right at the beginning of the game, if you dump the bodies of dead guards in front of an inmate be will make some great quips. The best one was, “I hated that guy, he used to spit in my food.” It’s little touches like this that bring you back into the world and take your attention away from the poor game design. It’s a shame it’s few and far between.
When I think of Dishonored, I let out a massive sigh. This is the game that should have and could have redefined the stealth/action/thriller genre. This was a chance for Bethesda to step into something a bit more linear and see if they could make it work. Instead, we are left with a world which although has it’s highlights, is massively disappointing. I feel that this game is massive lost potential. I am saddened that I paid full price for this game when it initially came out, and even replaying it free, it still feels like I’ve been cheated.
This game needed 6 more months in development to bring it in line with itself and bring it up to scratch. This could have resulted in a far more polished and enjoyable experience.
Your move, Corvo.