After discovering that Dishonored 2 will be coming out this November, I thought it’d be prudent to get on this game ASAP; I’m only four years behind. Ha. Ha.
In all honesty, when this game first came out, I wasn’t really that interested in it. I guess the visuals didn’t catch my attention, and 2012 was the year of Hitman: Absolution, so my stealth quotient was filled. I don’t know why I was being so dumb, because this game– while not exactly a masterpiece– is incredibly fun to play.
Dishonored follows the story of Corvo Attano, the “Lord Protector” of Queen Jessamine Kaldwin of Dunwall and her darling daughter Emily. When the queen is assassinated, and Emily, kidnapped, all the blame falls upon Corvo. He’s promptly arrested and escorted away to be killed. While imprisoned, Corvo discovers that the Queen’s assassination had been ordered by the Royal Spymaster, a man named Hiram Burrows. After receiving help from this rebellion that calls themselves the “Loyalists,” Corvo sets out to find Emily and take revenge on the man who ruined his life. Things start getting a lot darker as the game goes on, though, and there’s more to the plot that I won’t explain at this point, though there may be spoilers below.
So, let’s do the cons first; that way we can end on a good note. I think that my biggest problem with this game was the time it took to load. This is probably because I’ve grown up rather spoilt, but the five to six minute loading time can get really annoying, especially with how much you have to restart levels if you’re a beginner like I am and also trying not to kill anybody/ghosting through the levels. I had to save almost every five minutes to ensure that I wouldn’t lose any progress, and also so that I’d have a backup plan in case someone spotted me during my many attempts to nonlethally take them out. As a result, I ended up loading the game to these checkpoints several-hundred times, and each time it was absolute misery.
The other thing that weirded me out a little was the character design; not that anyone in particular bothered me, it’s just that every NPC human had a really tiny head and laughably huge hands. Their hands were probably bigger than their heads; but I’m pretty sure that this was a style choice.
Okay… that’s it. That’s my cons.
Pros: The game is gorgeous. It’s very thematic, very dark and depressing– it looks like a plague-ridden city. There are multiple extra areas that you can wander through, typically apartments or manors for side quests only, so it’s not too linear. I do like that these areas are only open for specific missions because otherwise I’d spend all my time trying to open every door in Dunwall. Every area has been mapped out expertly, and it plays more like “levels” than a “world.” So you can’t access old areas through this new area, but each level is built to reflect older areas.
The music is really amazing; you mostly hear it in the menu and during the loading screens (so I heard it a lot…) I remember it being very fitting to the game; a lot of kind of creepy, twinkly music. Lots of strings and flute-y chords in the background, and I guess I’d say that it’s similar to the soundtrack from Skyrim. Gothic, and perhaps, medieval; it’s good, really atmospheric. I enjoyed it a lot and will probably purchase the soundtrack, because it makes really good ambient music as well.
The game relies on a lot of manual saving, which can be either a blessing or a curse; it’s great for me, because I like to save every ten to fifteen minutes– especially with Dishonored. Being able to manually save means that I don’t have to proceed from a far-away checkpoint every time I restart after getting caught or killed or killing someone on accident. So the manual saving thing definitely helped me, although there were times where I’d get very far and then make a mistake, and, having forgotten to save, had to start over from a while ago. The game does autosave so you’re not completely left on your own, though I’m not sure how often autosave points occur; probably only when you do something significant or enter a new area, like most games.
Another thing that I really loved about this game is that most of the characters that you interact with have specific roles to play and developed backstories. For example, there’s Admiral Havelock, leader of the Resistance and a stalwart captain of the sea. Pendleton, the dignified and kind of prissy nobleman, also part of the Resistance. Teague Martin, a highwayman-turned-overseer that works for the Resistance as well; but it’s not just major players of the Resistance that have their unique personalities. Lydia, a maid who works for their crew, is flirtatious and world-weary and surprisingly willful. Piero, the socially awkward engineer, is careful and pensive and has a massive crush on Callista, another maid who embodies kindness but is rather uninterested in Piero’s (or even Corvo’s, if you try to seduce her) advances. Granny Rags, Slackjaw, Sokolov, The Boyle sisters, Overseer Campbell, the Outsider, even Hiram Burrows and Daud– who I found especially intriguing, considering the fact that he killed Jessamine… but lives on in deep regret and guilt. Each one has their own lore, which can be discovered through audiographs and books that you find throughout the game, or even by simply interacting with characters. If you’d like to unearth their deepest secrets in a more crafty manner, you can use the heart.
The heart was another thing that I enjoyed utilizing; it’s used mainly to locate Runes and bone-charms, both of which will grant Corvo more powers and abilities, but if you point the heart at a person and press the trigger, it reveals their secrets. I can’t imagine the amount of time put into writing the script for the secrets of all the main characters, and even those of the NPCs, considering the sheer number of them. Of course, most NPCs have the lines of male and female survivors, or thugs, so each NPC is part of a larger group and their secrets don’t change but that’s still a lot of history. The heart doesn’t spoil future parts of the game, which is great; but she does make some cryptic comments that make more sense later on.
Another notable character is Emily Kaldwin: the ten-year-old daughter of Queen Jessamine, and Corvo’s kidnapped ward. She’s tiny, she’s spunky, and she’s incredibly insightful. Emily Kaldwin isn’t featured very much during the game, because most of it is spent running after the men who kidnapped her, but she’s undoubtedly a light in Corvo’s dark life when she does make her appearance. I personally believe that her character was written incredibly; she’s traumatized by everything that’s happening and in the midst of grief, after having witnessed her mother’s murder, but she’s also determined to take her place on the throne and insists that Corvo be at her side. She never loses faith in her protector, even when she’s kidnapped for a second time, and you can get a feel of how much she means to Corvo, who has watched her grow and bloom into this daring, sweet little girl. She’s essentially he’s daughter– and then you realize through discovered lore that haha, she really is his daughter. That just makes the bond even deeper. It very much reminded me of Elizabeth and Booker from Bioshock: Infinite, but this relationship was a bit more tender and not nearly as confusing because Emily is this little child that you have to protect, not a fully grown woman. I might even venture to say that the father-daughter bond in this game is more established than the one that Infinite featured.
I like that they introduced three essential plots (the murder of Jessamine Kaldwin, the kidnapping of Emily, and the rat plague,) and made sure to feature each one in every level. Emily and Jessamine tie together, since the men that kidnapped Emily are also the ones who murdered your beloved Empress, but the rat plague is mentioned in almost every conversation– understandable, considering the fact that it’s brought your city to its knees. Also, swarms of rats inhabit various rooms in different levels, and they’re terrifying to deal with, even if they can be easily defeated.
Lastly, I enjoyed this game because it was sufficiently difficult, especially if you’re going the nonlethal route. Killing everyone that stands in your path is definitely presented as the easier route, and a lot of the powers that you can purchase with runes do make it easier to murder your enemies instead of knocking them out. For example, there’s one power that turns unsuspecting, murdered enemies into ash– which leaves your trail virtually invisible. Another gives you a boost of adrenaline or something whenever you kill someone. So the game is geared towards bloodshed and massacre, but you have to keep in mind that every body that you pile up will lead you closer and closer to the high-chaos ending, which is infinitely sadder than the low-chaos one. Also, I believe that future levels get more difficult as the body count goes up.
On the other hand, it’s so much easier to just chop up a few bodies and not have to worry about dragging them into inconspicuous corners of dark rooms, so they won’t be spotted and alarms won’t start ringing.
So overall, this game is definitely something that I’d recommend. The replay value is high, especially because you can try for the low-chaos ending and the high-chaos ending. Apparently, murdering people will also change character perspectives of you, so your interactions with Lydia, Piero, Admiral Havelock and perhaps even Emily, etc, will be much different. It has a simple, easy-to-follow story and focuses greatly on your character and interactions with other characters. The time it takes to complete the game is sufficient as well– I actually had a lot of time to spare and so, was able to finish it in the past week. I imagine that it’d take a little longer or maybe a lot long for those playing casually. If you like stealth games, definitely give it a try! And if you’re looking to start, I’d say that Dishonored is a good way to go.