Dishonored Review: An Adrenaline Rush With Little Substance
Dishonored weaves the tale of Corvo, former bodyguard to the Empress who becomes an assassin after being framed for her murder. Six months later on the day before Corvo’s execution, a guard slips him a key with a cryptic message urging that he uncover the truth. It is from here that the story unravels, unfortunately revealing a tattered mess that never manages to connect and resolve all of its loose threads.
After escaping prison, Corvo is brought to the Hound Pits Pub. The bar serves as base of operations for The Loyalists. As their name implies, they are a group of conspirators that wish to decommission the current ruling powers, rescue Emily Kaldwin (the Empress’ daughter), and place her on the throne in her mother’s stead.
The patrons of the pub generously provide Corvo with everything he needs. Weapon upgrades, information, even transportation; all of it arrives in abundance as he is exactly what they require: a man with a personal vendetta against those who now control the city.
If all that wasn’t enough, Corvo is introduced to a mysterious being known as The Outsider soon after. He is unknown by every means possible, briefly mentioned by others and seemingly feared by all. Though Corvo encounters him several times, it is never revealed who or what he is.
Regardless, the Outsider gifts the player with his mark. A tattoo that unlocks a slew of mystical powers for Corvo to utilize. Most prominent is the ability to teleport or “Blink” across the map, making navigation and stealth a breeze. Other powers play more of a supportive role, such as allowing Corvo to see through walls and spot his enemies or possess animals to find shortcuts.
The game isn’t shy when it comes to giving power, even if it does mean handing over too much of an advantage. Stealth is encouraged, but never particularly enforced. Between all of the weapons at Corvo’s disposal and the supernatural powers that are unlocked, the player easily able to stroll through the entire game unimpeded on their way to save Emily and exact revenge merrily.
Dishonored falters in the presence of overcompensation. The player is armed with so many tools to the point that it becomes almost impossible to fail. Challenges found in-game are optional and often self-imposed. There is little incentive for sneaking throughout an entire level without being seen or even sparing the lives of everyone you come in contact with.
This wouldn’t be so problematic if it weren’t for the fact that the cast of characters are easily forgettable. Interest in revenge is short lived as there is little motivation to follow through. Corvo as a person is completely unknown, he doesn’t speak nor is he given any form of personality. The others have personalities and motivations but are barely fleshed out in the brief moments to which they are seen, leaving them to be dull and one-dimensional.
The game does do itself justice, however. Whichever way the player decides to go through the game, they’re guaranteed to have a fun time doing so. There’s no in-game presence of penalization, so experimentation and exploration are fully allowed. Controls are precise and simple, making it easy for anyone to pick up and play. The art direction is elegant, providing a nice mixture of posh Victorian-era London and the overly mechanized feel of steampunk. Dunwall is wonderfully imagined, though for a whaling city there is a severe lack of whales present in the game.
Overall it’s all an adrenaline rush with little substance. While the game is a lot fun to play and look at, it is marred by noticeable faults. The material is all there, but it’s never put to use. By the end of the game, pivotal questions remain and while they are smoothed over with vague responses, players wanting a more tightly knit experience are bound to be somewhat dissatisfied.
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