Betrayal, Chaos, and Disaster
“ Dishonored, the game that punishes its players for actually trying to be the 'good guy' ”
*This is an old review; much of what you will read here no longer fully represents my view, skills, and knowledge.*
The game starts with a scene playing where we, the royal protector arrive in a boat to the city of Dunwall to report to the empress, Jessamine Kaldwin, the results of a mission we went on to find out any useful information regarding the plague and what might have caused it to break into the city, and if there's a cure for it. As soon as we set foot on land, we are introduced to a little girl, Emily Kaldwin, the empress's daughter and someone our character is very fond of.
After the encounter, we get on our way to meet the empress as she waits for news on this problem that is literally consuming the entire city into chaos. We then deliver her the information that the mission wasn't successful and no useful information regarding the plague origin and a way to fight it was obtained.
Devastated with the news, she tries to keep her posture, and not express sadness in front of her daughter. Emily then sees some mysterious people jumping and teleporting in a rooftop nearby, and the empress notices that all the nearby guards left their posts. The hooded men eventually get to where we stand, forcing Corvo to fight to protect the empress and her daughter. They are quickly dispatched, and for a brief moment, it seems like it all passed, but two more of the mysterious men show up, with one immobilizing Corvo with mysterious magic and the other killing the empress in front of Emily, later kidnapping her and disappearing.
Developer: Arkane Studios
Release Date: October 9, 2012
The Plot (early game spoilers)
After all the previous events, we are sent to prison accused of murdering the empress and kidnapping her daughter by the Royal Spymaster, Hiram Burrows. Corvo is then locked to wait for his sentence, but his trial is interrupted when we receive a hidden letter from a “friend”, along with a key to our cell, leading our character to escape the prison and meet our new friends.
We escape the prison and meet one of the individuals that were involved in helping us escape our sentence, and he tells us why they did it and their intentions. The reason they were helping us escape is that they believed that we were innocent, and they were willing to assist Corvo to reclaim his honor and put down this whole corrupt system that took the life of the empress and plotted against the empire and its citizens. And so the main plot starts, with Corvo going into several missions to save Emily from the hands of her kidnappers, avenge Empress Jessamine, and reclaim his honor.
There are so many different ways you can play through the game, and there are so many possibilities it makes me think that to this day there is still a developer of the game watching a video of someone kill an enemy and still be surprised. Later in the story, you also gain some special powers to assist in your missions, and in my opinion, they fulfill their role perfectly, adding even more to gameplay variety.
The mechanics in this game are great and well-polished leaving very little space for criticism. They simply work perfectly, and by that I mean you won't find any clunky controls nor problems because of a certain mechanic that doesn't work as it should. Later in the story, you get the opportunity to unlock some new special abilities, and there’s a very useful one that helps works wonders in the early game. What it does is it gives you a double-jump, allowing you to reach certain places you couldn't previously, and also by jumping like as if you were in a pogo stick, these cops ain’t having no chance of ever cathing you ! The gameplay has some mild learning curve, that as soon as you start to understand how to the game works, it gets so much easier to play and get through levels completely unnoticed, or dispatch enemies more efficiently.
Now, about replayability, I’ll be taking myself as an example, as I was basically forced to replay through the game because my save folder *mysteriously* disappeared. Playing through the game again with the knowledge I had was so much easier it felt like I was in an any% speedrun for how fast I managed to get to the same point I was in my previous save.
Already knowing the map layout and enemy locations were what made it much easier. It serves to show that the game really rewards you for thinking, analyzing, and being overall creative with the way you choose to take down a mission or an enemy.
Talking about visuals, the game has a beautiful art-style that is very cartoonish that fits really well with the overall aesthetic, atmosphere, and ambiance, and it looks like something out of a comic book.
A Choice of Great Importance
From the very beginning, we have to make a choice, to escape the prison clean-handed, without killing anybody, taking more of a stealth approach, or wreaking havoc in the prison, killing everyone that stands in our way. It is important to know this early on, as many of our actions will have a direct impact on the ending of the game and how we are seen by the characters we interact.
Depending on your style, and what path you choose to play, you’ll face different difficulties. I chose to take a sneakier approach, and overall it was a really fun experience, but I can’t forgive the game for how hard it made the life for those that choose to play through the game without generating too much chaos.
I still have nightmares to this day of how frequently I had to reload my game for making a silly mistake such as accidentally stepping into the enemy field of view for a millisecond.
I played the game on the hardest difficulty just so I could enjoy the game a little more, and have a greater challenge. The problem is, enemy detection was just so unforgiving it felt like I was facing genetically modified humans with superior detection, and unless you play on lower difficulties, where the enemies are basically dummies guarding corridors, you will have a super hard time sneaking your way through the game.
My point with all of this is to talk about how easy the game is if you choose to kill everyone in your path, so much to the point it’s almost unfair and is as if the game punishes you for trying not to be a crazy psychopath rampaging through levels and wreaking havoc in the city.
I don’t know… maybe the entire point of the game with all this difference in difficulty is to say that you have to work extra hard if you just want to live peacefully, I guess.
If you plan on taking the sneaky approach as well, try to take advantage of the environment as much as you can, as there will most of the time be places you can crawl, like vents, tiny holes above doors, open windows, and they're not always easily noticed, so you'll have to pay good attention to it.
One thing I think is important to mention is that when I first touched the game, I dropped it very early, but after completing it, I don’t regret giving it a second chance at all, as I enjoyed most of my time in it. The game is a great experience all around, and it really rewards more skilled players. The game has a well-written story, with a few plot-twists that while they may be surprising to some, and predictable to others it still makes the game feel so much richer, as it keeps you invested in seeing how the whole plots develops.
Its score is a well deserved 7.5 for how well it executed its concept. For exploring the creative thinking of the players as well as making good use of its resources.
Incredible liberty with each mission, allowing players to take down objectives however they want, most of the time.
Unique visuals / art-style, with a cartoony yet realistic look that work really well to create a unique setting.
High replayability value, with new events that may unfold depending on your actions and how you approach missions.
Fluid animations, responsive commands, and interesting stealth mechanics.
Sometimes dumb or unrealistic enemy AI, with crazy inhuman detection speeds (speed varies based on the difficulty setting).
Clear difficulty gap between playstyles, being significantly harder to play the game in a specific way (stealth).
Plot can be quite predictable, even from the very beginning, but it was still very satisfactory nonetheless.
The art-style might not please everyone mostly because of the cartoonish visuals, but for me personally, it was pretty good.
A unique game that offers a memorable experience, and is really good at keeping players engaged with the story and how it unfolds. The game rewards strategy and creative thinking, as well as timing and precision which adds a lot to the overall experience and gameplay.
06/18/2020 - Caius, The Spy Master