Back in Winter there was a Steam sale. And during this Steam Sale, the entire collection of the old Looking Glass Studios' classic "Thief" Series was on sale. I stared at it for a good long while. Thief: The Dark Project was one of my favourite games of all time, I remember many a sleepless nights in high school waiting for it to load on my parents woefully inadequate PC at the time. I remember putting up with a frame rate approaching 1 frame per second, and the game just chugging along, just because I was in love with the world and the concept.
Which is why when I first heard about Dishonored I got very excited, finally a new game set in a quasi-industrial revolution, steam (or whale oil) punk city with supernatural elements, where I could sneak around and kill things, a true spiritual successor to Thief.
However, the world is where the similarities with Looking Glass’ classic ends. I learned that the hard way the first time I got tired of waiting for the hide in shadows tutorial, and decided to just hide in a shadow, there is no light mechanic in this game, but there is more, so much more.
Dishonored makes use of an RPG light levelling system ripped from Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and familiar to most Action RPG players. Thankfully you don't sink points into STR, DEX, END, FAT or whatever meaningless stat, but rather you unlock talents, and that’s it, Traversal talents, Fighting talents, and Hiding Talents.
Hiding, and Moving around the world will be intimately familiar with players of games like Deus Ex, you are slighting more than human in both these games, as such moving around should be, and is, much easier and faster. Your talents will put Batman to shame, but that being said, you are no Spiderman, you move around the city with acrobatics, teleportation and grace, making traversal a fun, and fluid experience.
And while moving and stealth is similar to Deus Ex, thankfully Fighting is not. Being a stealth game fanatic, during my time with the game I focused on stealth (and trying to achieve the best ending). As such I have not experienced as much fighting, but that which I have experienced reminded me the most of Thief. With the build I am running, you shouldn’t strike, but when you do, strike aggressively, confidently, and violently. If the fight isn’t over within seconds, you are dead and if you are fighting more than 1 opponent, you are dead. This changes as you unlock more talents, but still, it feels a little cheap to freeze time and stab your opponents in the face. This does not change the fact that one of my favourite aspects of stealth games is the tension. The ability to kill from the shadows but then be utterly helpless in the light, if you forget about freezing time that feeling is there.
The missions of Dishonored are structurally similarly to another favourite, Hitman: Blood Money. You have a target and you have many different ways to deal with it; the violent, the sneaky, and the other. However, in Blood Money, you can spend hours looking for many, many different ways to deal with your target and you have to plan your kill meticulously, from replacing blank ammunition with live ammunition <spoilers>during a performance of Tosca</spoilers> or injecting frog poison into a Birthday Cake. In dishonoured, there is one “alternative” way of dealing with your target (aside from the old stabby stabby) and you are told exactly how to perform it well before you reach your target. This is both a blessing and a curse; it makes it much easier to achieve the “alternative” but it also removes the sense of satisfaction of arranging a set of accidents off your own back.
Dishonoured sits in a world influenced by many, I can see how "The City" of Thief would flow into the city of Dunwall in Dishonored which would again flow into City 17 of Half Life. Thief was Dunwall in its medieval days, on the cusp of the industrial revolution. Dunwall in Dishonored is firmly in its grasp and City 17 is its dystopian future.
Like Thief there is a strange plague ravaging the city, and likewise, a mysterious spiritual element. I remember the first time I encountered a Zombie or a Ghost in Thief and the feelings I got when I encountered a weeper for the first time were similar. The world of Dishonored is also suitably dark. You find quite early, when you earn a device which lets you read minds, all the characters with any power are deeply flawed and any good character is struggling to survive in a harsh universe. This Darkness meant I easily predicted the twist very early in the game, but when it pays off, there’s a sense of accomplishment and a moment of “I knew that guy wasn’t meant to be trusted.”
Dunwall is to City 17 what 1800’s London is to London today. And while Half Life 2 tried to bring realism to the table, Dishonored forgoes this, moving towards a cell shaded atmosphere, and grotesque characters with which players of XIII or Borderlands would be familiar. This game is an Oil Painting, and this is a mixed blessing. From afar, the city can be beautiful but up close this is a different matter. At one stage while playing it, I sat for several moments waiting for the texture to pop in, only to realise the texture had popped in and that wall is meant to look like that. Why the game hasn’t exactly made my eyes bleed yet, sometimes looking reminds me, just briefly, of a game on previous gen hardware.
One issue I do have with Dishonored is the narrative flow, the story does not follow a traditional flow and never really climaxes. Usually a non-traditional approach to storyline is to be applauded, however in this case, it just meant Dishonored left me unsatisfied and the ending, while coming at an appropriate time was an anti-climax.
I’ve spent a lot of time in this review comparing Dishonored to other games, and I feel this is appropriate, as Dishonored is a game which wears its influences on its sleeve. This is not necessarily a bad thing, these elements combine to form a whole much greater than the sum of its parts. If you are a fan of stealth games, or action RPG’s I strongly recommend you invest some time in checking out this game.
The World 5
Overall: 4 candies out of 5
This review is live on http://profanecandyhorse.blogspot.com.au/