Bad Taste, Great Meal
A first impression has always been a lasting one and with Dishonored, it is no different. You play as the silent protagonist who's world has been turned upside with the death of the woman he was meant to protect and ruler of a post-apocalyptic like city fighting a pervasive plague. After escaping prison and being taught the general gameplay aspects you as shoved knee deep into the game. With decent tutorials and enough systems, upgrade mechanics, and choices Dishonored should be a really great game, but the decision to leave things up to the player and the lack of general direction leaves you wanting.
You start the game with two options on how to play essentially, stealth or shooter. As a shooter the game is Bioshock 2, with your left hand dedicated to the variety of powers you can earn throughout the game (some for offensive abilities and some for stealth) and the occasional weapon and your right hand always holding a deadly sword. The fighting itself can be a balance of ammo use, using the powers to position yourself or take care of an enemy, and parrying with your sword to avoid damage.
The stealth side of the game is where the hidden depth and frustrations can be found. The very first power you're given is the blink power, a power that let's you teleport a small distance. That could be behind an enemy, up the side of a building, or into an open window. It's all designed to be just as much about traversal in the environment as it is about fighting.
The breakdown is in the communication of how to play the game. Even as I played stealthy I found myself being found by enemies and forced to kill a few, something the game punishes you for if you kill too much by giving you a "bad" ending. So it became a balance of poking at the systems in the game, the powers I had, and the save file from 2 minutes ago. It took nearly 2/3 of the game before I felt comfortable zooming around enemies, completely ignoring some, and even running away from fights despite having full ammo and health.
This game would have been served better if it discouraged the shooting more, or removed it completely. That element weighs on the narrative, the gameplay, and the design. At the end of the game I wanted more levels to try out my finely honed skills but felt discouraged to go back and play again. If anything this game made me want a deeper stealth game to take more seriously.
So while Dishonored started poor and confused it left me feeling good even if it wasn't perfect. This isn't the stealth game you have been waiting for but it is fun balance. Play it and just have fun with it however you'd like to play it.