relentlessknight's Dishonored (Xbox 360) review

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The grip of a Bethesda experience albeit stealth shanks!

The house name brand for Bethesda tends to create mediocre to decent games that isn’t the Elder Scroll series or Fallout and did not succeed much as well. Unfortunately Arkane Studios, makers of Dark Messiah of Might and Magic came out with a new IP that may borrow some aspects from their games but fall upon producing a stealth game that may result in the similar curse that Skyrim has come with its interactions and graphical detail.

You play as Corvo Attano, a famous bodyguard of the Empress Kaldwin and friend of young princess Emily coming back from over-seas to reunite with them. However things went out of hand as the Empress has been murdered and Emily has been kidnapped by unknown assassins. What makes matters even worse is that Corvo is blamed for the murder and disappearance of these two and is imprisoned and will be sentenced to be executed.

Empress Kaldwin - before
Empress Kaldwin - before

Fortunately, an underground resistance called the Loyalists seeks to help Corvo by rescuing him out of jail in exchange for his aid against Lord Regent’s tyranny over Dunwall and its inhabitants - in addition to rescue Emily and put her on the throne. Furthermore, Dunwall has been infested with the plague-like virus with rats running rampant across the city affecting and mutilating citizens and plants that other nations closed their borders on them. It is up to Corvo to bring back Emily, find the assassins who murdered the Empress and bring down the Lord Regent and Campbell’s rein over the city before it gets worse.

Much like Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls’ games, the first mission involves you to break out of jail, however, its not quite open-world (at least from the two hours, I had played) and sets you in a somewhat linear path with optional quests and collectibles to find on your way. The contact that guard had slipped for you at the starting first helped you escape the prison, having a location of your gear and to escape the island. The leader of the Loyalists, the Admiral first wants you to kill the High Overlord Campbell which was really surprising considering that’s your first main objective after you landed there and left somewhat confused how long the game actually is. I finished the game in about seven to eight hours with most optional quests done and considering the length as somewhat sandbox in scope from a linear standpoint of the narration, it should be more than that.

After you had escaped the prison and made your way to the Loyalists hideout, in your sleep, a mysterious person grant you a gift to wield magical abilities, starting with the first useful ability, Blink which teleports you from one place to another. Also you get a heart that creepily talks to you in a woman’s voice and tells you where to find Bone charms and Runes that of which could obtain more powers and upgrade existing ones. Bone charms are perks to improve your character from increasing the evasion from guards with guns to resistance against plague-bearers.This mysterious person is called The Outsider who you obtained powers from and will often appear throughout the course of the game, granted if you find any rune shrines. However, the game doesn’t really go into him that much and he just feel like a static character.

I know its a hot lady voice BUT STOP CREEPING ME OUT!
I know its a hot lady voice BUT STOP CREEPING ME OUT!

The heart will indicate where to these runes and whenever you are close to them, you will hear a “singing voice” and that heart will constantly beat rapidly. It can also read character’s thoughts and secrets revealing backstory to the character and some happy mishaps. The heart constantly reminds me of that Doom 3 expansion, where you obtain that demonic heart in the beginning although you could wield it and your sword in this one and there’s no ability for the heart to consume souls.

Dishonored keeps track on the player’s actions throughout the game like how many you kill causes more plague victims and rats and furthering the outcome of your ending. Also there are pivotal moments where you must decide whether or not to kill a key character or leave them alone. These actions will sometimes reward you with gifts that quest-givers and such will bring into your room in top of the Loyalists hideout. Patience will be awarded for those who do the non-lethal action whether its prompted in a quest whether its having some creepy gentleman kidnap Boyle from her “house play” to having the Pendleton brothers, kidnap, have their tongues cut off and forced into labour in a mining camp. It’s these moments that this game truly shines from the result of not doing what you usually do in other games.

From a combat and gameplay portion, it just felt like Skyrim, the fact that you could wield a spell/power on the left hand while you sword on the other. Even the blocking and stealth kills are quite reminiscent of that game due to the fact that the stealth kill animation looks like it has been pulled straight from Skyrim. As a stealth game even though it feels like Skyrim, it stills feels good. It just reminds me of playing Human Revolution although I liked the non-lethal takedowns more in that game than this. Furthermore like that game, you could carry/drag unconscious or dead guards into places where enemies could not see it or trash bins. However, I don’t think the AI could wake up an unconscious guard.

The arsenal throughout the game consists of crossbow with different types of ammunition ranging from explosive to sleeping darts, pistols to grenades and spiral traps that of which could be set and lure a guard for the kill. The gear you have is useful but I am disappointed that there are no non-lethal, CQC take-downs that Human Revolution had and this game is more about the efficiency you use your ammo. The short sword itself does wonders to non-lethal take-downs though only as stealth from the back.

As I said, Blink is a really useful spell, not only does it makes good use of escape from a battle but teleporting to ledges and observing the environment makes it an awesome and necessary skill to use throughout the game. Plus you could warp kill by the blink skill, making it easier than waiting for the guard to be below you and jump-kill them.

Well he's fucked!
Well he's fucked!

There are six skills/powers in this game; Blink, Dark Vision, Possession, Bend Time and Devouring Swarm as well as four abilities, Shadow Kill, Blood Thirsty, Agility and Vitality which will enhance your gameplay experience. Each ability has an upgrade that goes through two ranks and will require a number of runes to acquisition them. Possession is weird because the first rank you could control an animal such as a rat that could be used to crawl to smaller vents that of which the player could not go and find hidden areas however you cannot be close to a guard or else they will kill it – in the next rank, you could possess a guard or so and in the limited time, the other guards will be friendly to you and will not attack, furthering obtaining more loot as well as specific actions like disabling a warp gate without the stress of stealthing your way to it. Such powers enhance the non-lethal route while others wreck chaos – skills such as Devouring Swarm will summon a swarm of rats to kill an enemy target and consume their corpses while abilities like Blood thirsty enhances your sword to be more lethal.

Like Splinter Cell, when you approach and interact with a door, you can peak to see if the room is empty or not and also you could upgrade a perk to enable your mask to have binoculars like Sam’s night goggles. And like Deus Ex, the game promotes less bloodshed and more non-lethal takedowns or to avoid enemies as possible. In fact, the game tells you that killing any person will increase the outcome of how it will affect your ending due to the fact that both the plague and the rat infestation that clogged the city.

Welcome to City 17!
Welcome to City 17!

The enemies that you encounter in the game results from a typical guard with sword and pistol, overseers with face masks to mutilated humans and acid-splitting plants. As a stealth game; guards, thugs, overseers and Tall-boys that look like they’re from Half-Life 2, they go in their AI routine, walking back and forth with a vision-cone. It’s does get challenging with more difficult routes you need to undertake if you play this non-lethally or make at least causalities as possible.

The AI are dumb at times and for a stealth game, its really not a coincidence. Although I did like that the guards’ alert level icon reminds me of Arkham City when you try to alert them, they have two stages before they spot you. I also like the fact that when they spot you out of nowhere, they get startled and then proceed to warm others about their discovery at your position. Also the AI will sometimes peak into doors and have the will to look up and spot you unlike other stealth games and like Assassin’s Creed will use their ranged weapons to kill you.

From a graphical standard, from the same company who brought Skyrim, Dishonored just plains looks like Skyrim from the somewhat snarly and ugly character designs to the environment and its textures. The lighting just sets it apart and it basically felt like the similarities that New Vegas have as a light aesthetic with added steampunk-ness to its setting. However it stills looks good from the effects of your powers to how they decided on the art style. Again like Skyrim, the problem having the somewhat interface as that game ruins the character interaction of this game. It’s just plain awkward to see a NPC turn around to speak to you, although certain key NPCs like Fallout 3 and Skyrim will trigger that weird locked-in interaction. In addition, there are times that some random NPC will appear when you are talking to someone and it just feels that they need to improve the general quality of these weird interactions.

This game features a list of celebrities that may have deemed unnecessary but it is worth a surprise to guess who’s voicing these characters. Characters such as Emily, Piero, Calista and Daud are played by Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass), Brad Dourif (LoTR), Lena Headey (GoT) and Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs). On an acting standpoint, these actors are good at their roles especially Madsen which I did not knew that character was voiced by him and Brad Dourif who often plays villain in movies.

The environment is one of the greatest feats in this game, again like Assassin Creed and Arkham City, you could carve your own way whether climbing ledges and hopping roofs to prevent bloodshed and stealth your way to your objective or go straight in blazing every enemy you see which isn’t encouraged. I just like the way that the game further themselves as linear and like Deus Ex and Assassin Creed, you could find different ways into your objective.

Dishonored may be a definitive stealth game of 2012, the game while beset by some problems that made other Bethesda titles, buggy and awkward – shines through by their stealth gameplay conventions and its steampunk setting as well as likable cast and characters. This may be a true sequel to Deus Ex according to Patrick but the faults of its combat and among other things feels like the game’s engine has been borrowed from Skyrim despite having the Unreal engine and a different developer. Arkane made it possible that even in midst of some terrible encounters, there are good ones as well.

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