Back in 2006, I came across a refreshing and interesting, medieval style, first person action RPG; Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. After many hours of gaming which consisted of kicking guards downstairs, decapitating orcs, and hurling bolts of ice and fire, I was left wondering when would this little known developer, Arkane Studios, come up with their next game. The answer came in 2012 with the saving grace of Betehsda Softworks, intriguingly titled ‘Dishonored’.
Even with a seemingly cliche start where the ruler of the realm is murdered and you become the fall guy who has to take on on a quest to clear your name, the game becomes an impressive adventure soon enough. The late Victorian style setting of the game, complete with guardsmen in pointy hats and lordly manor houses, combines the thief-like stealth mechanics with first person dynamic combat in a very thrilling manner. Add to it the fun and rewards of free exploration and the possibility of multiple paths for a specific goal of your mission, and you get a refreshing combination of pseudo-openness, great style and inventive game-play.
The game puts you in the shoes of Corvo Attano, once the Lord Protector of late Empress Jessamine, now living the life of an assassin in the shadows. Good old Corvo is on a quest of vengeance to clear his name and bring the Empress’s murderers to justice by any means; after all, he’s still the ‘Queen’s man’. To add to the mayhem, your hunting ground, the city of Dunwall is is being overrun by a plague of rats and lawlessness, and the guardsmen are imposing martial law. Helping you stay alive and stalk your prey in the dark city is an assortment of interesting characters including the genius inventor Piero, and the enigmatic Outsider whose mark you will bear, along with an assortment of devious traps, firearms, and mystic powers which you can improve on using whalebone runes found during your deadly adventures. The city of Dunwall is quite distracting when you are in mission as well; new rewards and goodies lying hidden in rat infested dark alleys is too damn tempting. And I do have a hunch there will be some plague mutants or such creeps lurking about further into the game. To add to the fun, you can find blueprints of more exotic and arcane equipment which Piero can tinker for you, lying all over the city. The game also has a ‘Chaos system’ which will determine how the game world will change according to your general behavior as an assassin, so watch out how you handle the mission.
When it comes to interface and interaction, the game cruises along smoothly like a shiny new beamer. You control either hand by the click of a mouse, and the weapons and powers which are equipped can be changed by a handy wheel menu that pops up easy. Items which you can pick up into your inventory or that you can manipulate; be it a severed head, an empty bottle, a switch or a key on someone’s belt, is simply highlighted as you look around for easy pick up. Your journal is also there to help, keeping tabs on all notes, briefings and mission clues. Using your deadly assassin’s powers is seemingly easy as well; just point and click what is equipped. Rat swarms in sewers and alleys present an interesting mechanic, where you can toss corpses or enemies at them as a distraction as you evade their deadly hunger. Later on, you also gain the ability to control rats and see through their eye as the game progresses. Add a neat death’s head mask with crystal lenses to the mix, and your dark steam-punk adventure is set to begin. The game runs on Unreal Engine 3, so getting it to run even on an average detail setting is not a hassle.
In a nutshell ‘Dishonored’ is a fresh take on a rather old picture, presented it in a cool way to keep you in the edge of the seat. Behaving and feeling rather like a steam-punk Deus-ex, ‘Dishonored’ brings about an interesting adventure of darkness, shadows and mystery in the fashion Arkane did with its first great hit. As action-RPG gaming goes, ‘Dishonored’ is set to be an interesting highlight in a gaming scene dominated by the usual high tech settings with flashy guns, proving yet again that swordplay and magic in a first person game can still feel alive and entertaining. For steam-punk fans, and those who likes sneaking around and stalking enemies from the darkness using swords and sorcery, with player-choice impact to boot, this game is a must-play wonder!