In just two short days, Dishonored will hit Australian stores, a new IP amidst a sequel-saturated market. While it’s easy and understandable to overlook “that new game” on the block due to the annual action-packed season of the next Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty, here are five reasons as to why this unique hybrid of stealth, action and RPG should definitely be on your gaming hit-list.
1. Freedom, Player Choice and the Chaos System
Snipe them all out? Avoid them? Slice their throats? It's all up to you.
Dishonored places a visible emphasis on player choice and freedom. Whether it’s choosing how to tackle a mission, exploring off the beaten-path, or using non-lethal or deadly force, the game facilitates and encourages all manner of approaches, making every dynamic, reactive, and vastly different should you choose to play through all possible options, making the gameplay extremely rewarding.
Exploration more often than not rewards players with additional backstory and useful, exciting upgrades and perks for your magical abilities and weapons. The fact that you can play as a pacifist Corvo and choose to non-lethally eliminate all assassination targets throughout the game in creative ways (such as completing a side-quest that gets the target kidnapped and taken away, ensuring they are no longer a potential threat) is an impressive level of choice not offered in many games.
Dishonored also takes a unique approach to the many ethically challenging and morally questionable situations Corvo, as an assassin, will face, in its employment of a “Chaos” system. Instead of actions being judged based on “good” or “evil”, the game tracks how much collateral damage, violent actions (or inactions) and deaths are caused by the player, shaping the game world and the NPCs that inhabit it accordingly. The Chaos system influences and affects the main storyline decisions, NPCs and whether or not certain objects are available to the player. It can do so in two ways: scripted events, where dialogue is expanded or a character becomes unsupportive of the player, and in dynamic ways, such as more plagued citizens, rats and new situations.
2. Corvo is a badass assassin with magic, gadgets and guns
Ezio, Adam Jensen and Snake all ain’t got nothing on Corvo Attano, a legendary bodyguard turned skilled assassin hellbent on revenge after being framed for the murder of the Empress Jessamine Kaldwin, who he swore to protect with his life. After being disgraced from his position and unjustly framed, Corvo is given the opportunity to extract vengeance upon those that killed the Empress by a supernatural entity called The Outsider, who imbues Corvo with his mark.
The Outsider’s mark grants Corvo various supernatural abilities to aid him in his quest, such as “Blink”, which allows Corvo to teleport short-distances with frightening efficiency and close the gap between enemies and “Devouring Swarm”, which summons deadly rats to ravage any enemy that stands in his way. Along with an array of lethal weapons and items such as a trusty Crossbow (which can impale heads spectacularly against walls) Corvo is one assassin not to be messed with.
3. An intriguing new world to explore
Arkane Studios evidently went through great lengths to provide their players with a fully realised, detailed and unique steampunk backdrop in the form of the city called Dunwell. Dunwell is the beautiful manifestation of an alternate late 1800s-early 1900s city modelled after London and Edinburgh.
The city is rife with political corruption, a deadly plague which ravages the living and a repressive regime enforced by the heavily-armoured Tallboys, soldiers mounted on mechanical legs. But while the streets bleed and the divide between rich and poor becomes more apparent, Dunwell still manages to shine in certain areas with its astounding technology and rich deposits of whale oil, a valuable resource that powers the city.
Part one of the Webisode series "Tales of Dunwell, which gives a first-hand glimpse into the shadowy whaling world of Dunwall.
Each section of the city feels distinct; from the crumbling, human-abandoned and Weeper-infested slums to the excessively opulent mansions of the rich “important” citizens and corrupt politicians. While the game isn't open-world in a Skyrim sense, there are many hidden paths, nooks and crannys off the beaten path during each mission. Dunwell is a city begging you to explore and immerse you in its plight. Will you be its saviour? Or the deadliest threat it has ever seen, even more so than the Weepers or the Tallboys? The fate of Dunwell is ultimately yours to determine.
4. Dynamic and responsive NPCs
The citizens of Dunwell are an interesting bunch -- ranging from the elitist lords to the corrupt government officials to the terrifyingly powerful Tallboys -- and all are given an impressive level of depth and detail in their appearances, dialogue and mannerisms that make you feel like you truly are in another, (wonderfully) psychopathic nineteenth century-esque world of technology, corruption and oppression.
What is truly remarkable and is a standout feature of the game is how NPCs dynamically interact to your actions. Guards are not omniscient, all-knowing death-threats; they have several levels of alertness and and behaviours that dynamically change according to the player’s actions and the world around him, such as communicating with other guards on their suspicions of an intruder if they hear you prowling nearby.
When I played through a mission involving the infiltration of a dinner party, one partygoer witnessed me stealing an expensive vase. The NPC, who was a uniquely named character part of the questline as a peripheral character, immediately reacted by chuckling and saying she steals all the time too, and that the hosts would never miss a thing. When I stood by eavesdropping on the same woman’s conversation later, her courter dismissed me as nosy.
While his nose was then later impaled against on the wall on my last crossbow and I had to restart the mission, little touches like NPCs reacting to your actions and behaviour definitely serve to further immerse players into Dishonored’s extensive game world, in a very good way.
5. Different play-styles, combat styles and gameplay approaches
Dishonored evidently prides itself in being a hybrid mish-mash of stealth, action and RPG gameplay. While past examples of these genre collaborations have often fallen short of its aspirations, Dishonored mixes and executes its unique stealth, gunplay and pacifist gameplay to an excellent degree.
You can choose to sneak around guards or knock them unconscious and hide the bodies, or stealthy slit their throats with your trusty sword while leaving the bodies to panic and toy with any unfortunate soul unlucky enough to stumble across them. You can play in an action-oriented approach, shooting anything that moves or cruelly mangling the limbs of your opponents with your trusty crossbow. You can even rely entirely on your supernatural abilities, slowing down time and capping fools before they even realise, or possessing their bodies and forcing them to attack others.
Dishonored is played on your terms, and your preferred play style, making every mission an enjoyable experience and entirely replayable should you decide to go another route.
Dishonored is set for release on 11 October in Australia for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Check out MMGN's official review of Dishonored if you still need convincing, you stubborn fools.
By Nathan Misa