Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Arkane Studios
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (October 9, 2012)
Genre: Stealth action
Official Website: Dishonored.com
Reviewed By: Eric Neigher and David Wolinsky
Eric Neigher, Savage Gypsy Lover: Despite my strong connection to Klingon value systems, I still spent some time playing Dishonored this weekend. One thing I liked about it is that the title really describes what the core of the plot is about. One thing I didn’t like about it was that the plot is pretty dumb, otherwise. What pros and/or cons jumped out to you right away, David?
David Wolinsky, Putting The “Ass In” In “Assassin”: I like how your opening paragraph reads like a third grader wrote it, Eric. It’s a nice change of pace from your usual Dennis Miller-ish obscure references and Latin expressions. All teasing aside, I am largely underwhelmed. I get the sense that a ton of time went into the world and mythology, instead of making a great and polished game. It’s akin to fussing over the perfect font to use for your screenplay… and then slapping the whole story together during your flight into Hollywood to “make it.” Only here, the reverse is true.
No amount of narrative tap-dancing can hide the fact that this is another generic first-person shooter with so-called moral choices, the decision to play stealthily or violently, and blah blah blah. We’ve seen this before. This is Assassin’s Creed as an FPS, only without the Animus, without the parkour, and without the learning.
I wish Dishonored were more successful at the things it tried to do, and followed those sketched-out thoughts and turned them into complete sentences. The interesting stuff, to me, is how your choices affect the world in a slightly more sophisticated way than what we saw in games like Infamous: If you kill a lot of people here, it ripples out: The more you murder, the more the rats pile up, the more the plague spreads, and the less help you get from non-player characters and such. Or at least, I would imagine.
So where did you find Dishonored to be honorable in its execution?
Eric: Well, I agree on the retread part. Dishonored feels like a mishmash of other games reshuffled into something that Gamers-Will-Love (TM). I also really don’t care for the art — particularly the character models. They all have extremely elongated arms and fingers, and tiny lower bodies. If you want a game to convey a sense of gritty realism (as Dishonored clearly attempts to do), don’t give me characters that look like Gargamel had Gumby’s baby. Actually, is Gumby a guy or a girl?
Anyway, the mechanics are heavily reminiscent of the old Thief series. Those games, too, were first-person, took place in a similar sort of Steampunk-ish world, and gave players a variety of lethal and non-lethal paths to accomplish their goals. It also had a lot of back story — but unlike Dishonored, it didn’t go the clumsy Elder Scrolls route of just throwing in tons of text in the form of in-game books. Developers have no excuse for making us put up with boring blocks of text in a game: if they wanted to disclose lore, they should have done it through implication, dialogue, or at least voiceover narration of text. Hell, games like Dark Souls and Shadow of the Colossus hardly say anything to you at all, but convey a sense of storyline through little snippets of dialogue, graphical cues, and item descriptions. Dishonored just makes you read a lot.
OK, I know — I was supposed to talk about how the game is “honorable.” That would require a discussion of what it means to be honorable, which is a big deal and more than you or I or this little review can handle. I will say that I greatly appreciate Dishonorable’s many PC-friendly options. You can tweak the graphics for much more than mere brightness: field of view range, anti-aliasing, and even whether or not the rats should have shadows, are all highly customizable. You can easily remap the controls, and with a few tweaks to .ini files, you can delve even deeper. I appreciate developer Arkane Studios giving PC gamers more than a crappy barebones port, unlike many of its competitors.
David: Well, these guys aren’t the only ones guilty of making players read a ton — Bionic Commando’s reboot did this as well. And don’t even get me started on Reading for Dummies: The Game. Anyway. I basically embarked upon the path of being a murderer, because I misunderstood something in the tutorial and figured, hey, let’s just see where this goes. I usually opt to play the “good guy” in these games, but because I opted for the harder difficulty, it was tough going. You’re very vulnerable to damage, and although the enemies do the usual “Fisher, where are you? I just heard something over here. I bet it’s Fisher!” thing straight out of Splinter Cell, they have the uncanny ability to just zero in on you no matter where you are.
In all, I think Dishonored is just another game that tries way too many things and pulls in too many directions. A lot of games do this now, and it’s become something of a trend, but here’s what it all boils down to: Was it fun? Did the act of stalking on your prey feel exciting? I could take it or leave it on the whole. It’s somewhat interesting, but ultimately I’m nonplussed (and it plays just fine on the Xbox 360, thanks for asking).
Eric: Yeah, I’m playing on wussy normal difficulty, so I feel like a big man, but I agree — it’s really hard to avoid killing people (also, because I’m a murderous psychopath in real life). I wouldn’t say Dishonored isn’t fun; it has its moments, and the approach to wide-open puzzle solving in fixed areas is kinda like taking Portal to its umpteenth level of complexity, so that’s nice. But because the story fails to compel you, and because so many of the aspects feel so derivative, the game falls pretty flat, in my view. As you said, not bad… but I’m not going to sacrifice too much Borderlands 2 or XCOM: Enemy Unknown time to see how this one ends.
FINAL SCORE: 559 out of 860 disease-infested rats