When the journey’s this exciting, bumps on the road can be easily ignored.
*Trying a different review format than usual, feedback appreciated.*
I was clutching onto a length of rusted chain, hovering about a foot from the ground. Beneath me the floor was barely visible due to the dozens of rats that had swarmed through the abandoned building. To drop down would have been a death sentence, and rays from the moon above beckoned to me to just clamber back up through the shattered roof and leave this death zone.
Both myself and my character knew, however, that that wasn’t going to happen. Concealed somewhere in this dank room was a bone charm of potentially great power. The heart had spoken, and I could have no sooner left the rune behind than one of my hands. Bracing myself for whatever would happen, I leaped from the chain onto a stack of boxes and began picking a path through the room. The rats scurried below, watching and waiting for any lapse in concentration and my hands began to sweat. For five eternal minutes I made my way over to the treasured artifact until at last it was safely stowed away. Then in a blink of an eye, I teleported away to safety.
It’s isolated incidents like this that make Arkane Studio’s new IP Dishonored a title worth playing. Set in a beautiful Steam punk city known as Dunwall during a plague, Dishonored has the wonderful ability to completely suck you in to it’s world and hold you in a grip tighter than an assassin. It achieves this by creating a world that – despite it’s fantasy elements – feels real, lived in. Stalking a pair of unnamed city guards is rendered special and unique through the men’s individual and fantastic dialogue Everyone in Dunwall has a story, or a different viewpoint, and it’s this lavish attention to the often neglected NPCs that sucks you wholly into every hunt.
Make no mistake, despite playing a highly trained killer in free roam missions, Dishonored couldn’t be more different from Assassin’s Creed. How many times did Ezio and Connor walk into a pack of guards, clinically murder every one with ease and then walk away consequence free? In Dishonored every kill (and act of mercy) matters. Corvo can carry guns and bombs as well as wield powerful magic, but he’s not invincible. A three on one situation will often result in a dead player, leaving you wondering if the men have to be killed at all. The game offers you non – lethal options of attack, as well as the abilities required to avoid contact completely.
It’s up to the player to choose what sort of person he’ll be, what mantle to assume. Sure, you can make your character become a chaotic butcher, slaughtering dozens of people through roughly ten hours of game play or you could take the path games rarely offer and refuse to kill at all. This game throws you into situations where it’s up to you to make judgement calls, to act on instinct or principles. Let me give you an example.
I was perched high up on the roof of an apartment, deep in government territory, the streets below laid out like a map. I considered dropping down to ground level as it had been some time since I’d seen a wall of light or any guards. Just as I had made my mind up, a shadow flickered inside the building opposite me, passing by the window. Curious, I made my way over, dancing atop lengths of cables and dusty roofs. My fingers found the window sill and I soundlessly hauled myself into the lit room. Leaning over a desk stood a mercenary; a lethal magic wielding foe.
He hadn’t spotted me.
Normally I fight only when attacked, but a foe like this wasn’t someone I could allow to live. Completely immersed in the game, I instructed my character to creep up behind the distracted man and plunge a knife into the side of his neck. He never stood a chance. It was the first time I had murdered in the game in cold blood. Picking up the man I walked over to the window and cast his corpse into the sea below. These men always hunted in pairs and I didn’t want someone tailing me.
The entire encounter took about seven minutes. In others games I’ve slaughtered armies and butchered battalions in the same time frame. The difference however, was that in those games I was merely an amused spectator, a puppet wielding god. In Dishonored, I was in the room. I was a genuine inhabitant of Dunwell, player and character as one.
Dishonored has it’s faults; control issues, predictable plot and repetitive locations. However when everything clicks – and it so often does – the game transcends these problems. I didn’t play Dishonored, I experienced it. And I highly urge you to experience it too, in your own unique and individual way.