Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Review: Dishonored

Dishonored is a first person action/adventure game by Bethesda, and has been released for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC (I was playing the PS3 version).

It follows the player-character Corvo, a fine upstanding bodyguard who gets framed for regicide and unjustly thrown in jail. He spends the rest of the game killing everyone who's wronged him, which is a fairly sizeable list.

I've played the game through once, and I'd guess it took me about 20 hours, maybe a little longer.


The story's pretty basic but entirely coherent. There's some fleshing out of the world with audiographs and books. The story unfolds in a city-state, Dunwall, which is an original and interesting backdrop for the game. Technology is approximately equivalent to an alternative 19th century, with whale oil providing the base fuel for electrical equipment (and weaponry). Single shot pistols are the general weapon of choice, with grenades and sleep darts probably the highest level of technology the player can carry around with them.

The unique character of Dunwall does help give the game a distinct identity of its own (in that regard it's almost the anti-Dragon's Dogma which, for all its delights, had a very generic world).

The story itself is not especially surprising or original and serves to advance the plot rather than act as the meat of the game in itself. It's not a bad story, it merely doesn't go beyond plausible and functional.


Undoubtedly the finest aspect of the game. The vast majority of the time is spent on missions, killing persons of a dubious nature. Corvo always carries his sword (which looks more like a dagger) in his right hand, and uses his left for either a secondary weapon or magic. Other weapons included ranged offerings, such as the silent crossbow, grenades and a few other toys.

The magic is bought with runes, that can be found throughout missions using a grisly Dunwall version of SatNav. Each form of magic has 2 levels, (basic and advanced, if you like). The various forms seem to all be quite useful (I got perhaps 80% of the magic unlocked during my playthrough) and are well-balanced. I found Blink (the ability to teleport short distances) extremely cool and useful, and likewise Dark Vision (which enables the player to see through walls and see enemies, and their fields of vision).

All magic and items can be found through a comprehensive wheel menu, and four can be hot-keyed to the D-pad. This works extremely well and makes gameplay nice and fluid.

As well as killing enemies, they can be knocked out with sleep darts from the crossbow or simply put in a choke-hold. Main targets can often also be subjected to non-lethal forms of elimination.

New items and upgrades can be purchased from Piero, Corvo's inventor chum. Ammunition is cheap enough to be maxed out easily, and the upgrades cost enough that you won't be able to buy the lot within the first mission or two.

The missions are fairly small in number, but take place over large maps, which works well. With one exception (the penultimate mission) they don't drag despite often being long. Instead, the mission length makes the successful completion all the more satisfying.

Difficulty, on normal, was mostly easy (and I write this as someone who has never played Bioshock or Deus Ex, to which Dishonored has often been compared).

However, whilst the gameplay does work well I've got to say that personally I prefer a game with a strong RPG element. I think there was scope for more 'peaceful' interactions with Corvo's allies, and Dunwall is an interesting enough place for me to wish I'd learnt a bit more about it.

The gameplay was fun, but when I finished playing it wasn't something I missed especially. In that regard, it's like a cheese sandwich. Nice and tasty, but it won't leave you wanting more the same way a chocolate chip muffin will.


The graphics are good, although Bethesda have taken the deliberate choice to make them slightly stylised, compared to games such as Skyrim and Fallout 3. The city's a little dark and grim, in keeping with the sentiments of plague and murder. I never saw an issue with screen-tearing or lag or textures, and the graphics were generally good.


The voice acting is always good and sometimes excellent. The music was alright, but it never really grabbed me. Sound effects were pretty good, and I must admit I found myself cackling fiendishly as my enemies, oblivious to my re-wiring, wandered too near an unfriendly arc pylon and found themselves fried to a crisp with a delightful electrical surge.

Longevity and replayability

The game's got a reasonable length for a single playthrough, and the variable styles (ultra-stealthy, slightly stealthy or lunatic with a gun fetish) means that one or two extra games can be played with a fairly fresh perspective.

Bugs and others issues

I didn't notice any bugs or issues at any stage of playing the game.


I liked Dishonored, but I didn't love it. The gameplay's smooth and enjoyable, but I think there was room to add more non-combat interaction with people, particularly allies. One mission added a substantially new approach (Lady Boyle's party) but otherwise they did become rather too similar.

I'd probably give Dishonored 7.5/10. It's a decent game, I just wish there was a bit more to it.



  1. "It's a decent game, I just wish there was a bit more to it."

    I agree with that, which is doubtless a great weight off your mind. I have played through 2 and a half times - I didn't finish the third because I got to the point where it was too "samey".

    I do disagree that the pistol is the weapon of choice though. Far too noisy and this is a game that rewards stealth and killing only those that need to die. Indeed I am surprised you didn't mention that the game gets harder the more non-targets that you kill. Go around slaughtering everyone that is in your way then on later missions there are more bad guys in the way, to say nothing of the rat packs which are a complete nightmare to deal with (you also get a different and darker ending).

    My main complaint with the game was that it was way too short and too shallow. My first play through was 22 hours compared to around 330 for Skyrim. It was damn good fun though with some really nice high points (e.g. leaving the "dark-side" assassin alive after nicking his wallet).

  2. With a single playthrough I didn't have a point of comparison regarding the number of guards, Mr. Llama.

    I agree it's too shallow, but the length is alright. Whilst I do prefer a game of Skyrim enormity and depth I think games can work if they're of more moderate length (Metal Gear Solid's a great example of this).