Dishonored Review: Revenge is Almost as Good as Freedom


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In terms of gameplay, it’s hard to criticize because Dishonored gives you all manner of power, while doing well to balance the challenges you face in the game and in its AI to make sure that you aren’t able to walk all over everyone with no resistance. It would have been nice for Arkane to break things up a bit, however, as every mission basically has you doing the same thing. My go-to comparison for the experience has been Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which delivers a lot of the same kind of experience. That game also includes things like its intense conversation battles and additional bits like hacking. Whether you like those things or not, they do stand to add a few other activities to the core formula of sneaking and/or killing, and Dishonored might have benefited from the occasional shift of focus as well.

I haven’t had a chance to compare the console version of Dishonored to its PC counterpart, but Arkane Studios has made sure to take care of the PC side pretty well. The game is optimized for PC, with plenty of additional options that console players don’t get — things like additional graphical adjustments, a field of view control, and the ability to alter the entire head’s up display information that appears on the screen. You won’t just be getting a straight port of a console title, in any case, which is much appreciated.

Possibly the best thing about Dishonored is that it provides the sort of deep and immersive world that makes Deus Ex and BioShock so engaging. There’s a huge amount of background information you can glean just by being observant as you move through the game, reading book excerpts and listening to people talk. A lot of the story of the game happens around you, rather than to you, and that always makes games like this feel like they live and breathe.

The game excels in creating interesting, rounded characters, for the most part — the conspirators, your allies, are a lot more than just protectors of the Empress’s lineage, and you’ll discover things about them that show their darkness as well as their light. I only wish there had been more of this.

Despite being enjoyable, the story lands a bit on the predictable side, and I really just wish there had been more. With such a vibrant world, it could have been cool for the story to stretch out beyond the machinations of aristocrats vying for power. I’d like to question The Outsider’s motives. I’d like to see Corvo’s drive for vengeance (if that’s even what he is hoping to achieve) challenged. I’d like to see someone point out the fact that the entire thrust of the game does little or nothing to affect the lives of the common and poor people of Dunwall, who go right on suffering until the ending.


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But all criticisms I have for the game are extremely minor (primarily my issue with Dishonored is that I want even more of it), and the groundwork is there. For as cool a world as Dunwall is, I’d love to see Arkane continue making games within it, and exploring some of the things its story hinted at but never quite addressed in the game. Dishonored as a single unit, however, is highly engaging and deep, providing a lot of creativity and freedom; I loved exploring it.

Dishonored’s creators have obviously put a lot of passion into the project, and the result is a great experience that offers new additions to some phenomenal classic formulas. The game feels like a conversation between player and creator, and those are often the best experiences in the medium.

Pros:

  • Lots of cool powers that allow you to do interesting things, especially when you pair them creatively
  • Gives players a huge amount of power and freedom that makes exploring the game feel like your journey
  • Difficulty balances well with your superpowers — enemies are capable fighters and their AI is pretty solid
  • Sneaking is just as much fun as fighting
  • Solid characters, good voice work, high production values
  • PC optimizations and options are nice

Cons:

  • Story could potentially have been a bit deeper; it’s a bit predictable
  • Final moments are anticlimactic
  • Could have used a few more moments that changed up the infiltrate-assassinate-escape formula a bit

Final Score: 90/100


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8 Comments on Dishonored Review: Revenge is Almost as Good as Freedom

Zach

On October 14, 2012 at 3:19 am

I just don’t understand why so many sites are raving about this game.

-The stealth is clunky and very trial and error.
-The textures are muddy and unfinished.
-The story is bland and the twist is seen a mile away.

-There is absolutely no attachment to your main goal
{who was honestly tearing up when the empress you just met died?}

-There is a serious lack of motivation
{You don’t really know any of the people you want revenge on, nor the people you are trying to save}

-It’s very short for something strictly single-player
{I looked for everything and tried my damnedest to complete ever side quest and still clocked in at under 8 hours}

-The end-of-level stats break down kills whatever immersion the game was going for.

-The powers are very limited
{I know some of them can be fun but only two tiers means you end up with a lot of extra abilities you don’t use that often}

The only things this game seems to have going for it is some player freedom about going about the task at hand. This game seems like it would have been impressive as a launch title but after Bioshock, Batman, Assassin’s Creed and Deus Ex {all games it borrows heavily from} I just feel like there is much better out there in the stealth and open world genres.

I’m not saying the game is horrible mind you I’m just saying I can’t see why something that borrows so heavily and looks so unpolished is running away with 9s and 10s.

Zorf

On October 17, 2012 at 9:18 am

Hi Zach,

I think they’re raving about the game because they disagree with you on many of those points. I do too, (eg. I think you’ve misunderstood the look they’re trying to achieve with the textures you described as muddy and unfinished) but each to his own, I’m sorry you don’t enjoy the game more.

Best regards,

Zorf

Phil Hornshaw

On October 17, 2012 at 9:28 am

@Zach

You’re not the first person to say the things you’ve said, and I think a lot of your comments are pretty valid — the game isn’t good at motivating you, and the story isn’t really all that good at keeping you engaged. I have a theory: enjoyment of Dishonored is directly related to how enjoyable you found the world, since you had to do a lot of entertaining of yourself through the course of the game. I liked the world and found it fascinating (and spent about twice as long in my playthrough as you did); others who don’t get grabbed by the world tend to find the game really flawed. This seems to be something of a personal reaction, but I think yours is just as valid as mine.

For what the creators were setting out to accomplish — Deus Ex, but with a different brand of superpowers and an emphasis on stabbing over shooting — I thought Arkane accomplished what they set out to, and I was really engaged by it. I have to disagree with you on the stealth, but for the most part, I think that personally the game resonated with me in a few ways that made me overlook the story weaknesses. But the more I’m reading and researching, the more I’m finding that a lot of people have the opposite reaction.

Faith in the Internet

On October 17, 2012 at 9:35 am

How refreshing it is to see someone (Zach) summarise their criticisms of a game in a pretty clear, concise, diplomatic and non-hyperbolic manner, and for the author to respond pragmatically and not take the conflict personally. This type of interaction is almost completely absent in every other mainstream videogame forum.

Zach

On October 19, 2012 at 5:35 am

@Phil Just a slight clarification about my comment on stealth.

When I mean Trial and error I’m referring to the fact tha if a single guard sees you the resulting cacophony {for me} was either a single teleport to a random corner to wait for several minutes or to engage half a dozen guards in a grand melee.

The issue I continuously had was one of two things happening when I stealth killed/knocked out people. Either they or a buddy saw me from way outside their field of view or I could literally kill rows of men walking one right behind another.

The mechanics are there for it to be wonderful but I never really came across anything other than the above scenarios which I think disappointed me.

@Zorf

The ascetic style of a game can set a tone and choosing the proper one is key to how your game will feel. My main issue is that it goes with a surreal steam-punk style {something comparative to BioShock} and it fails at making the texture appear clean.

I am aware that they are going for a water colour painting but that isn’t really an excuse to allow your textures appear so blurred and sloppy. If you are going to emulate a style similair to another game in this generation you’d best do a good job at it {especially of said game came out four years ago}.

Even ignoring the BioShock angle it’s easy to get a water-colour painted style to still appear clean and not suffer from the blurring I witnessed in this game. A perfect example of which is Skyward Sword the textures on the models are still crisper than anything in Dishonored which is astounding for the hardware the Wii has and I can’t stand Zelda games.

I will admit that the reason I’m so much more critical on this game is from my experience as a Texture Artist in the industry; knowing that they could have done so much better and being disappointed that no one seems to be calling them out on it.

Phil Hornshaw

On October 19, 2012 at 8:58 am

@Zach

Ah, I gotcha. I must say that I felt it was a bit more harrowing for me. Maybe amp the difficulty? Those guards are pretty effective when they surround you. Still, I see where you’re coming from.

Zach

On October 19, 2012 at 11:09 am

@Phil

I just want to say thank you for being the most polite person I’ve ever disagreed with on the internet and that our little conversation of opinions was actually something I enjoyed.

We both know how vehement people with anonymity can be and how many take criticism as a personal assault.

You have done neither in our exchange and so I tip my hat to you, sir.

Phil Hornshaw

On October 19, 2012 at 11:16 am

@Zach

Thanks! Personally, my favorite thing about writing about games is talking about them, so know that your thoughts are always welcome, even (or especially) when we don’t agree. Alternative perspectives should be encouraged, I say, and you’ve been polite and great to talk to as well. I’m always excited to discuss this stuff, so keep it up!