Ambitious. That’s easily the best word to describe Dishonored, a game attempting to fuse two of the trickiest mechanics in the business to get right – open-world freedom and decisions with lasting, meaningful consequences.
That’d be a big enough ask for any studio, so to throw ever-volatile stealth mechanics into the pot as well is surely asking for trouble.
We want it to work, we really do. But with so many things that could go wrong, we’re either going to end up with an absolute masterpiece or an absolute mess. There’s pretty much no middle ground with this risky plate of gaming fugu, and that’s a real worry.
On paper, though, things certainly look promising. The open-plan steampunk setting of Dunwall falls somewhere between Rapture and Deus Ex’s dystopian vision of the future; Corvo’s magical powers might as well be Plasmids; the free-form mission structure offers the kind of versatility that Assassin’s Creed’s main hits promise but so infrequently deliver on.
It reeks of some of the biggest and best games out there, which, as Dead Space would gladly tell you if it had a mouth, is no bad thing. But it’s the unique combination of familiar flavours that makes it such a distinctive proposition in its own right.
A rich arsenal of powers means that there are countless ways to approach any given situation, although upgrade currency being limited will make specialisation and clever planning crucial. Will you dwell in the shadows with a sword and cut through your targets one by one in silence or go in guns blazing and rely on teleports to make your getaway?
Or will you simply troll your quarry, tormenting them with swarms of plague-bearing rats or elemental destruction and sneaking by as they panic? It’s sandbox stealth on a level we’ve not seen before, so we just hope Dishonored doesn’t ‘do a Deus Ex’ and push players towards one style of play for crunch moments.
It’s stylish, it’s original and it’s got a hell of a lot of clever and cool ideas. The only real question hangs over whether France’s Arkane Studios – whose best game to date is Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, rather troublingly – can deliver on the shopping list of promises Dishonored makes. Clockwork fingers and steam-powered toes crossed, people.
Five Reasons To Be Excited:
Play Your Way – Freedom is integral to the Dishonored experience and with melee, ranged and magical offensive options – as well as the chance to avoid combat altogether at times – it’s a satisfying and personal experience.
Mana Drain – Would-be wizards might be a little disheartened to learn that the use of magic in Dishonored is quite restricted, making it crucial to choose the right moments to maximise the usefulness of each power.
Karma Killer – Taking a leaf out of Mass Effect’s space-book, Arkane’s game will track and grade player actions with a morality mechanic of sorts. Expect repercussions if you choose to follow the dark path.
Variety Meal – It’s not just the weapons that come in all kinds of flavours. Locations and characters showcase similar creativity and diversity, even within relatively small areas.
But Is It Art? – Dishonored’s art style seems to have divided the public, but we love it – it makes a lot more sense in motion than it does in stills, that’s for sure.
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