This captivating sneaker blends a grimy steampunk (more accurately whalepunk) setting with mystic powers, zombies, an irreverent sense of humour and a voice cast that sends my geekdar into hyperdrive.
I found play compulsive. Sometime around four in the morning, I finally decided ‘just one more mission’ wasn’t going to cut it anymore, and I needed my bed. Fortunately, it was a weekend, so a lie-in wasn’t a problem.
The plot of Dishonored is fairly simple: you’re the Lord Protector of the realm, framed for the murder of the Empress you’re sworn to protect by a usurper to the throne. As a plague of rats sweeps the city, you’ve to escape from prison, make contact with the loyalist and then begin a series of missions to take out the usurper and his allies and rescue the Empress’s heir.
All of this takes place in a grimy industrial age city of smoke towers and dirty brick buildings.
Not long after escaping, you’re contacted in a dream by The Outsider, who grants mystic powers. You can improve these by collecting runes on missions, eventually gaining the power to see through walls, teleport short distances, possess rats so you can sneak through rat holes, or learn more reliable ways of killing. You can also spend cash looted in missions to get equipment upgrades. All of which means there’s plenty for sweepers to do, and that sweeping will make subsequent missions easier.
There are a number of things that make a great game: varied gameplay that’s challenging yet achievable, atmospheric setting, immersion, decent plot, good characterisation. If there’s decent graphics it’s a bonus. Bethesda manages to nail all those factors solidly.
At its heart, Dishonored is a sneaker, but you can also play it as a shooter by murdering or assassinating guards rather than attempting to bypass them. A stand-up fight is difficult, though, particularly against more than a couple of opponents. A half-way option is to sneak up behind guards and throttle them into unconsciousness – they stay down for the duration of the mission.
Whether you sneak or fight will have an impact on the game: the more destruction you cause, the grimmer the city will get, and the more wandering monsters (rat swarms and zombies) you’ll encounter.