“The boldest measures are the safest” reads the plaque above the entrance to Dishonored’s dystopian city of Dunwall.
A plague ridden fusion of gothic, British turn-of-the-century and brutalist sci-fi architecture, it’s a beautifully twisted sight that, as supernatural assassin Corvo Attano, you’re most likely to survey from the rooftops. Dishonored’s design sensibilities are a shrine to player choice and consequence, so what you do from those rooftops is your decision.
You could use the game’s central traversal mechanic, blink, to teleport a short range. Elegantly zipping through the Dickensian streets, you can assassinate your target and ‘blink’ right out of there again, undetected.
Alternatively, you can take a more direct approach and blast through the front door with a supernatural gust of wind and your blunderbuss blazing. Importantly the combat, which combines fierce melee duels with supernatural and firearm support options, is just as viable and enjoyable as the stealth approach.
A minor complaint could be levelled at the disappointingly conventional arsenal of weaponry but the inventive kills made possible by combining these weapons with the supernatural powers make up for this.
Dishonored’s combat is at its best when players bend and combine gameplay systems, approaching enemies as puzzles to play with rather than simple cannon fodder.
It encourages players to experiment in every facet of its gameplay. Factor in supernatural powers and you will be possessing your target and making them commit suicide; attacking them by spawning plague rats and even escaping by possessing a fish and swimming for freedom. In its bold, playful and inclusive approach to player empowerment, Dishonored sticks to the aforementioned mantra of its totalitarian government closely.
Although through sharp writing and subtle environmental storytelling, the aristocracy that rules Dunwall reveals itself to be a corrupt and detestable establishment, Corvo has a personal stake in his quest for blood.
Framed for the murder of the empress he joins a loyalist campaign to dethrone the murderous conspirators and place the empress’ daughter and rightful heir on the throne. Dishonored tells a tale of power, politics and poetic justice and, with a fantastic voice cast including Susan Sarandon, Chloë Grace Moretz and Lena Headey, it’s up there with Bioshock as one of the best tales ever told in the medium.
Concern has been voiced about the length of the game after a speed run was posted online that came in at little over four hours. Thankfully, with important but completely optional side quests, there is far more to the game than some reports would have you believe.
You can complete Dishonored in four hours in the same sense that you can beat Super Mario World by playing twelve of the ninety six levels. While our exhaustive playthrough came in at over 20 hours, the ability to miss content is an unfortunate side effect of Dishonored’s faith in player freedom.
Often resembling a painting in motion Dishonored is a beautiful, multifaceted and inventive game that respects its audience. In a marketplace crowded with sequels, it proves that the boldest measures are the safest.