We are so used to mainstream title launches that bring promises of “new new new” taking the spotlight and their big budget releases which include billboards on William Nicol, that we easily forgive the fact that they repeatedly bring us more and more of the same.

So much so, that these repetitions in both Storyline and gameplay are included by big software companies as their Guaranteed insurance policies for a games success. It’s these guarantees that allow us to justify how good the game is; e.g. “Because it’s like <insert game title here> its cool”, or “Because it reminds me of <insert game storyline here> its good”. Think about Skyrim, Half-Life 2, Crysis 2 or even Diablo 3? – Did they really leave that much of an impression? Or were they all lacking a bold new level of gameplay that left them hiding in the shadow of their predecessors?

Dishonored is a title we were expecting so see more of those exact promises fall flat, after all it’ s brought to us by Bethesta Softworks – a company that has been promising more-new in the FPS genre since the release of Daggerfall in 1996…Boy were we in for a treat!

Story:

Set in a dystopian past, the story takes place on a small fictitious plague infested island that is governed by a controlling, fascist-like authority…the odds are evidently stacked up against you. Even with the pleasantly peaceful introduction, which commences with your return to the City of Dunwall, players are left with an uneasy feeling from the onset.

Dishonored Plagued Sewers

You assume the role of Corvo Attano (With a name like that we can assume he was orphaned) a bodyguard to the empress. The story begins when the Empress is killed and you are the one framed for her murder. Almost instantly you are stripped of your title as ‘Lord Protector’, branded as a traitor and put on death row. After escaping from jail, with some help from some mysterious “friends” you spend the rest of the game as a fugitive of the state, with the aim to seek out the empresses’ murderer and clear your name.

All in all, a pretty conventional story, again very similar to…about a hundred other games that came out last year. BUT what sets Dishonored apart from other FPS games, is the fact that your actions throughout the game impact the stories ending – The more ruthless your actions, the darker the ending. Conversely, the more you avoid the temptation to slaughter everything in sight, the better the ending…relatively speaking – Moreover unlike games like Blade Runner and S.T.A.L.K.E.R which both had multiple ending’s based on player actions throughout the game (Deus Ex Human Revolution not included!) the actual gameplay itself begins to evolve based on your actions. Kill more and there are likely to be more plague-infested rats around to attack you. Kill unnecessarily, and NPC interactions are likely to be more hostile and aggressive towards you. Awesome.

Presentation:

Again, as is accustom to the latest blockbuster game (especially from Bethesta) this game was not built to push your hardware to the max, or to test the contrast ratio of your HD LED 30” Monitor and no, Dishonored will not feature in new GFX card benchmark shootouts…In fact should run on perfectly on full settings even the most aged systems.

So it looks pretty crap then? No. Interestingly, there has been a layer applied to the game textures to give it a kind of ‘Pastel drawn’ finish. Couple that with volumetric clouds, dynamic lighting and shadows and it looks gorgeous.

See for yourself:

Dunwall City

The Drunken Wailer Bridge

Dishonored Bar

Dishonored Architecture

Gameplay:

Wow, so much can be said here…the gameplay is what truly sets Dishonored apart from any other. As mentioned before, there are multiple ways to play Dishonored, and although stealth is often the most effective it is not necessarily the most fun!

Dishonored Inventory

Armed with a Pistol or a hand crossbow in one hand and a sword in the other your options for physical attacks are virtually endless…Take an enemy out silently with your sword from behind, put them to sleep with a sleeping dart to the neck or silently take their head off (literally) with an arrow to the forehead, both from your crossbow or loudly with a bullet from your single shot pistol (can be upgraded later) to the chest. Don’t worry if you alert his mates though, they will come charging at you with swords drawn and angry looking expressions on their faces, taking them out when they charge is just as much fun – you can counter their sword strikes at the last minute and set them off balance, leaving them vulnerable and exposed to sword through their neck, or a bullet to the face.

Dishonored A Sword to the neck

Too gory? That’s fine, your character possesses an equally formidable set of spiritual abilities that can be acquired and upgraded by means of finding secret runes scattered across the map. The first of these abilities is given to you fairly early in the game, it is the ability to teleport short distances in the blink of an eye. Dangerous then? No. But use it to teleport yourself in front of an enemy and you’ll startle him for long enough for a silent sword takedown. Some of the other spiritual abilities include the ability to possess rats – and later people, once upgraded – hurl a gust of wind from your palms, see through walls and my personal favorite, the ability to freeze time. Suddenly you have a skill set that requires no use of weapons at all. In fact, combine some of these abilities and you can start having some real fun.

Rat Plague Attack

Another reason –besides the varying storyline- you will want to play Dishonored over and over from start to finish is for the multiple ways that the game can be played. Excluding the playing styles and various ways to eliminate enemies (one can experiment for hours with these simply by reloading save points throughout the game) is the fact that although the game is not open world, there are often a multitude of routes that can be take to get your destination, be it to assassinate a traitor, or capture a strategic position, the options vary. Players are given the option to avoid conflict altogether by taking a dark alleyway, or the high ground by means of teleporting across rooftops. Alternatively, players can sneak passed patrolling guards using shadows and stealth, or by way of your spiritual arsenal- I mean abilities.

Sneaky Stealth Kill

Either way you choose, you will encounter alternate quests, alternate means in which to achieve your objectives, a range of items, ammo, money, secrets and tips that will make your journey easier to navigate…again, be it by means of stealth or by means of out right violence, the choice then is truly yours, making this one of the most playable games of 2012/2013.

Dishonored was developed by Arkane Studios and published Bethesta Softworks. Our review is based on the PC version. It is also available for the Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3.