Dishonored takes place in the plague-ridden town of Dunwall. The city looks like it is steampunk at first glance, but there is nothing here that is powered by steam. The chief power source in Dunwall is whale. This is whalepunk, and it is kind of awesome. Totally gruesome and terrible, but awesome all the same. The thing is, Dunwall is being infested by plague rats, and they inform everything about the environment. The more people you kill in the game, and the more trouble you cause, the more rats and plague victims there are. The city reflects the way you play in a tangible way. There is some serious gameplay impact, but it also drives the emotional impact of the game.
You play as Corvo, formerly the bodyguard to the Empress and her daughter. You have been imprisoned after being framed for the assassination of the Empress and kidnapping of the kid. You must escape prison and then enact vengeance on the cabal that framed you. And, a few powerful allies of the cabal. How this vengeance plays out is up to you.
Dishonored has some spectacular gameplay, with a cool blend of stealth and action that really allows you to navigate the sprawling levels in a number of interesting ways. You can use the straightforward (and very bloody) approach or any of several stealthy paths. There are almost always three or four separate ways to approach a situation, and the decision usually comes down to preference. Want to possess a rat and crawl through the vent? Go ahead. Want to possess the guard and walk through the front door? Why not? Want to murder everyone in sight? Ok, I guess. Want to carefully move along the ledges and roofs? Now you’re talking.
I played through the game as sneakily and carefully as I could and had a ball. Then, I thought of the part-timers and knew that I needed to try to play through some of the game as violently as possible, and I can report that it is still funner than a bag of hammers. (That was the worst metaphor and terrible grammar. – Ed.) Dishonored is a great stealth game that also has some entertaining combat. Honestly, how many stealth games can also claim to have good combat? Sit down, Metal Gear Solid. Historically, halfway decent combat was a plus in a stealth game. Dishonored has legitimately good and interesting combat.
Did I mention how compelling the story is yet? This is one of the best stories I have seen in a recent game. There is some real disturbing stuff going on, and some spectacularly questionable morals in the good guys. I can’t help but feel like there is a little bit of parody of the entire gaming industry in this game. For instance, you can complete the game without killing anyone at all, including your assassination targets. The thing is, the way you get rid of your targets without killing them can be incredibly cruel and disturbing. For example, one target escapes death by having his tongue cut out and then getting sent to work as an indentured servant in the mine he owns. Yeeesh.
There are two things that this game does that make it perfect for the busy adult with lots of grownup responsibilities. First, it is great. Second, in addition to the pretty generous auto-save system, you can save in almost any spot. So, if you are the anal-retentive sort who needs to get through the level perfectly without ever being seen and collecting all the stuff that there is to collect, you can save it every three minutes. If you prefer to play by the seat of your pants, but maybe need to be helpful or productive, you can save at a moment’s notice. Dishonored manages to be a game that is worth playing and also fits into any lifestyle. This one is highly recommended.