Dishonored has been on our radar since it was announced in 2011 and, thankfully, the final product avoids the hype train and lives up to its potential – mostly.
As Corvo Attano, framed for the murder of the Empress you once protected, you’re cast into a political thriller as the various forces in the steampunk-influenced city of Dunwall vie for power. Recruited into a resistance effort by loyalists and gifted supernatural abilities by an unexplained figure called The Outsider, how you choose to complete missions on your quest for revenge is largely up to you. It’s not quite as freeform as was promised though – an early mission against the High Overseer of the city requires you to find specific pieces of info to ‘unlock’ a non-lethal solution, rather than allowing you to concoct your own plan.
Largely though, the sense of freedom is exceptional. Corvo’s powers – expanded through finding charms littered about, rather than traditional experience points – are as suited to exploring Dunwall itself as they are for taking down enemies. The emphasis is largely on avoiding conflict though, moving through shadows or teleporting between positions of cover unseen. When it does occur, combat feels realistic, even one well-armed opponent potentially proving a match for you.
If there's a singular weak part of the game, it's the lead character himself – Corvo is yet another emotionless silent protagonist. While this may work for the likes of Bethesda's Elder Scrolls games, where the actions and personality you apply to your individual character is integral to the appeal, here the anonymity of the mute hero serves to alienate the player from him. We're told that we are playing Corvo’s story, but we never really learn who he is; only how the people around him see him.
Imaginative visuals paint the world of Dishonored as one just slightly askew from history, realistic if our own industrial revolution had taken a side-step, while solid voice work from the likes of Susan Sarandon and Michael Madsen combine to make it even more immersive. Despite Corvo’s non-presence, Dishonored is a brilliantly realised new title, one where the world it’s set in is as much a character as its varied inhabitants.
Reviewed by Matt Kamen