Deus Ex is the greatest PC game of all time. You might disagree, and if you do I forgive you, but there’s a reason ION Storm’s first-person conspiracy stealth role-playing game shooter routinely tops lists of the greatest PC games of all time. It combined so many different elements of genres into a single, compelling first-person experience with a fantastic story, and let players decide exactly how they want to play the game not just with moral choices, but strategic ones. You could be a stealthy assassin, a pacifist, a hacker, a commando, or any other type of character, and each role would have a way for you to play. Arkane Studios and Bethesda Softworks’ Dishonored for the PC, Xbox 360 , and PlayStation 3 taps into the feeling and produces a compelling experience that lets you feel as brutal or subtle, malicious or passive as you want to be. Dishonored, available for $59.99 (list), feels like a spiritual successor to Deus Ex in the same way that Bioshock was a spiritual successor to System Shock (but without the shared development team; Warren Spector and the old ION Storm team had nothing to do with this game).
A Different London
Dishonored takes place in the city of Dunwall, a Victorian London-style capital of a Victorian England-style nation filled with fantastic, whale oil-powered technology that feels much more like a science fiction penny dreadful than the catch-all genre of “steampunk.” A plague is spreading through the city, turning bystanders into monsters and rats into packs of man-eating street piranha. You play Corvo Attano, the Empress’ bodyguard who returns to Dunwall after looking for aid for the city only to see the Empress killed before him. He’s arrested for the crime and is scheduled to be executed, but he’s broken out by loyalists to the Empress and her missing daughter who want to take down the brutal dictatorship that rose in her place. There’s also a mysterious dark god who gives you magic powers and is very interested in your quest for revenge.
The game is first-person, but like Deus Ex it’s not a run-and-gun shooter. Corvo is a powerful fighter with sword, pistol, and crossbow, and he only becomes more powerful as he upgrades his equipment and powers by collecting treasure and hidden runes and charms, but he’s not invincible. With enough ammunition and preparation you can cut a swath through guards and decimate everyone in your path, but that’s only one way to get through the game, and it has its own consequences. Corvo’s powers and equipment let him sneak along rooftops, teleport short distances, and detect guards through walls, so you can sneak past enemies without letting them know you’re there and without killing any of them. You can explore areas and find alternate routes with different dangers but fewer guards. You can even work with Dunwall’s criminal underworld, performing favors for access to paths you couldn’t find otherwise.
These paths all have obstacles that themselves offer different solutions, depending on your play style. If you want to knock a few guards out with sleeping darts, you can. If you want to teleport behind them and cut their throats, you can. If you want to set razor-filled land mines in guards’ paths and watch them get shredded before using the distraction to get past them, you can. You can also rewire security systems to get past deadly walls of light, summon swarms of rats to eat people, stop time and kill everyone in the room before they see you, and summon blasts of wind to knock them through windows and off balconies. Each of these methods feel unique and satisfying, and no matter how you build up Corvo you’ll feel unstoppable in some way. Dishonored lets you choose how to play through the entire game, then give you a half dozen other ways to play again to give you a new experience getting to the same objective.
Different Ways to Play
How you play affects the rest of the game, as well. Everyone you kill and every guard you alert adds to the chaos of the city, which makes it darker and more plague-filled. Depending on who you help or kill in missions, different paths will be available to you. The game takes place in discrete, connected zones for each mission and there’s no open-world exploration outside, but it makes the story seem much more focused and rich than the excellent Elder Scrolls games. You aren’t an adventurer and you’re not looking through every cave and ruin at your leisure. You’re an assassin who creeps through a city that considers you a traitor. It adds much more direction to the story, while giving you just enough room to stretch out and find different solutions.
Dishonored isn’t perfect, though. The levels tend to feel a bit cramped despite their multiple paths, and while the transition from stealth to combat feels more organic than Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it isn’t quite as seamless as the original Deus Ex. It’s also very easy to rely on Dark Vision to see enemies around corners, which means your Dishonored experience will be just as monochrome and missing the visually impressive surroundings as Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Dishonored is a fantastic game that puts you in a playground of murder and stealth while still keeping focused on an interesting story in a rich and enthralling world. It’s not quite as large, as open, or as well-written as Deus Ex, but it stands as a solid spiritual successor to one of the best PC games of all time. It’s Bioshock to Deus Ex’s System Shock 2, and it’s worth a look no matter your favorite genre.
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|Genre||Action Games, Role-Playing|
|Platform||PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PS Vita|
|ESRB Rating||M for Mature|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc