Review: Dishonored (PC): A Plague, a Mask, and a Murder

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Dark days are upon the once-grand city of Dunwall, brought to its knees by a mysterious plague that has claimed thousands of lives. Carried by rats, they threaten to devour the city, infecting those too poor to protect and inoculate themselves with fancy elixirs. Empress Jessamine Kaldwin, the monarch of the Isles, sends her bodyguard and Lord Protector Corvo Attano at the behest of her spymaster to rally aid from the other nations, but to no avail. As Corvo, you return empty handed to the Empress and her young daughter Emily, only to find yourself in the midst of a grand conspiracy coming to fruition: you and your royal charges are ambushed by strange assassins with unnatural powers.

Overrun, you watch as Jessamine is stabbed and Emily, stolen from you and just as quickly as the assassins appeared, they evaporate into thin air, leaving you with the bloody corpse of the late Empress and the spymaster claiming you’ve betrayed them all. You are… Dishonored.

While we’re on the topic, Dishonored is a stealth action RPG developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. An epic tale of royal intrigue, deadly diseases, and socioeconomic disparity, this title is certain to pull at your heart strings while you’re exacting your revenge on those who’ve turned on you and your Empress.

Reminiscent of the Black Death that strangled Europe in the mid-14th century, the rat plague and steampunk Empire of the Isles provides a magnificent setting for an enthralling story of vengeance and preservation. Blessed with martial prowess and supernatural gifts by the one the citizens of Dunwall call “The Outsider,” Corvo is a one-man army and a force to be reckoned with. Despite the dark times that have fallen on the city, the environment and your movement within it feels natural and organic, as silky smooth as the pastel colors used to paint the scenes.

Review: Dishonored (PC): A Plague, a Mask, and a Murder

With regards to fluidity, the combat is just as seamless—and exceptionally fun. Armed with a sword and another one-handed implement of death ranging from a miniature crossbow to a gun to those crazy Outsider powers, the corruptible City Watchmen won’t know what hit them. However, every choice you make, every body that hits the ground by your hand affects the world around you and watching Dunwall and its denizens evolve is, in itself, satisifying.

Admittedly, revisiting areas in other games can be a boring, tedious chore, but in Dishonored, how you complete one mission affects the areas and conditions of later ones. Were you exceptionally brutal last you crashed that noble family’s party? Expect more guards, towers, and hordes of rats, having gorged themselves on the corpses you left behind (thus creating more Weepers—infected citizens who bleed and vomit blood, having been exposed to the plague from all your scampering friends). Sometimes the smallest changes can have large outcomes without you know how one action affects something else later on. Talk about replayability.

If there is one thing that I’d like to gripe about, however, it’s how I thoroughly dislike the penalization for killing people, especially given that you’re a bodyguard-gone-assassin with a chip on his shoulder. Though Dishonored markets itself saying you have the freedom to tackle scenarios as you choose—which don’t get me wrong, you do—I feel like the game is designed to push you to be nice in order to get a good ending, even though, frankly, the bastards had it coming.

Review: Dishonored (PC): A Plague, a Mask, and a Murder

Given this nudging in the good direction, it makes the game feel more linear than what it is. I don’t like being guilted for doing something assassins do best: kill people. This could have been easily fixed, however, if the game allowed for more dynamic ways to subdue your targets without actually taking their lives. I mean, Batman does it with kickass style; why Corvo has only the choice of either sneak around or slice people up is kind of disheartening, especially with the attention to other details within the game.

That in mind, the endings are also somewhat lackluster. For as awesome as the story and universe are, it’s in this writer’s opinion that the endings were too cut and dry, too dualistic, your typical good/bad endings. Throughout the entire game, you’re exposed to how gray the world is, how you’re unsure who to trust and what your friends’ (and foes’) motivations are, then to just end with either a pleasant or not-so-pleasant outcome isn’t too satisfying.

Despite these shortcomings, Dishonored is a rather fantastic game in a refreshing setting—despite all the blood and pestilence. Another welcome addition to Bethesda’s catalog of great games (along with Arkane), it’ll be interesting to see how the DLC expands upon this dark saga.

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Anthony Magestro

Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.