So I finished another game today, namely Dishonored, the first person steampunk style supernatural, assassin, sneak’emup . I played through primarily as the good guy, pacifying rather than slaughtering guards and doing the same with most of the targets, although I did kill a couple for being jolly nasty people. I also killed a few thugs who just attacked me and needed a good stabbing lesson. Here is what I think…

The world of dishonored is quite disturbing in very subtle ways, from the snippets of lore around a holiday where people are free to fornicate and murder, how the golden cat recruits it’s ‘talent’ or the way they delightfully slaughter whales to get their precious whale oil fuel, it’s quite a dark and seedy place. Add to that the feel of an old English port with some supernatural hints at strange technology and a dying population paints a beautifully bleak picture.

So you are thrust into this setting given the prerequisite to explore, loot, murder rescue or pacify just about anyone you want. There are a few stories intertwined within the game, from the decline of the city due to the plague, to the rise in power of a new governor, after the despicable assassination plot of the previous one. All well detailed and suitably horrifying. Sitting slap bang in the middle of all this is a little girl, daughter to an assassinated empress, heir to the throne and meal ticket for the future.

There are several moments where you get some interesting little side stories, some you can intervene in which complete side quests and some are just heart wrenching tales within a long-suffering city of plague victims and their families. I remember one tale of a “volunteer” being selected to receive the plague so that a scientist could see how it developed. He left notes saying how she was expected to die in the morning and then you witness a conversation of her coughing and begging for him to help her with the pain, and he knowingly calms her by telling her not to worry, she’s helping find a cure and tomorrow it will all be over and her cell will be vacated.  The woman then thanks him and seems to cheer up at the thought of leaving…both sinister and sad I thought.  I let her out of her cell but couldn’t bring myself to end her suffering…I’m unsure if that was me feeling sorry for her or wanting to avoid a “death” on my mission stats. Still, it’s a poignant moment that made me quite sad.

The choice of weaponry is varied but fairly limited, if you choose to take a specific path, i.e murdering everyone or subduing everyone without bloodshed, then you have a select arsenal to do the job, I even went so far as to subdue the ‘weepers’, a sort of plague infected citizen, vaguely reminiscent of the ‘Thief’ zombies, although not nearly as tricky to keep down.

From grenades, to crossbows and pistols with varying ammunition types, a retractable sword, some supernatural powers which involve possession and summoning a hungry rat swarm. There is much you can invest in and depending on how much of the various currencies you collect, too much to invest in everything, so careful planning is necessary to hone your skills. There are also more passive skills such seeing enemies through terrain, teleporting around and increasing your health and jump/fall distance.

It all adds up to a rather wonderful selection of tools to do a wide variety of styles of gameplay. You can sneak past a guard, knock him out with a choke hold, blow him up, electrify him on his own guard wall, shoot him, possess him and then commit suicide or even become a fish/rat and bypass him. Add these options to some alternate objectives for every mission and some varying paths to traverse the maps and it’s quite a deep and enthralling game which you simply can’t experience everything in a single play through, at least, not if you are going for a specific achievement.

It looks suitably depressing and slightly stylized with characters appearing more hand drawn than realistic, the world around you is also of a similar theme. The sound effects are great and the voice work is excellent, regardless if you’re getting a pat on the back for a mission completed to overhearing a conversation between two guards as you are working out how to take them down. There is some slight repetition in the latter but it’s not too common, at least not as common as Skyrims “arrow to the knee” anecdote.

It does remind me of the Thief series of games, although perhaps that is unfair, given the restriction of a stealth only approach in those games, the work done to give you options in Dishonored must have taken far more development time. As a result the game doesn’t feel all that long to play through, Steam tells me it took 20 hours total and I’m generally quite a slow and methodical player so I can see some players finishing much sooner. The real depth comes in the fact you can play the game several times and each time take a different path to your objectives, as well as a potential change in ending based on your choices.

I think Dishonored is pretty great, and Arkane have done a fantastic job of creating a world I look forward to experiencing more of with a sequel. A special mention goes out to the both weird and wonderful foodstuff you find and consume as you adventure, jellied eels, blood sausage, tinned hag-fish and potted whale meat, yum!. Now, time to replay it, slaughtering everyone……

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