Dishonored - Review Roundup
Over the weekend the first Dishonored reviews have flooded in, so here's a roundup. Arkane and Bethesda look like they have a ripper on their hands, with most reviews landing in the 9s.
Kicking off with Kotaku, who call it a "masterpiece":
I would love to have been a fly on the wall during the pitch meeting for Dishonored. “Well, it’s Deus Ex meets BioShock,” someone undoubtedly said. “Oh hey, and let’s throw in some Half-Life 2 ’cause why not?”
It’s a bizarre, eclectic blend, the type of combination that might seem too ambitious to work. But the resulting game is nothing short of a masterpiece.
Shacknews on being an "RPG", which left the reviewer "emotionally exhausted and simultaneously stunned":
The challenge for a developer creating a role-playing game is to build a bond with the player, the kind of bond where the player as protagonist not only believes in the mission of his alter ego, but cares about the characters in the game on an emotional level. The story is the essence of any good RPG, and the developer must allow the player to feel the character's anger, frustration, joy or any of the myriad emotions through that story. A great RPG builds a trust with the player and demands that role-playing be the game.
And for that reason, Arkane Studios' Dishonored is a great RPG. My emotions drove my style of game play as the bodyguard Corvo, falsely accused of killing a beloved Empress and my friend. I started with the mindset that clearing my name was secondary to finding those that killed her and kidnapped her daughter, the future monarch that I had watched grow up in my time as their bodyguard. I began play in a non-lethal fashion, fully unaware that what I was about to experience went well beyond the traditional point-and-click RPGs.
Joystiq with 4.5/5 on the different approaches:
So, reaching a mark may involve overhearing a conversation about their location, blinking (teleporting) from rooftop to rooftop onto a window ledge, using dark vision to observe enemies through the wall and choosing just the right moment to enter. Then, once inside, possessing a rat in the house, scurrying through a vent (possession in Dishonored is a full transference of body) and finally blinking into the target's room. That's just one stealth approach. Should you choose, you can also just walk through the front door and cut down everybody in your way, summoning rats to gnaw on anyone who gets too close.
IGN calls it "a breath of fresh air", on the way to 9.2/10, talking about the missions:
Dishonored’s nine missions are all very distinct. You’ll attend a society gala in disguise, scale a bridge, escape from prison, wander through flooded slums and stalk across rooftops. You'll take part in a duel, carry an unconscious man through a gauntlet of enemies and decide whether or not to become a torturer. Each mission is designed as a sandbox, allowing players to utilise whatever approach they want, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll take your time, getting the lay of the land, discovering alternate routes, listening in on conversations, taking on optional objectives, looking for secrets and treasure, and generally just playing.
Players who really take the time to enjoy the experience are rewarded too. The more runes, bone charms and money you find, the more you can augment and upgrade your character, and the more bad-ass you’ll become. In fact, by the last couple of missions I was almost too powerful; able to stalk, choke and kill with ease. Good thing there are hard and extra hard difficulty settings to move on to, which ramp up the perceptiveness of enemies and increase the general challenge.
More on exploration from GameSpot, who awarded 9/10:
Exploring Dunwall is another one of Dishonored's great pleasures. The city prospered from the whaling trade in the recent past, but has fallen on hard times since the influx of a deadly plague. Brick walls and wooden beams loom over alleys crawling with rats, while granite facades and metal barricades block off the cobblestoned plazas of the wealthier neighborhoods. Dunwall evokes a British city in the grip of the industrial revolution, but painterly coloring and slightly exaggerated proportions give the place a unique feel. Though some texture details can be slow to load in the console versions, the lovely artistic design is undiminished, making Dunwall an immensely appealing place to inhabit.
Of course, there are tangible benefits to exploration as well. Sewers, alleys, apartments, and estates all hide items that restore your health, reinforce your arsenal, teach you secrets, or allow you to gain new supernatural powers. The large areas you must traverse to get to your targets are riddled with out-of-the-way places to explore, and finding them reveals not only hidden goodies, but alternate routes as well.
The Escapist, 5/5:
The design of the city and Corvo's array of skills create an elasticity of play that makes every mission a joy to explore. Each new objective feels like a natural extension of the overall drama, rather than just another tick in your journal, and your options for completing those objectives never feel like they were put there just to help you solve a puzzle. You don't suddenly obtain the ability to possess a rat just as you need to scuttle your way through a convenient vent - the power is yours to use, or not, the entire time. You're not being given a path to follow with a target at the end, the world simply exists and you must decide how you will navigate through it. That both stealth and combat options work so smoothly and are both so enjoyable is a testament to the great thought and care put into Dishonored's design.
Eurogamer has one of the lowest scores at 8/10, so let's take some criticism:
It's a shame, then, that the mechanics of the game aren't always up to the high standard set elsewhere. Context-sensitive actions are needlessly fussy, as opening doors or teleporting to ledges requires a little too much shuffling around for the right prompt to appear. Frustrating and, under pressure, sometimes fatal.
The AI of your opponents doesn't always hold up to scrutiny either, with guards sometimes spotting you from a long distance and other times remaining blissfully unaware of the black-clad figure crouching in their peripheral vision. Once alerted to your presence, their only instinct is to mob you, and should you evade them by ducking through a doorway, they won't think to check if you close the door behind you. On one occasion I actually had guards appear behind me in a room with only one exit, and it's common for bodies and thrown objects to lodge, juddering and twitching, in walls and floors.
...and PC Gamer on the PC credentials:
Dishonored’s whole world is textured with an oil-painted smudge that brings out the 19th-century vibe – despite the sci-fi tech. That’s part of what makes its atmosphere so intoxicating: we don’t often get to explore a setting like this.
For all those reasons, I recommend turning off almost every part of the interface. There’s a thrillingly nerdy array of options for this, and I found myself getting more and more lost in the game once I’d tinkered with them: I learned to listen for the noise of my mana recharging, read street signs to figure out where I was going, and notice the way I was holding my weapon to check whether I was in sneak mode.
This is all PC specific, and our version gets all the special attention we like: field-of-view options, responsive mouse movement, graphics options – you can even ‘Disable rat shadows’. +5% to the score right there.
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3