Saturday, 9 February 2013

Dishonored - An In-Depth Review

Dishonored is a first person Action adventure game that places a massive emphasis on stealth and choices, allowing the player a multitude of methods in order to accomplish the in-game objectives and it does a grandiose job of depicting the vile tenets of the human rationale and it’s ensuing misery in all its deeply manipulative, interesting and mutated forms. Dishonored is nothing short of a masterpiece in its story, delivery and presentation. For gamers yet to play it, Dishonored borrows some game mechanics from the more familiar Hitman series, but is far from a clone or rip-off of said series, it is more befittingly accurate to say the game was inspired by the series and gives an acknowledging nod to it rather than imitates it, and with supernatural powers thrown in for good measure alongside a unique and engrossing universe, Dishonored is a distinctive game all of its own.

You have the choice of going in gun, sword and crossbow blazing leaving a line of bodies in your wake as alarms scream and plague rats satiate themselves on the corpses of your victims, or you can choose a more efficient route, taking on the mindset of something like a navy seal or ninja, dropping in out of nowhere, choking/sleep darting enemies and hiding their bodies inside chests, dumpsters or in dark corners where they won’t be seen.

The game’s story is just as important if not more important than the gameplay itself. I’d go as far as saying Dishonored is the “1984 of modern computer games” – if you don’t get the 1984 reference, that’s fine – so to say it simply, Dishonored is an accurately masterful depiction of dystopia in all it's drudged splendour.

Dishonored incorporates modern technology, religion and the supernatural in to a colonial setting which appears to be based on medieval England, with the aristocratic nobles, lords, barons, lady’s and the head of state being an unelected monarch alongside wars between kingdoms and imperial conquest the game represents an interesting contrast not seen before that elicits a strong regal theme at it’s core, while simultaneously leading the main protagonist to explore an antithetical escapade as part of the “resistance group” he is a member of.

The game has a religious conflict between the games state religion named “the abbey of the everyman” and those who practice witchcraft from “the stranger”. The religion opposes withcraft and utilises modern technological devices that incorporate mathematics to disable magic within a radius of the device, making the stranger and those who carry his mark weak and unable to cast. It’s an interesting ideological conflict which serves to mirror the real life conflicts between modern science and religion, except in Dishonored the extremist religious followers have gone one step further in using science to negate magic, whilst being completely religious and anti-ritual/magic. This is something of an interesting dynamic, if not also completely hypocritical.

Dishonored is a universe full of lore and much like the codex in Mass Effect or Dragon Age, there are notes, books and “audiograph” recordings all around the world which give you additional information about the Dishonored universe revealing more intricate details surrounding the various conflicts, politics, ideas and geography that form the total of it's sum. This lends to create an incredibly immersive universe where the most attentive players can spend hours on end just listening to recordings and reading books, learning more about specific characters, the continents of the Dishonored world, the supernatural, the society they live in and much, much more.

Play or avoid?
Dishonored is a unique game that is more than worthy of your time and attention, there is nothing else like it which has yet to have graced the Xbox 360, with a rich and immersive story, addictive game mechanics and beautiful visuals the game is a defining title of what other games should aspire to and despite offering no multiplayer functionality, the game is an unforgettable single player experience which reaches depths that only most games can dream of, the game almost feels like a book that you’re lucky enough to experience aesthetically first-hand. An outstanding, wonderful and unforgettable game.

Visuals: 10/10
The visuals are breathtaking, the city skylines are mesmerising and the water effects are gorgeous as they reflect their surroundings and move gently in a fluidic rippling motion while facial movements are intricately surreal, genuine and life-like. The draw distance is absolutely huge allowing the player to see detailed silhouettes of buildings that appear to be miles away only serving to lend enormously to the games immersion factor. There are areas of the game where the textures on certain bricks, objects or rocks look less defined, rushed and hence lower quality – however these little nuances are the exception, not the rule. The majority of the game is incredibly beautiful and incorporates an innovative and unique art style that lends heavily to the games overarching themes of what is an authoritarian, devoutly religious, aristocratic and feudalist state on the verge of an industrial revolution. The lighting effects are well implemented and are ubiquitous throughout the world of Dishonored as they also serve as an important gameplay mechanism, objects and buildings thus have their respective silhouettes depicted and realised in all their shadowy glory. On the blood and gore side of things, the decapitations among other assassination animations are murderously satisfying in their visually executed depiction, they aren’t excessive in gore but this makes them no less pleasing to look at.

Sound: 10/10
The games sounds accommodate the gritty dystopian ambiance the games plot tries profusely to impose upon the player, be it the sound from Boatman Samuel’s oar gently brushing against the water to the slicing of an enemy’s throat and subsequent thud when they hit the floor – the sound effects elicit a certain theme of depression and mundaneness, which is exactly what a dystopia should be aiming to depict. The voice acting in cutscenes and recordings found throughout the game (called audiographs) are truly superb and with its cast of unique and distinctive voices gives each of the characters immense amounts of personality and authenticity in an already deeply immersive game.

Gameplay: 8/10
A lot of gamers are used to fast-paced action, Dishonored is not a fast game, if anything it’s a game of patience as you monitor enemy patrols, analyse the environment for effective routes to take whilst being given multiple options to execute different assassinations and objectives within the game, many of these options are“intelligent” allowing various methods to achieve a certain means on the way towards an objective, be it hiding a body, possessing an enemy mid-conversation, poisoning a cup that an enemy is going to drink from or hijacking a security system to kill it’s supposed allies. Often enough the player will find it difficult to complete all the mission objectives as completing one objective “in the wrong way” will destroy the possibility of completing another objective. Stealth and the correct use of the characters psychic powers are the core elements which effect how the game is played and define the playing experience through how the interface dictates you utilise them.

Originality: 10/10
The plot is not exactly interesting, but it serves as an excuse to find out about the world Dishonored takes place in, and it’s that world which is interesting. It’s so vastly compelling, complex, intricate and interwoven with a vast array of themes, ideas and conflicts that only the most clever mind will be truly able to appreciate just how much the game is a piece of art, as well as it is a game. The universe the game takes place in is uniquely compelling and this leaves massive opportunity to develop the IP further in any respective direction the developers wish, be it a spin-off, sequel or prequel title. If as much time, effort and money is put into a future title as was with this game then any future titles the series spawns should be anticipated eagerly.

Overall Score: 38/40 – Exceptional

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