Saturday, February 02, 2013

Dishonored (2012) Arkane Studios

I rented this game the other day because I heard it was short, which, after clocking in under the ten hour mark, it was (and that was after replaying some of the missions in the middle section).  I would have been pissed if I had spent sixty bucks on it but for two days rental I didn't mind my experience.

Dishonored is one hell of an experience.  I'm tempted to compare it to Bioshock but only in the regard with the quality of the writing and the world (and Dishonored didn't have the bullshit ending Bioshock did).  The atmosphere of the game is one that is familiar yet oddly fantastical.  It's not so much steampunk (thank God) than reminiscent of the bizarro realms of Clive Barker's late 80s/early 90s period - particularly Imajica but not as strange as Quiddity.  Actually, the more I think about it the more Dishonored reminds me of Imajica.  There's a vaguely bizarre Anglophile look without British accents, the characters have a very familiar style (they're particularly graphic novel-y) but have an individual look to them.  It's a bizarre world where electricity and indoor plumbing exist but they still use chamber pots.

OOOOOOOOOOh, okay Arkane Studios is in Austin but the HQ is in France.  That explains the style of it.  So, put Imajica and Metal Hurlant in a blender et voila!  Dishonored

The story is solid, the writing capable, I felt empathy for the characters I was supposed to feel empathy for and none for my foes (though I did show mercy and tried to stick to non-lethal takedowns).  There were a couple of dark turns I wasn't expecting.  One particular character who shall remain nameless is now one of my favorites from recent games.  The silent protagonist is a little more rounded out than normally expected, as he is forced to become an assassin involved in Machiavellian politics.

It's a rather bleak game and the environments reflect the moods of the game nicely.  There's an interesting play in level design between free roam, exploration for stealthy fun and changing environments.  Some of the areas reward taking the high path, whilst others reward climbing up, over, and through pipes, catwalks, construction areas, battered tenements, etc. 

What really expands the exploration, quite well as a matter of fact, are the skills you slowly level by collecting runes scattered through out levels (or are occasionally rewarded after missions).  One of the skills is an interesting short range teleport maneuver that excels at traversing alleyways, rooftops, or simply zipping behind an enemy for a takedown.  I ended experimenting and using that skill the most.  Another skill summons a pack of plague rats to distract and attack enemies.  Grisly to the point of comedic, watching a foe get eaten by rats.  Still, pretty helpful.  There were a couple of other skills but I didn't really put time into those.  There's a possesion skill that allows you to take control of animals (eventually humans) but I only found it helpful once or twice.

Gameplay is pretty well polished for the most part, I didn't experience any freezes, or serious glitches.  It had a couple of moments where I would get jammed on something but that happens sometimes in FPS.  Combat, what little I got into, was fast and furious and even on "Normal" guards could wreck shop when in numbers.  Tallboys (I love the design of these stilt walker heavily armed & armored guards) and packs of hostile rats will tear you a new one if given the chance.  The array of weapons is standard for this kind of FPS, right trigger for right-handed melee, left trigger for ranged and special skills.  Right bumper blocks while left bumper brings up a quick select wheel.  Not reinventing the wheel but capably done.

I felt justly rewarded for going my usual non-lethal route (a la Hitman I only takedown the target) though I laughed heartily when a stunned or tranquilized foe would fall off a building ledge or collapse in water.  Hey, technically I didn't kill them.

All in all an unexpected surprise and enjoyable gaming experience.  I'm not sure if it's worth sixty bucks but if you see it for rent or a GOTY edition I would recommend picking it up.

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