Dishonored follows the “Darksiders formula” in that it has taken the majority of it’s core gameplay from 2 rather different franchises. It has the stealth-based assassinations and some of the platforming from the Assassin’s Creed series combined with a first-person perspective and weapon/power loadout reminiscent of Bioshock.
What sets Dishonored apart from either of those titles is it’s somewhat steampunk, Victorian-inspired setting. Dingy alleys and cluttered backstreets, the ravages (both human and architectural) of a rat-carried plague in the city of Dunwall, set a very somber mood. Boarded-up windows, garbage littering the streets, gangs running wild and swarms of ravenous vermin are commonplace in a city besieged by an affliction rivaling the Bubonic Plague. The locations of Dishonored are one of the game’s characters in its own right, helping keep the tension with each dilapidated setting your next mission takes place in.
You play as Corvo Attano, High Protector to the Empress, who is quickly framed for her murder. He receives help from an anonymous source to escape before his pending execution. From there, the game spins a tale of vengeance and redemption as Corvo goes after the ones responsible for framing him. Along the way, he joins a resistance group who wants the same people gone for the sake of returning the late Empress’ daughter to the throne.
The game picks up the pace when it reveals it’s supernatural element, spearheaded by a deity known simply as The Outsider. This ethereal figure is responsible for giving Corvo his powers, who opens up the game with several powers that affect how you traverse the world and deal with different situations and threats. These powers are upgraded by collecting runes throughout the city, whether by finding them hidden somewhere in the wreckage of a dying city or being rewarded them for helping someone along the way to your next target. From then on, every encounter can be handled in a wide variety of ways, which is where Dishonored really shines. Do you attack that group of guards head-on or from a distance with your crossbow? Perhaps possess one of the city’s many rats to pass by them undetected? Yet another possibility is to teleport up to a rooftop and avoid the conflict entirely.
One of the more interesting and dynamic mechanics in the game is “Chaos.” Chaos is determined by how many people you kill and how disruptive you are to Dunwall. A high body count will lead to more rat swarms, weepers (citizens in the advanced stages of the plague) and a darker ending. I played through the game twice to see the consequences of my actions. The first run was rather bloody, while the second had no kills at all and the difference in the world was quite noticeable. This presents a fun, risk-reward system for the player to deal with, while also enhancing replay value by encouraging several playthroughs to handle missions differently and see multiple endings.
I believe this game will appeal to all but the most hardcore “I just do first-person shooters and Madden” types. If you’re a fan of Assassin’s Creed, Bioshock or anything in between, you owe it to yourself to check out Dishonored.