Game Review – Dishonored

I’ve been playing Dishonored off and on for a while now, and it’s got a lot going for it.  The world is a sort of Steampunk+Magic mix that’s right in my wheelhouse.  I’m fairly in practice with stealthy fighting techniques thanks to making it most of the way through Splinter Cell: Conviction, and Dishonored has a great feel for that sort of fighting – although the sword+gun/crossbow will never not look odd to me.  There are two main thrusts to the story – a rat-borne plague killing off mostly the poor, and the death of the Empress with the subsequent kidnapping of her daughter (for which you are blamed).  It’s a solid base for a game.

The combat is fun, especially if you excel at stealth games.  I’ve come to realize that I don’t, but I’m working on it.  The environments are pretty free to move around, and gives you quite a few ways to go about your missions, which at first center around helping a resistance movement rescue the young empress to be, and assassinate the bad guys.  The assassinations are fun, especially if you figure out the fun ways to take out your targets (I killed one by jacking up the heat in his steamroom).  You are rewarded with the better endings for keeping your ‘chaos’ down, minimizing casualties, but I’ve had a tough go of it myself.  Patience and outside the box thinking are key.

The problem I have, and it’s probably kept me from completing the game right away, is with the non-speaking hero.  Now, I have no problem with this normally.  One of my all-time favorite games, Dragon Age: Origins, has a hero that doesn’t speak.  Skyrim fits, too.   The difference being, you still feel like the world knows you are there as more than just a player character.  The less important NPCs feel no more fleshed out than the wandering townsfolk  in the original Final Fantasy.  “Here’s my line, let me deliver it to you.”  Not a problem in and of itself, but if you are a non-speaking hero, and you don’t have a cast of characters constantly with you to banter with (and build up your own view of you character based on those interactions) you are left with a blank slate wandering through the game.  I’m still attached to my Warden from Dragon Age, but I have no feelings at all towards Corvo.  He’s just PlayerGuy McBlastyblade.  This does not affect how much fun the mechanics of the game are – they are quite fun – but does affect my interest in the story.  With my limited gaming time, I need both to keep at it.

That being said, the missions I’ve made it through have been fun.  I botched my first assassination, which resulted in a bloody chase through the castle (who knew a guy in a powdered wig could move that fast?).  I think I’ll keep coming back, but other games will be able to pull me away, especially if they’ve got that story/mechanics sweet spot going.


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