Intelligent political intrigue, intuitive combat, character depth, excellent pacing, and a hand crafted world so intricate I began succumbing to the events of Dishonored as if they were the city of Dunwall’s own whims and needs unfolding before me. You are Corvo Attano, the believably heroic bodyguard of the Empire’s Monarch, who, upon a key act of betrayal early in the narrative, becomes Liam Neeson from Taken. There are no insecurities, character imperfections, and feigned pretense to concern yourself with. It leaves the player with one clear goal, and a thousand ways to accomplish it. Too many times have I seen a strong story paired with weak gameplay, or vice versa. Dishonored suffers from no such problems, as the only thing more compelling than Corvo’s tale of revenge, is the satisfaction of besting a difficult scenario with a bit of creative thinking.
The ball gets rolling quickly in Dishonored, as you’ll be thrust into the story with only a bit of background, and a brief introduction to the city of Dunwall. Without spoiling the story, I can say the plot reaches you on a surprisingly personal level. Even while fighting enemies with Victorian Steampunk weapons, and minding the concerns and loyalties of a vast Empire, there’s something universally tangible about betrayal, and the sting it leaves. The developers at Arkane don’t present you with a bouquet of characters, sporting their own unique traits and features, and then ask you to like them. They give you a character, and know you’ll like them. It’s with this confidence and ambition that the rest of the game is crafted. Arkane trusts in their creation and believes in their lore, refusing to digest it simply for popular consumption. They know that people who are looking for terrific combat will find it, and people who are looking for something deeper will as well.
Speaking of combat, Dishonored is fantastically clever in this department. While it remains largely a stealth game, no one is stopping you from charging through the front gate screaming something wildly about the “Glory of the Empire!”, brandishing a weapon in each hand. In fact you could play the whole game this way if you wanted to. And somebody told you this was a stealth game didn’t they? That’s because if you want it to be, it is. Let me give you an example. Your task is to assassinate Lord EvilGuy, who is holed up in his grand castle of machismo. You can A) Charge up the front steps, B) Crawl through the ventilation ducts, C) Sneak into the sewer system, D) Drop through the skylight on the roof, E) Rewire the security systems to fry the enemy guards, and proceed to stroll through the castle at a leisurely pace, F) etc. etc. The possibilities are essentially limitless. In fact, if someone managed to play through a mission the same way twice, I’d be shocked. It’s so brilliant that, no matter how much choice Arkane grants you, nor how much it begins to resemble a sandbox, you’ll always return exactly where the developers want you. Even as you think you’re discovering the cheekiest solution to the most difficult situation, the game never breaks stride. You’ll experience the story Arkane has crafted, at exactly the pace they want you to. Narratively, this game is a tour de force, as I’ve never experienced anything like it. As you’re scaling walls and slicing necks, you feel like you’re watching a skillfully directed movie, unfolding with expert intricacy.
At this point in the review, I’d normally bring up something I felt was negative. However, as clichéd as it sounds, I don’t have anything to say. I’ve played through this game over and over in the short time it’s been released, and I still want to play it. Honestly I couldn’t recommend it more, to anyone. I run through my head things I might be able to complain about, and really nothing sticks. As really the only way to play it is the main story mode, I considered the lack of multiplayer or other gameplay modes. This is dashed away quickly when I remember I’ve played each mission at least three times, and I’ve nowhere near ran out of content. I also considered the abruptness of the beginning and end. Your veritable odyssey of revenge is brought to a halt quite suddenly at the end of the game, but it’s not like I didn’t expect it to. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the game takes off quite quickly, with just enough time at the beginning to get settled. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, as the game remains cleverly paced throughout, capped in both instances by the events mentioned above. All I can say is that the minds at Arkane have exploded onto the scene with this creation, and no one can take away from the masterpiece they’ve brought to market in Dishonored. Something this unique, and this good doesn’t come around very often; never before, and probably never again. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer, as you play through what is as of now, my pick for Game of The Year, 2012.