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Dishonored

Arkane finally lives up to its potential

When you finish Dishonored, even if you get the best ending, one thought will turn all of your progress and achievements into bitter dust. The thought chafing at your cranium, the itching powder down your back will be "well, I could have done better than that."

You could have pulled off more spectacular and inventive kills. You could have slipped through the streets completely unseen. You could have explored that row of houses, and ransacked more valuable paintings. You could have used that whispering, clockwork heart to root out all of the power-enhancing runes. You could have been a translucent badass. There's only one solution to this problem, and it's an extremely appealing one. You play the whole damn fifteen hours again. And this time you do it properly.

Zoom

Like most games, Dishonored is a stealthy stalker-killer set in a whale-oil powered steampunk city, ravaged by a skin-melting plague. You take the role of Corvo, the Lord Protector, who's returning early from a diplomatic mission. You arrive just in time to witness, and then be framed for, the assassination of your beloved Empress. One fade to black, and six months later it's the day of Corvo's execution. Luckily, he's rescued by a small resistance group with an even better flair for dramatic timing than himself.

Your escape is where you'll make your first decisions. Dishonored begins as a simple stealthy pattern-observer. Creep up behind the guards and strangle them, back-pedalling as you go to drag them out of sight before dumping their adorable, snoring bodies into a discreet corner.

You've also got a pistol and a brutal knife, but if you decide to use them, whole levels will unfold differently and you'll notice the speech changing. You'll overhear a bitter conversation about your escape: "He killed the Empress. What does he care about a few guards like us?" The haunting whirr and scrawk of the tannoy announcements (the sound design is brilliant throughout) make it clear that you're a ruthless killer.

Wicked ways
The message from the game is clear, but easily ignored. People think you're a monster. Prove them wrong, because the consequences of being evil are far-reaching. At first, you'll just be making the guards more enthusiastic about gaining their revenge. But as you kill more people, you'll give the plague rats more food, and they'll spread their disease to more humans, filling Dunwall's domestic residences with moaning, zombie-esque Weepers. Even the impressionable Empress' daughter begins to darkly notice that you come home smelling of blood. So we decide to restart, and repeat the mission without killing anyone. The guards' script changed to suit, but only moderately. We wanted them to say, "well, he's only choking us all unconscious and stacking us up in rude piles. Maybe he's nice after all." Perhaps we're too keen to be liked.

After your escape, your first night of sleep as a free man is invaded by The Outsider, an amoral observer who likes to amuse himself by giving people magical powers. Then Dishonored explodes, in extreme slow motion.

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There are six supernatural powers that you can unlock by finding runes. These runes are frequently well-hidden, and while you can use The Outsider's clockwork heart to make them show up as waypoints, the maps are so cruelly designed and dense, that you'll frequently find yourself one metre away from a rune, with no clear way of getting to it. You can also use this clockwork organ to reveal information about people and places. A squeeze of the left trigger makes it whisper about what's in the reticule. It's all for flavour, but what a huge and engrossing jolt of flavour it is. As 'nice touches' go, it's a beauty.

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