Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Dishonored Review: Borrowed, Flawed, Genius

Before reading this review it is important to know that Dishonored is more than just a game, its a fascinating case study of the modern games industry. It's garnered mass praise simply because it is a new IP, but it doesn't actually bring anything new to the table. It's fresh and fun because of its melting pot of borrowed ideas and its massively flawed but still manages to be the best game to have come out this year and one of the most memorable games of this generation. It's a game that any self respecting 'hardcore' gamer should buy but it does not warrant marks of ten out of ten and tags such as 'perfect'.

Indeed the game serves both as a truly amazing piece of gaming as well as a worrying wake up call for the industry, people are so tired of playing the same old rehashed thing that a new game that really is, when you boil it down, little more than a mix of Hitman, Thief, Deus Ex and Bioshock, can command the attention of the world and sell by the truck load whilst also receiving massive critical praise as if it is something revolutionary. Don't think that the fact that its core ideas are borrowed is bad, they are mixed up so as to avoid being stale but the fact still remains that borrowed ideas, in our current state of industry idea stagnation can be as if not more exciting than something truly different and new. With that said lets get onto the review which will be mine and Alan's first ever joint review and, for the ease of having two people writing it, will be broken up into sections.

Gameplay

Rob: The gameplay is this game's ace card; it's amazing. Each mission can be tackled in a number of ways, stealthily, with combat, using tricks and tools instead of guns and swords, from on high, from below or right through the front door. The missions have a superb amount of replay value and are all wonderfully unique. Corvo handles great and his special powers really make the gameplay fresh and exciting, they make the game special, up until the point you have the powers it's just another assassination game.

Weapons and items are chosen from an easy to use wheel and you can hotkey four different things to the d-pad so changing from a magical power to a pistol can be done in a flash. If you tackle a mission stealthily then you can possess rats to move through small spaces, possess guards to pass impassible areas, use Blink to teleport across big gaps, sprint across rooftops to bring death from above or creep through sewers to come from below.

Combat is just as varied and engaging. Sword fighting requires only two buttons, one to swing and one to block but timing your blocking well is essential to survival and adds a surprising amount of depth to the fights, aiming is easy and accurate and can be upgraded with a zoom add on for your mask so that you can snipe from afar with your crossbow. Using weapons and tools like spring wire traps makes studying guard patrol routes important and, if you're ever in sticky situation you can always use a grenade to blast your way out.

If you're making a lot of mess then bodies can be hidden so guards aren't alerted and if you do kill a lot of people then there will be tangible effects shown in the real world, most notably in the form of an increased number of plague victims, called Weepers, who will attack you on sight.

There are however some problems with the gameplay. Reinforcement guards will only come running if an alarm sounds, not if they can hear pistol shots and explosions. This really ruins some of the game because its so painfully unrealistic that it just kills the immersion. There is a similar problem with your assassination targets. If all hell breaks loose they will lock themselves in a room, even if you are effortlessly killing their guards, it would have been great if they tried to escape if you went in all guns blazing and would have added a great bit of tension to the levels because you would have to act fast to catch them or it would be mission failed.

Also it is important to note that the gameplay is in no way original. This game is made up of Thief, Hitman, Deus Ex, Bioshock and Mirror's Edge and whilst there isn't anything wrong with borrowing ideas, especially when they are blended together so effortlessly, it does mean that this is not quite the original idea bomb that a lot of people seemed to think it was/would be.

Alan: I pretty much agree with everything Rob has said here, however I don't think he's talked enough about some of the more incredible things that are possible, mainly the powers. Dishonored's Outsider powers add a massive dimension to the game, just the normal combat, tools and stealth would have been enough but then you get a host of easy to use powers that create so many more ways to play. Rob has admitted to me he only really uses the blink power that lets you teleport short distances, where I use a lot more, I do use blink a lot especially now I've upgraded it to go further, but I use dark vision (that is practically essential to stealth) a lot more as it means I can see through walls for enemies I wouldn't have seen otherwise until it was too late. A power called devouring swarm allows me to command the plague rats to attack guards (which also makes me feel like shouting I AM THE RAT KING) and vitality boosts my health. Another thing Rob has missed due to his violent nature is the multitude of environmental objects that can aid you when sneaking, things like bottles and glasses (even severed body parts) can be thrown to distract enemies so you can make your way past unseen. Rewiring machinery can be a huge boon as well, just today I rewired a watch tower to shoot the city watch rather than me, this allowed me to stroll through the area to look for items without the worry of being spotted. Rob is also known for not doing side quests so he hasn't realised just how many ways to complete a mission there are, by completing a side mission I was offered a chance to not have to deal with my assassination targets at all instead a gang I had befriended would have done it all for me, but where would be the fun in that. (Rob: I just killed the gang and dealt with the targets myself.)

Graphics

Rob: on the surface the graphics for this game are very good, they are never amazing, at no point can the game rival something like Uncharted 3 for looks but they are always good. The characters look good, with good detailing and decent facial animation, the environments are done brilliantly, with gritty industrial architecture and fantastic views out over the sea. Animation is smooth and everything looks good. Until you look at the finer details. Though animation of general movement and combat is good there are moments when there are glitches. At one point whilst talking to Lord Pendleton he started wringing his hands and they began to mould into one before popping back out into two. Also, during the first main mission, there is a boat being loaded with corpses but the pile of corpses in it never increases, the new bodies simply disappear upon impact.

My biggest problem with the graphics however is one of my biggest pet hates in gaming, if you look down Corvo has no legs. At no point in the story is it said that they were chopped off and replaced with thrusters so I'm assuming its an unforgivable oversight on the part of the developers. I can't stand it when, in first person games, you can't see your own legs and feet when looking down, it instantly rips you out of the world that you've been immersed in and reminds you that you are playing a game. It may seem like such a minor thing but being reminded that I'm just playing a game is not something that helps me have a good time.

Alan: I think the graphics are a big mix of awesome and awful, unlike Rob I don't like the look of characters; the proportions are distorted and the faces look too exaggerated for my liking. Other times a piece of environment like a pile of rubbish will look so badly done compared to the rest of the world that it looks out of place and disrupts an otherwise amazingly dark and wonderful environment. But I am nitpicking here, don't get me wrong the graphics are incredible its just when you pay a bit more attention, you do start to notice a lot of little things that can really start to get on your nerves.

Story

Rob: The story is awful. Sorry to be blunt but really? This is just terrible. The game begins with Corvo returning from a mission to get help with the Plague and before you know it the Empress is dead and you're escaping from prison and oh you're an assassin now. It all seems so rushed and is dealt with in such a ham fisted manner that it just doesn't seem right. Things don't get much better after this either because there are quite a few missions to deal with before the plot develops and when it does the twist is so agonisingly predictable that the story just doesn't go anywhere. Add to this the complete lack of character development and uninteresting magic based story elements and well, all you're left with is a completely soulless, bland story that quite frankly is about as interesting as talking to a wall.

The back story to the Empire is at least fairly interesting but it is delivered through various books that you find on your missions and is so easy to miss that it can't even begin to make up for the terrible main story.

The biggest problem though is the thing I hate most in games. Corvo is a mute and not for a story based reason, he just is. This is unacceptable. For me mute characters are part of a bygone age they just don't work because, in the real world, people talk. Whenever someone talks to Corvo the story of the game comes crashing down because he just stands there silently, which is just weird! I wouldn't mind if they'd said his tongue had been removed in torture or he was too traumatised to speak but he just doesn't speak and sadly a lot of conversations involve him so a lot of the game's story just doesn't work at all on any level. Also, why doesn't anyone mention how rude he is? Someone will ask him a question and he'll just stare at them blankly, I wouldn't take that, I'd be teaching him some manners. You'd have thought he would have a basic grasp of social etiquette, what with having worked directly for an Empress and all.

Alan: This is where mine and Rob's opinions differ massively, I think the story is cool, not amazing but cool nevertheless. Where Rob thinks the start is very rushed I would say its just done in a way to take you off guard and straight into the action, Rob has also neglected to mention Corvo was the protector of the Empress and would have had loads of combat training and could have very likely employed stealth when protecting the empress, its seems to me completely plausible that Corvo could handle being an assassin straight away. (Rob: this isn't actually what I meant, I just meant it rushes along until grinding to a halt when you become an assassin. It's a valid point though.) The background books do also give loads of background information of the new strange world you're in and it gives everything a bit more depth and sometimes explanation (sometimes the books even get a bit racey just to add that little bit of entertainment). The not speaking thing, that doesn't really bother me, I think loads of games do it even in this day and age and there's nothing really wrong with it, although I do hate it that you never get to see Corvo's face that you get to see in all the trailers, that is my only big problem here.

Sound

Rob: The sound is simply amazing, there is not a a single flaw to be found here. The soundtrack is suitably ominous and blends dissonant sounds with classic instruments to match the environments' steam punk blend of the old fashioned with the new. The soundtrack isn't an overly invasive one, it kicks in at all of the right moments and compliments whatever it is that is happening at that point in time. The voice cast is superb with each character being voiced fantastically well, conversations seem natural and characters speak with real conviction and believability. The weapons also sound superb, the pistol roars like a hand canon and swords clash and ring with great authenticity, fights are almost worth having just so you can hear the amazing sound effects ring out across the various courtyards and rooftops that you'll be fighting across.

Alan: As has already been said the soundtrack is great and sets the mood wonderfully in any given situation, I do however notice that sometimes the character voices sound as if they are half asleep all the time which make them sound just a bit pervy.

Conclusion

Dishonored is a game with many weak points but fortunately its strong points are strong enough to make the game great and certainly the best game to come out so far this year. Not only is it the best of this year so far, Dishonored is also one of the most defining games of this generation but its important to remember that it only achieves that by borrowing from some of the most defining games of all time.

4 comments:

  1. Ha, I can’t stand the missing legs thing in first-person games either. Why can’t more first-person games immerse you in the character’s body like The Chronicles of Riddick did? Overall you guys make it sound like an excellent game, but I can’t help but be a bit skeptical still. Especially after some other highly anticipated games (like Deus Ex: Human Revolution with its boss battles and terrible ending) really let me down. These days I follow some advice I got from one of my coworkers at DISH and I don’t buy a game until after I’ve rented it and had a chance to log at least a handful of hours on it. It’s saved me a good deal of money in the past six months or so. So Dishonored is already in my Blockbuster @Home queue, and I’ll get to play it soon; until then I’ve got Borderlands 2 to keep me busy.

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  2. Thought your joint review was done well and I enjoyed reading through and seeing the points you both raised.Well set out, it made a good Wednesday evening read.

    Now off to play Borderlands 2, which is one my favorite game at the moment

    JB

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  3. Just read this and hey guys was well worth the read. Have not got the game but reckon I'll give it a go.
    Thanks

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  4. You should definitely get it, having now finished it the story is a let down and there are plenty of flaws with the game but the gameplay is still too good not to experience.

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