Dishonored is developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks in October 2012. Moreover, Arkane Studios was actually bought by Zenimax, the parent company of Bethesda two years prior to the release of the game, so this is their first game under Bethesda/Zenimax.
A bit of background of the developers, they are best known for developing western RPG way back when they started developing games such as Arx Fatalis and Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, so this is not their first attempt at a game like Dishonored.
As for the story of Dishonored, the game is set in the fictional city of Dunwall, which is currently experiencing a severe rat plague problem. The city is also based on how 19th-century London looked, and you could probably say that they even modeled the lifestyle and the difference in classes very similarly as well. However, that is the only likeness to the real world as this game has otherworldly elements that you will encounter along the way, which makes the game interesting and fun to play.
You play as Corvo Attano, the Royal Protector for Empress Kaldwin. The game pretty much puts you right at the get-go, which I consider a very good start for a game, as in the first 10 minutes of the story, you are framed for the assassination of the Empress, which happened right in front of you. Moreover, they also kidnapped the heir, Emily Kaldwin. This brought the city into turmoil as it is now being run by the oppressive regime of the High Regent.
The story for the most part is very straightforward. You were helped by the loyalist conspirators to escape the prison and to bring Emily Kaldwin back to her rightful place while subduing or killing the ones who betray you and the empress. Additionally, you met The Outsider, which lives in a different world, and he gave you otherworldly powers to perform your missions better.
What makes the game different is that choices on how you deal with each mission matters in the world-building in Dishonored. It is either you play in High Chaos by killing everyone on sight, or Low Chaos by being a sneaky assassin and stealth your way through each given mission.
The choices you make during the missions define your character, and how the world changes around you. High chaos means more rats, more enemies, and more infected people of the plague. Amazingly, even your allies do not think of you highly if you just go your merry way killing everyone. On the other hand, low chaos means less of all those things, and people like you and even commend you for sticking to the plan without any collateral damage.
Honestly, Dishonored has amazing lore, and again, its world-building is one of the best I have seen and experienced even today. This is one of the few games that I tried reading the books to know more about the world, and even the side quests are not tedious, and they are, instead, rewarding, as they would give you more options towards your goal as you complete them.
There are 9 missions in total excluding the short intro, and each mission takes around 50 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes to complete on low chaos, while you can probably finish it in less time on high chaos.
If you plan to see both endings, and I highly recommend doing so, it will probably take you around 18 hours more or less to finish the main game. The DLC would probably give you another 10 hours, but I will provide more details on that later.
Visual and Audio Presentation
Moving on to the Visual and Audio presentation for Dishonored, and all I am going to say is the visuals look amazing. It has a distinct art style, which is a good blend of realism with a cartoonish or slightly exaggerated art style, just like a painting from the 19th century. It can easily be remembered, and I could probably recognize the game if I came across a screenshot of it somewhere.
The character models are also diversified as there are royalty, slim guards, bulky guards, thugs, assassins, the plague victims, and many more. You see these people across the missions and even interact with each other like plague victims versus the guards, or just randomly walking in the streets.
On the other hand, the world design is skillfully made as it perfectly shows the city in peril due to the bad events occurring within the city like the floods, the rat plague, and just a bunch of misfortunes. Although I must say the textures in the environment are not the best, some textures look blurry if you look closely, and even if you crank the graphics settings to the highest. However, in a way, it still fits on whatever they want to display to the players, so it kind of works.
Animation is smooth and it does not feel clunky. The sword fight is satisfying enough that I like fighting multiple guards at once. I also absolutely love the assassinate or kill animations for the targets.
Voice acting is great in this game. We have a bunch of celebrities do the voice acting in this one, which really surprised me the first time I saw the casting. For instance, Chloe Moretz voiced Emily Kaldwin, Lena Headey or Cersei Lannister voiced Callista, and even John Slattery or Howard Stark voiced Admiral Havelock. It kind of sucks that Corvo is a silent protagonist here, but this helps in shining the spotlight for the other characters.
The generic voices and the generic conversations are also decent enough, but a little bit repetitive, and I wish there would be more random conversations as you sneak around the patrol guards. I mean there are, but in a game that you may want to repeat over and over again, it just starts to be annoying hearing the same two to four lines of conversation that they have.
The official soundtrack was composed by Daniel Licht, who also composed the later Silent Hill soundtracks. Sadly, he died back in 2017, rest in peace. Anyhow, the soundtrack is good, and it immerses you more in the game since most of it has a suspenseful and eerie tone. It just fits perfectly when you are sneaking.
Now, for the gameplay, Dishonored is not an open-world game. After the introduction sequence and your escape from the prison, you will be staying at the Hounds Pit Pub since this will be the base of your operation as an assassin. It is a pretty big place with a lot of people. The loyalists will give you a mission and you will set by boat with Samuel, the boatman, to your designated mission.
The missions are clear cut, you have one main objective and a bunch of side objectives that you can optionally do, and by doing so, you are rewarded with new intel or items. As mentioned earlier, you can complete a mission in so many ways in Dishonored, and it warrants multiple walkthroughs to fully enjoy the game since there are two endings, one for high chaos, and one for low chaos.
However, it is meant to play in Low Chaos or stealth since the majority of the level design is made so you can easily sneak around the map and find a way to reach your objective without being seen or without killing anyone.
Of course, you can always walk right in front of everyone and destroy them along the way, but honestly, sneaking around is more satisfying. On the other hand, fighting everyone at once will make you feel like a badass, so I really recommend you to do both playthroughs.
You can run, swim, jump and do parkour from ledges to ledges to avoid detection, or you can even knock out guards or kill them, then hide their bodies somewhere. This sounds like your typical stealth game since this is nothing new, right?
Well, in Dishonored, you are given the power of the Outsider. He is a godly entity who gives his mark to interesting people. There are 10 abilities that you can unlock by using runes. Runes are scattered around the world, and you can get them by utilizing “The Heart”, a device used for searching for runes and other items.
The 10 abilities are split into passive abilities and active abilities. Passive is more on your physical prowess like jumping higher, more health, shadow kills, and adrenaline rush. Active skills are otherworldly techniques like blinking from one place to another, seeing enemies through the walls, summoning rats, and many more. Each of these abilities has two levels, which is technically an upgrade and can help you during missions.
The dilemma is that the runes are hard to come by, so you can probably unlock or level up at least a skill for each mission. Of course, you can easily focus on active abilities depending on your playstyle since some abilities are geared towards High Chaos and some are geared towards Low chaos playthrough.
Moreover, there are also minor buffs that you can collect which are called Bone Charms. You can see them using “The Heart” as well. Some of the bone charms that you will find may increase your mana or health slightly. My favorite bone charm is that you can refill your mana or health by drinking tap water because that is beyond broken. Of course, you can only equip a limited amount of bone charms at the same time and that is for balancing purposes.
Lastly, we can also upgrade our weapons and gears. Upgrades cost coins, and coins are found everywhere to be honest, such as pouches, valuable items, or just coins lying around on the table. Some of the upgrades you can do in this game are Pistol Upgrades, Crossbow Upgrades, Mask Upgrades, and Armor Upgrades. Within this gear upgrades are various subcategory upgrades like accuracy improvement or carrying a larger capacity of bullets or arrows. Similar to the abilities, you may prefer to upgrade gears that are best to use for your playthrough, whether high chaos or low chaos.
I highly recommend playing on Hard or Very Hard difficulty especially when trying Low Chaos playthrough because I believe the lower difficulties just make your enemies useless, and the game does not give players enough challenge or at least consequences when fighting the guards or being detected.
I have mentioned earlier that the character models are diversified in Dishonored, most of them can be considered as hostile to Corvo since he is a convict. However, they are not the only enemies you have to look out for since there are wolfhounds, and the tallboys, who are literally the daddy long legs of the City Watch, and they are hard to fight against especially when they spot you. Additionally, the City Watch has a few new technologies to use against you or anyone that is an enemy to them like the Wall of Light, which is technically a tesla coil and could easily kill anyone when they pass through it, and also the Watchtower, which is just what the name suggests plus a missile launcher. These technologies can be either rewired so they can be used against the enemies, or shut down by pulling out their power source.
The AI in this game is good enough, they can easily detect you when you are being silly or clumsy. They can even ring the alarm when they see you once, which is heart racing when you are doing low chaos. Enemies look down to places where you can hide, and they stay alert for a quite long time so that is cool, and the dogs are frightening because they can smell you from afar. Also, do not forget to save a lot because doing low chaos for the first time is hard.
When I did my high chaos playthrough, on the other hand, I actually killed everyone on sight like John Wick, and the game crashed on me once in The Golden Cat. I realized that the game does not want to spawn a lot of enemies at once, and it pushes out an error when there are a lot of bodies lying in one location. That was the only crash that I encountered so I will not drop a rating just for that reason.
That is Dishonored’s gameplay, it is really fun and immersive to do the missions and the side quests that come along with it, and I will probably play it on the highest difficulty if I have the time again.
Dishonored: Definitive Edition costs $19.99, £14.99, 19,99€, and ₱920.00 on Steam and consoles, but since this is a decade-old title, you can get 50% to 80% off from its current price right now, and if it is on sale, it is an absolutely good deal. I recommend you to get the Definitive Edition as this includes the three DLCs of the game as a bundle. It does not have graphical improvement on PC, but the improvements are noticeable on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, considering this was released for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 originally.
Speaking of DLCs, Dishonored has three of them – Dunwall City Trials, The Knife of Dunwall, and The Brigmore Witches. The Dunwall City Trials is a mission-based DLC to test your skills, and as much as I enjoy proving my skills as an assassin, I did not spend time to finish all of it. On the other hand, The Knife of Dunwall, and The Brigmore Witches are two of the best DLCs I have ever played, and to be honest, Bethesda can release them as a standalone game, and I would still buy it.
You play as Daud on these two DLCs, and he has abilities that are way different compared to Corvo, the story is as good as the main story with several new characters, and of course, the low and high chaos feature is still in effect, meaning you must play each DLC twice to see everything.
Each DLC contains 4 missions and as always you can finish a mission in an hour, so that gives us another 8 hours of content, and this does not include if you play on High chaos for the second time, which can be an additional 4-6 hours.
In conclusion, this game is amazing, and if you have not played it, I highly recommend this game as it is easily one of my best games in the 2010s. I have seen people on Reddit doing challenges like doing a pistol-only playthrough, blink-attack playthrough, and it just has a lot of possible things you can do with this game.
That is why there are two sequels for this franchise, and I would be glad to finally play it after I review this game.