Dishonored, from Bethesda Softworks, is a dark tale set in a world that melds the Renaissance with the arcane to seamlessly create an environment. This is a single-player game that allows players to choose to play as either a stealth assassin or as a demon, monitoring the player's actions and modifying the playing experience accordingly.
The set-up for the game is relatively simple. Dunwall, like so many other cities in the world, is overrun with plague and rats. Corvo, the trusted bodyguard of the empress of Dunwall, has been sent to allied cities to find out if anyone has a cure for the blight only to return without anything of substance. He is greeted by the empress’ charming daughter, and then the empress herself. The empress cuts short her meeting with Dunwall’s spymaster to chat with Corvo and it is during their meeting that assassins overwhelm Corvo, murder the empress and kidnap her daughter.
Corvo is behind the coup, it seems, and he is blamed for the murder, tortured and sentenced to hang. This is, of course, all part of a plot to seize the throne of Dunwall. There are those who oppose the takeover and Corvo is freed. Not only does he get some very nice gear, but arcane forces bless him (or curse him) with skills that make him a dangerous combatant.
The game holds the player's hand to explain the controls and gameplay through the prison break and then launches the gamer into the world. The controls require a bit of a learning curve, and in the game's introduction—a move sequence including moving forward, hitting the duck button, navigating direction with the mouse and hitting a power slide button—feels less like fun than intensive finger acrobatics.
Dishonored is an involved tale in which what would appear black and white shifts to shades of gray. The title asks the gamer to make choices about Corvo's moral compass that may affect the gaming experience. Kill too many people and the citizens of Dunwall will turn against the player. To incapacitate targets ingratiates the player to the townsfolk, but the game makes so many great weapons available that it seems like a shame to not explore them.
Gamers who like the look and feel of Morrowind or any of the Elder Scrolls titles will be very comfortable playing Dishonored. For those who have yet to experience the first-person perspective in a rock solid role-playing game, Dishonored is recommended.
Pros: Dishonored's world is immersive, the storyline is solid and the mood of the game pulls players in and makes the adventure feel personal. It's a first-person RPG player’s dream. The graphics are great, the story is superb and the action is frenetic and enjoyable. It doesn’t matter if the player chooses to play as a discreet assassin or whip out the crossbow and blades and carve through the game—both are challenging and entertaining.
Cons: There were a few occasions when the game’s video went black, and while the game's sound was uninterrupted, the game was not playable. Looking at the system specs is recommended. Do not try to play this game with older drivers. While the graphics can be toggled without really infringing on gameplay, the whole mood of the game is severely interrupted if the player has to reboot his or her computer.
Some of the control combinations are complex.
Verdict: Dishonored may be a vengeance tale at heart and play out with the feel of an Elder Scrolls title, but it has its own personality. The word "immersive" is often overused in describing games, but it is appropriate here. The game has tremendous emotional impact, and it's easy to feel angry about the slain empress and her kidnapped daughter, and the evil men wreaking havoc in the world in which Dishonored is set.