I consider myself to be an open-minded individual and as such, you will rarely (if ever) hear me say that you’re playing a game “wrong.” But as tasteless as it sounds, I’m willing to make an exception for Arkane Studio’s Dishonored. There is indeed, in my humble opinion, a wrong way to play this game.
Dishonored is a tale about revenge. The player assumes the role of Corvo Attano, the bodyguard of an empress presiding over the fictional city of Dunwall. Upon returning from a long trip, Corvo finds himself caught in a conspiracy in which he is framed for the empress’ murder. The plot, which is as generic as they come, follows Corvo as he exonerates himself by removing the corrupt government now in power.
Not only is the plot an idea taken from many other works in the medium, but it is also extremely predictable. The mid-game twists can be guessed right from the get-go. Clearly, storytelling is not Arkane’s strong suit. As a bit of a forewarning – don’t pick up Dishonored if you’re expecting anything revolutionary in the way of narrative.
On a different note, the atmosphere surrounding the plot is rich and engrossing. If players really take their time to read every book and listen to every audiograph scattered throughout the game, they’ll learn that Dunwall has a surprisingly deep and tragic history with even darker times ahead. The world of Dishonored truly feels fleshed out, and if there is one thing I can be sure of, it is that there are more tales to be told.
But above all else, the gameplay needs to be thoroughly discussed. It is, after all, what you’ll be doing for hours on end, and the core mechanics are what determine the overall quality of the game. Fortunately, Dishonored excels in this area with flying colors. This here is not a linear game devoid of options. Dishonored is an open-ended affair, filled to the brim with gameplay choices. For those who are looking for a title that tailors uniquely to how you want to play, there is no better match than Dishonored.
There are only nine missions in the game (making it a very short one–but more on that later), and only eight of which take place in open maps. Each of those maps is extremely well designed, allowing for multiple paths to any one objective. You can take the direct route (bursting through the doors!) or a discrete one (gallivanting on the roofs or through the sewers!). You can even possess a rodent and travel through tiny vents. The possibilities, while not limitless, are certainly abundant. Which brings me to my next point…
Powers! There are a number of collectibles (runes) littered throughout each stage. Collecting grants player points to invest in new powers, of which there are about a dozen. Some of them are passive (such as increased vitality or speed) while others need to be triggered (possession, time bending, teleporting, and summoning swarms of rats to do your bidding). Whether or not you’ll be playing lethally or non-lethally, each ability will come in handy in their own unique ways.
With so many ways to approach Dishonored, one might wonder, “How can you play the game ‘wrong’?” The simple answer would be: by playing it only once. With so many options available, you won’t be getting your money’s worth unless you are willing to investigate every avenue. Play through the game without killing or being detected and you’ll feel extremely skillful. Play through the game slaughtering every moving creature and you’ll feast on the stylishly animated kills. If you put Dishonored aside after witnessing only half of what it has to offer, it’ll not only be an affront to the developers, but a tragedy for you.