UK Release Date: Friday 12 October Format reviewed: Xbox 360 Also available on: PS3 and PC Publisher: Bethesda
Everyone loves a good Orwellian tale, and Dishonored‘s is a cracker. It tells the story of Dunwall, a once-proud harbour city stricken by a devastating rat plague. With half its citizens dead and no help forthcoming, Dunwall’s government has turned to desperate – and brutal – measures to contain the plague. Diseased areas are quarantined by deadly “Walls of Light” barriers, the population is under a dusk-till-dawn curfew, and sufferers are immolated on sight by guards on looming mechanical stilts. All in all, it’s an unlikely backdrop for a game that gives you more freedom than any before it.
You assume the role of Corvo, a disgraced royal bodyguard framed for the murder of the Empress by the corrupt governing regime. Your task – initially at least – is to take out the movers and shakers of the oppressive administration and bring some semblance of order to Dunwall. That’s your brief; how you do it is entirely up to you. And we mean entirely. If we told you that this was an assassination game where you can go from start to finish without killing anyone - including your targets – that should give some measure of Dishonored‘s incredible scope.
Mazy level design and strong stealth mechanics mean there’s always a contingency route available if your best laid plans go to pot, but it’s Corvo’s ability to harness magic that unlocks Dishonored‘s staggering potential. Depending on how you upgrade, it’s possible to warp from rooftop to rooftop, break down doors with whirlwind blasts or even take possession of any other living creature in the game – from rats and fish to your targets themselves.
If all those options fail you can decide to screw it and play Dishonored as a shooter, but not only is doing so incredibly difficult (the guards are skilled swordsmen), but every corpse you create only serves to worsen the rat plague. If you want to unlock the good (or rather, “less dark”) ending, you’ll have to go down the stealthy route, which is a monstrous but immensely enjoyable undertaking, due to your limited health and magical resources (no regenerating health here, suckers!).
Dishonored is one of those rare games where you can put five people in a room and they’ll complete each level a different way. And one of those rarer games still where you’ll ///want// to replay it five times to see each possibility. Whichever route you do take will lead you to the same conclusion: Dishonored is the game of the year.