Dishonored: Gameplay ultimately frustrating

It has become relatively rare for a game that is purely single player to be released these days, but here we have Dishonored, a first-person action game from Bethesda.

 

Dishonored

For: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

From: Bethesda

Three and a half stars (out of five)

 

Dishonored is set in the isolated city of Dunwall, a city being decimated by an unknown plague that has wiped out half the city and is threatening the other half.

You play Corvo, a former bodyguard of the Empress, who is framed for her murder and the abduction of her daughter, Emily, by a group looking to gain control of the city.

There are two distinct ways of playing the game, and how you choose to play it has a direct effect on the health of the city.

The first is to channel your inner ninja and avoid being seen and make calculated strikes, entering and leaving areas without anyone knowing you've ever been there.

In order to successfully do this you must make full use of the supernatural powers given to you by a mysterious figure known as the Outsider. These powers include blink (high speed teleportation between two points) and the ability to possess animals, such as rats and fish, to reach previously unreachable locations.

The other option is to go in all guns blazing and swords drawn and hack and slash your way through the city.

I began the game with the best intentions of doing it completely stealthily, but it wasn't long before that went out the window and I was butchering my way through the guards. This is fun, up to a point.

As you make your way through the city, you can't help but feel that you're missing out on the true experience that the developers intended. The game is meant to be played stealthily, but several game-design decisions make the stealth aspect incredibly frustrating.

Sometimes you can sit in plain view and not be seen, at others you'll be in complete darkness and be seen from a kilometre away; the blink will transport you next to ledges - rather than on top of them - causing you to fall large distances to your death; strangling a guard makes no noise but gently lowering a body alerts guards standing metres away.

All of these detract from the overall experience and result in resorting to the slashing and shooting.

The developers have obviously taken a leaf out of the superb BioShock's book, in attempting to give character to Dunwall, and they have succeeded. The unique art style (and stunning graphics) mixed with the 18th/19th century London-esque architecture draws you in, perhaps not to the same degree as with BioShock's Rapture, but certainly more than most. Dunwall could be a real city.

I went into Dishonored with high hopes, and came away frustrated at the gameplay and the missed potential. With a few tweaks, it could have matched the quality of the environment and story premise, but it just left a bad taste in my mouth.

The premise was excellent, but the execution was a little off the mark.

- Simon Bishop.