Pushing your decision making even further is the Chaos system. Where other games have offered you 'good' or 'evil' in-game choices, the Chaos system doesn't place value judgements on your actions. Rather, killing enemies willy-nilly produces more corpses, more rats and more disease, potentially leading to riots and affecting how NPCs interact with you. Bethesda says that your Chaos rating also affects the scenes you encounter and factors such as the number of enemies in the game, but having only played it the way I've played it (stealthily, like a wuss) I can't really confirm that.
What does affect the way a mission plays out is whether you take on 'optional' side missions or not. While you can, of course, progress without bothering with them, for once they'll actually have an impact on what's going on in the game. Rather than just boosting some stat or other, helping someone out might, for example, lead to them offering to help you with a main campaign mission ? possibly providing a non-lethal solution that will keep your Chaos rating down.
All of this choice is incredibly empowering. All too often the promise of choice in a game ends up being 'do I want to use this
gun or that
gun. In Dishonored
there's a real sense that you can choose your own path, and that level of thoughtfulness is very rewarding.
Of course, that breadth of gameplay is not without its pitfalls. The close-quarters combat can be clunky and has none of the rhythm of, say, Arkham City
, for one.
The first-person perspective can also throw up some difficulties. It's an interesting choice, certainly. Were it not for that, Dishonored
might feel very similar to Assassin's Creed. Instead, it feels more claustrophobic and challenging. Without the wider view offered by a third-person perspective there's a constant, slightly frightening feeling that an enemy might be lurking just out of view. Dealing with multiple foes crowding in on you is instantly more difficult than it would be. More problematically, platforming ? a significant portion of the game ? is more fiddly and frustrating than it would be with a third-person perspective.
It is, however, a trade-off. That nervy first-person POV feeds into the overall feel that Arkane has gone for. Dishonored
is difficult and there's a constant sense of danger, no matter where you are and who you're dealing with. That close point of view feeds that, making you consider every move and creating a sense of vulnerability.
It also keeps Corvo faceless and largely characterless, enabling the player to plug that bit more of their personality and thought process into the game.
The design of the game is deserving of applause. Dunwall slithers away from easy comparison. Initially it's tempting to label it as steampunk given the dress style, the prevalence of swords and the presence of certain technology that's comparable to that of the early 20th century and beyond. Except, it isn't steam-powered technology. It's electric.
Similarly, it's tempting to assume you're in an analogue of London, except that many of the buildings have a slightly French feel to them. This vague sense of displacement is fed by the Half Life
-esque washed-out palette and the distorted features of the characters. No-one you meet is very nice, there's death and decay everywhere. But Arkane has stopped well short of the tired post-Apocalyptic ticks that have become so pedestrian in today's gaming landscape. Dunwall isn't a devastated society, it's one that's just
tipped over the edge. Strange, ugly and not so far from where we could end up in a decade or two.
Best of all, everything about the design feeds into a very complete, considered package. Every design choice serves the sense of an off-kilter world into which you can step to make a difference in the way you best see fit.
+ Deep strategic elements
+ Genuine branching gameplay
+ Strong, eerie design
- Awkward close-quarters combat
- First-person POV can be problematic
SPOnG Score: 9/10