independent

Friday 1 August 2014

Defining the next generation

Published 16/10/2012|11:09

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DISHONORED IS truly something special. It feels somewhat portentious in the sense that if this is the first title, its sequels are going to be extraordinary. Dishonored is a stealth action game that lets you play through its sprawling levels, missions and sub-plots in pretty much any way you please.

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Even not killing a single person isn't a plan beyond reason. In fact, it's entirely possible. There are so many possible options and outcomes that revisiting the main story more than once will grant you entirely new gameplay experiences.

You play as Corvo Attano, the appointed bodyguard to the Empress Jessamine and her daughter. Your environment is the city of Dunwall, a fantastic steampunk-ish city overrun by the plague.

The mission structure is designed so that Corvo has an assassination target for each level - but remember that you can go through the entire game without killing anybody. There are a wealth of options on how to approach each mission. Thanks to mystical gifts provided by an entity only known as The Outsider, Corvo will gain the ability to teleport, see through walls, bend time, summon rats, possess living creatures and more.

Killing a mark is forthright and satisfying, but what many will find far more elegant is what I like to call "the fate worse than death." During each mission, a side story is introduced, allowing the player to set wheels in motion so that the mark will instead live out their days in agony or shame. One of the true disappointments of going that extra mile, unfortunately, is that you never get a peek at the "life" you've given them after such wicked mercy.

For those who need not show mercy nor compassion, cold-blooded murder is always an option, of course, and a significant array of tools are available to extinguish life as you see fit. Guns and crossbows can be upgraded to provide incendiary and explosive ammunition, while Corvo's sword can provide better deflection capabilities. There are even more devilish gadgets and weapon upgrades you can explore as you progress through the game.

Mechanically, Dishonored hits a lot of right notes. The controls feel good and Corvo's powers can be used in many elaborate ways, all of which are necessary at higher difficulty settings. It's worth noting, however, that it's incredibly difficult to tell when Corvo will be detected by an enemy without using dark vision, essentially making it a required power - despite Dishonored's emphasis on player choice.

One of my biggest (and shallow) draws towards Dishonored is that aesthetically, the developers have nailed this one. This game is just so damn pretty. It is evident that the designers have put great thought into picking the perfect colour pallete, finding the right artistic direction, and making sure the in-game lighting falls just perfectly across the richly detailed world.

Dishonored feels like a very important game, in much the same vein as Skyrim and World of Warcraft before it. Perhaps this will define the next generation of video games, a tributary off into the realm of the thoughtful and provocative, rather than dazzling audiences with epic set pieces while confining them to a strictly - defined route. A definite recommendation.

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