Dishonored

aka: Dishonored: Die Maske des Zorns
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Description official description

Dishonored is a first-person stealth and action game with elements of role-playing. It is set in the fictional industrial city of Dunwall in 1666, modeled after the London of the Victorian era, but mixed with a futuristic vision with magical and steampunk elements. Players take the role of Corvo Attano, Royal Protector of the Empress Jessamine Kaldwin, who is framed for murder and the abduction of Emily, the daughter of the empress. This leads him to seek revenge and assassinate those who conspired against him. The game consists of a series of assassination missions that can be completed through pure violence, pure stealth, or a mix of both. Corvo has access to various weapons, supplemented with magical abilities by the being The Outsider. Each mission offers various non-linear approaches and many of these are found by exploring the environment. With special attention to stealth, it is possible to complete the game in a non-lethal manner.

Large parts of the game are spent exploring with a focus on verticality, so Corvo can jump, slide, sneak, sprint, lean, mantle and swim. Melee attacks are performed through the right hand, with various weapons used to stab, slash, block and parry. Staying undetected with stealth kills fills up an adrenaline gauge that makes combat more effective. On the other hand, brutal and open attacks trigger a chaos system that causes more patrols to appear, rats swarm the environment and NPCs can even start attacking each other, disrupting all serenity in the game and the characters' actions. This also affects conversations and quests. Certain side missions can lower the chaos setting, but it can be avoided altogether by hiding bodies or preventing alarms from being activated. Stealth skills include aerial attacks, slitting throats, sleeper holds and tranquilizer darts for rendering a character unconscious. The stealth system is based on occlusion; hiding behind objects and staying out of the field of vision. The lighting is of lesser importance. Stealth can also be used to eavesdrop on conversations and gain information about characters and their motives before planning a route of attack. Corvo can be revealed through sound, but he can also use it to his advantage to lure away others. Guards have various stages of awareness that influence their responses.

Ranged weapons and magic are used through the left hand. There are pistols and crossbows with various types of ammunition, as well as gadgets such as razor mines, smoke bombs and grenades. Coins can be collected to upgrade weapons and gadgets. Players also discover blueprints that provide access to advancement equip upgrades, forged at Piero's workshop. Magic is provided through six active and four passive abilities. The active ones include blink to teleport short distances, dark vision to improve vision, devouring swarm to summon rats, healing, possession (both humans and animals), time bend to stop time, and windblast to create a gust of wind. Runes need to be discovered and collected to unlock and enhance these powers. The passive ones are vitality for additional health, blood thirsty to build up adrenaline by blocking attacks for a much stronger counter, agility for more speed and longer jumps, and shadow kill that turns enemies to dust when they are killed. Magic drains mana and it takes a certain amount of time to have it regenerate. There are also about 40 bone charms to be discovered that provide additional perks, but only three can be active at a single moment and they cannot all be unlocked in a single playthrough.

Between missions, Corvo returns to The Hound Pits, a drinking establishment that acts as a hub between missions. Dunwall is the capital city of the Empire of Isles, a collection of our nations. There is much water in the surroundings and to the east of the sea is Pandyssian Continent, a giant land mass. The background story describes Dunwall as a hub for fishing and whaling, as whale oil has become a major power source. At the same time the city is burdened by a plague, spread through dogs and rats, that divides the rich from the poor in districts through energy beams known as Walls of Light. These evaporate anyone passing through, except for the city watch, but can be deactivated by removing the energy source or through other means. Other elements and items include arc pylons that disintegrate anyone close, elixirs to refill health and mana, food, and single-use rewire tools to hack city devices. Infected are known as Weepers. They cry blood and exhibit a lot of violence. The city watch consists of Tallboys, mechanized officers of long legs. Corvo initially gets to escape through the Loyalists, a group of activists that plans to overthrow the government. The player's approach, especially in regard to killing, determines the game's ending.

Spellings

  • 冤罪殺機 - Traditional Chinese spelling
  • 羞辱 - Simplified Chinese spelling

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Credits (Windows version)

718 People (688 developers, 30 thanks) · View all

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Executive Producer
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Technical Director
Technical Art Director
Audio Director
Lead Programmer
Lead Gameplay Programmers
Lead AI Programmer
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Lead Level Artist / Architect
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[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 89% (based on 40 ratings)

Players

Average score: 4.0 out of 5 (based on 88 ratings with 3 reviews)

One does not simply kill the rat plague

The Good
Imagine a stealth game that’s stuffed with phantom dark shadows which all guards see, but you don't, because you're a cat like that. Place some candles in the isolated rooms so you could vent steam by blowing at the poor things. Generously splash on a good amount of pattern recognition and sneaking in plain sight. Pour some sword and some choking, add some guns and some tranquilizers. Possess a guard, summon a herd of rat-looking moles from under the earth, blast them away with a deadly wind out of your hand, stop the time just because you can, merrily teleport away from the mess you’ve created. This mess should give you a pretty good idea of what Dishonored plays like. Unless you're a sceptic for whom Dishonored would play like your regular stealth game with lots of pleasant climbing and searching for the ways around obstacles.

But ignoring teleportation is rather like eating a cake box instead of the cake itself, for the quick accessibility of everything brings so much pleasure to the gameplay. Although it has a price too. The locations don't surprise or amaze you with their greatness and even sneaking through places that should, like the giant bridge, feels a bit like a stroll through your own kitchen.

And it's not the only thing that's underwhelming. The whole game just isn’t exactly drearie, dearie, despite the mounts of corpses everywhere and loads of sad abandoned buildings. And it’s a good thing because it’s cozy and pleasant to play. And if you have a problem with your scary game with a plague in it being cozy, you should probably contact the tech support.

On the technical side, it’s done rather nicely. Your screenshot taking finger will ache, scream and beg for mercy oblivious of the sometimes poor texture resolution.
Your ears won’t ditch you for that Prokofiev loving person next door too. Even though there’re no long memorable compositions in the game at all, at least there’re some nice short ones – and being repeatedly brought to the base location while listening to one, boy will you remember it.

Even your brain won’t seek to be extracted by a rogue dentist for the writing isn’t at all bad. It has a funny reference to Thief. It has unusual intriguing characters (or rather a character). The scattered around books sometimes contain nice ideas and are at least remotely interesting, although the game could really do with more of them. If you’ve read stuff thoroughly in the first two levels, then there won’t be much to read for the rest of the game, since most of the books have copies and even those copies sometimes have copies too, strategically placed so you would see them again and again.

Even some plot devices work as they're expected to, and that doesn’t disappoint in providing a really nice contrast to…

The Bad
…the plot devices that don't. Which are most of them. Because the story itself sucks rats, and in so many ways too. Not only its logic and originality are dangerously close to something Rhianna Pratchett would write, it also screws up all the potential the game has for becoming something more than just a fairly nice experience you choose to discuss the quality of your tasteless breakfast scone over. And one had to try really hard to screw it up here.

The thing is, the archetypal stories about revenge are pretty much autonomous. They don’t need unexpected plot twists, they don’t need hidden messages, they don’t even need complexity. All they need is a hero you can sympathise with, a bunch of mean bastards you can trample on and a way to make it personal for the hero. That’s it, and all the three points is where Dishonored shamelessly fails.

There is no hero – only a shell with a bunch of replies that don’t convey a shred of character. Yes, make me some gear. Yes, take me to the next target. No, I’m not a mute scary freak who stares at you holding a blooded knife in his hands while you talk.

There’re no mean bastards. Well, there’re bastards. And they do their things not quite out of kindness. But if you take for granted that adversaries should at least inspire some respect by not having the intelligence of a dead whale, you’re out of luck. And instead of justified hatred most of the time you feel... pity. What a nice way to trick people into thinking that revenge doesn’t solve anything, Dishonored! Wait, what was your slogan again?

And it’s not even close to personal. I mean, yes, the bastards framed Corvo for the murder of the empress and tried to execute him. But was she the love of his life or was she just a really good employer who always gave him the raise he wanted? Is this Corvo's daughter running around or is it his grandmother who suffers from the growth hormone deficiency? Is Corvo a man or is he secretly a bird so he can indefinitely stand on a rim of a flimsy cardboard box standing on the edge of a skyscraper precariously balanced on top of the Tower of Pisa? I honestly don’t know. And why is that I don’t know the most simple facts after spending over forty hours in the game, reading every scrap of paper and seeing all the endings playing as Corvo?

Oh no, I did notice they’ve gone for ‘invent the vital parts of the story yourself and don’t feel that nasty disappointment if something we’ve come up with wasn’t good enough for you’. And it’s ok as long as you give players the opportunity to clearly express what they’ve thought up in the various situations, like RPGs usually do (ok, who we are kidding, rarely as drunken whalers survive to sober up do). But there’re virtually no important choices in the game at all, except for just the one. And all you get after it is a drivel of the one of the characters about how Corvo quite possibly doesn’t know why he does things himself. Dear developers, seeing your own mistakes is very nice of you. Coulnd’t you fix them or something while you were at it?

But what really smacks you on the cheek and yells ‘Immersion!’ in your ear when you’re finally starting to get immersed are little things. Cheap things. Like when you realise there’s only one song known to the citizens of Dunwall.

Or graffiti. The same ultra realistic graffiti are everywhere! The legacy of some pessimistic maniac who needed to tell you that you can not kill the rat plague rather desperately. And all the ads of the new indie rock band ‘Blood From the Eyes’. ‘Send us food, not bullets’, they write in the closed off apartments accessible only by unhealthy courageous climbing or magical teleportation. Surely the kind postman climbs among us! And what a sad world it is if they have no spud guns invented yet... By the way, didn’t you somehow manage to forget that you can not kill the rat plague? Well, you can’t.

And you can tell fortunes with this game! Just tell me, Dishonored, will anybody ever like the same bland dialogs repeated over and over? (Indeed, I believe so.) Could there be a suitable explanation of why do the guards answer all the questions with the same 8 ball phrases? (Chances are very good.) Does it include owls or the murderous cherry pie? (Never doubt it!) Ok, it's getting tiresome, I should probably blow off. (Blow off!) But tell me, why on earth they didn't pursue a storyline about that mysterious 'he' who says to undress to so many women? (Never doubt it!)

But (as if adversaries weren’t enough) you can also interact with your allies. For example, Corvo's typical briefing sounds very much like this: 'Hi. This guy’s a meanie. Go kill him. Climb in the boat and go. Bye.' And way-hey and up he climbs, accompanied by the player’s silly outraged screams about proper discussions and preplanning.

Well, it does seem like a little excessive measure when you know that the guards have severely impaired vision and a healthy tendency to overlook the defencive mechanisms’ sudden malfunctions (at least they can recognize a bottle when it hits them in the arse), but it’s believability that suffers. And once this 'don’t you have someone to kill blow off' dialog happened with the senders slumped over a map discussing things. But not with Corvo, who actually does the missions!

Also, is there a stealth game at all that doesn’t do the ‘He’s probably watching us right now out of those shadows, ewww, how dreary indeed’ joke? (Blow off!)

Another thing, for a game where you need to access unobvious places to get your levelupping runes it really lacks the New Game+ feature. I completed the game, heck, I did it twice on the hardest setting (which wasn’t much harder than normal, mind you), can I please have fun with the creative killings now from the very beginning, and not from the middle of the game where you can at least pretend you got the half of the stuff you want? ‘No!’, says the strict game injuring its neck with a severely starched collar. ‘We can’t allow fun! Oh well, you can replay separate levels with the abilities you’d gathered by that point, but that’s it, and don’t even think to ask for more. And before you do ask for more, know that there aren’t even cheat codes!’. Truly Victorian!

But then again, what did you expect from a game that stuffs your pockets with guns and threatens to show you the bad ending if you’ll have the nerve to use them?

The Bottom Line
So it was an unfairly short, sadly and rather stupidly spoiled, but still fairly nice experience, one that doesn't change anything inside you but undoubtedly pleas… Oh wait, no, it was probably just the wind.

Windows · by Hugh Instead (18) · 2013

It's an honor to meet you

The Good
Dishonored is the third game created by the French developer Arkane Studios after their debut Arx Fatalis and Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. I haven't played those two games, but their reception by hardcore RPG circles was lukewarm at best. Dishonored is less of an RPG than those titles, and it looks like the developers approached it from a different angle. Very soon it becomes clear than the game attempts to emulate a particular breed of hybrid games from the past, as immortalized by Looking Glass and to a certain extent Ion Storm.

The main inspiration here appears to be Thief II with a touch of Deus Ex. Many people (myself included) consider those games the epitome of intelligent level design and absorbing gameplay. Paying homage to them is a tricky business, since modern game designers are more restricted by mainstream requirements, which state that every game should be as streamlined and as user-friendly as possible. Nevertheless, Dishonored succeeds in most of its lofty aspirations, with only Deus Ex: Human Revolution towering over it as a more successful modern example of genre-merging.

The first thing to notice here is the generosity. We are all familiar with the type of level design that eschews everything except what is needed to complete a stage, with doors that can't be opened by any means, unrealistic structures that scream "it's just a game level", and so on. What I probably love most in Dishonored is that it does away with this kind of thinking. One of the reasons for the immersion it evokes is its level design, which brings back memories from Thief and Deus Ex and all those beloved classics. The levels are large and feel believable. Doors can actually be opened and they lead to areas you do not need to visit in order to finish the mission. The game excels at creating an illusion of a real world around you, a world that exists there because it exists, not because somebody constructed it to serve as a stage in a video game. You sense around you an environment that lives its own life, independent of your presence, and when you explore the locations there is a feeling of wonder and excitement. This is a fantastic achievement that only a few games have been able to accomplish.

Let us not confuse this with open-world design. The key word here is quality, not just quantity. Dishonored is not an open-world game, but it succeeds in creating dense environments that make you feel that you don't need any open-world gaming afterwards. The areas are not only exquisitely detailed - they are full of useful, gameplay-related objects. Collection is one of the cornerstone mechanics of game design, and Dishonored is great at satisfying our collector's instinct. There is so much to find in the stages that it becomes almost overwhelming. In a smart move, the game also tells us after every mission how much stuff we were able to collect and how much of it we missed. If you know that you only got 341 out of 1127 possible coins you are bound to go back and replay the mission. There are no empty places in the game's world, but it's so easy to miss out things that careful exploration becomes a goal in itself.

Gameplay philosophy here is quite Deus Ex-like: choosing different ways and routes to complete a mission is what makes this kind of gameplay so rewarding and thrilling. Dishonored is radical in this aspect: you can finish the entire game without killing anyone or become a walking death machine. In a cool twist they made these choices affect the world: killing more people will call forth more rats to feed on the corpses - which, in turn, will spread the plague and more people will become infected. The freedom of choice is exhilarating, and every mission offers ample opportunities to play it in any style - be it by carefully crawling on suspended beams, seeking out alternate paths and hiding from guards, creatively using your arsenal to sneak upon them and put them to sleep, or risk it all by sniping them with crossbows or hacking them to pieces when they attempt to bring you down. Some instances also offer moral decisions concerning the target's ultimate fate, harming innocents, etc. In short, Dishonored is a game that begs to be replayed and savored to the full.

Dishonored is worth checking out just for its setting. In a world full of recurrent fantasy, sci-fi, and post-apocalyptic scenarios, this game stands out as an example of true originality and thought put into creating a believable setting. Thief II with its mixture of medieval and steampunk is probably the closest famous example, but Dishonored only has a touch of "ye olde Europe" style and instead goes for something that looks like an alternate future of early 19th-century England where science continued to develop while society did not. In other words, the game's world is full of grim cruelty associated with the Middle Ages coupled with the oppressive, hierarchical social structure of a powerful empire and crude technology, producing a setting with electric torture chambers, messages recorded on mechanical devices, industry powered by whale oil, and wooden crossbows fired in a mad scientist's lab. Books scattered through the levels provide more insight into this interesting world and add more depth to it.

This world is also incredibly detailed, inviting you to stop and gaze at all those little things that make it come to life. You know that art designers put their hearts into the project when you stop fighting on a staircase in a gorgeous brothel just to admire stylish black-white photographs decorating the walls or when you stare at a thug taking a leak near a dumpster containing a mechanical trap device. Posters, paintings, furniture, architecture, clothes - everything has been paid attention to, everything exists for a purpose, with rare coherence and conviction that, once again, makes you forget that you are in a game. Never since Bloodlines have I seen such a lavishly designed game world full of contrasts, beauty, and artistic inspiration.

The Bad
It looks like Arcane couldn't quite shake off its "magical" past, and as a results made the unfortunate decision of adding magic to the setting. This was a bad choice for two reasons: first, the world of Dishonored was already complete and even homogeneous in a certain way, and magic just gave it an unnecessary edge that came close to destroying its delicate balance. Second, magic had a similar effect on the gameplay as well, ruining an otherwise successful equilibrium of rough combat and nerve-tickling stealth. I didn't even touch the other spells, but Blink is given to you right at the start and there seems to be no way to avoid using it in certain situations. The problem is that Blink quickly become a cheap way of dealing with enemies, giving you an unfair advantage in a game that is not too difficult to begin with. Blink behind an unsuspecting enemy, choke him and drag away the body - this becomes a recipe you'll be too tempted to follow, as any other way of surpassing your obstacles is significantly more troublesome. In a rare case, I wish there was a patch that removed (or at least weakened) certain elements of a game. Dishonored would have been a more complete package if magic weren't there.

The story is disappointing. A setting like this could have become a stage for a cool tale full of mystery, intrigues, and ambiguous characters. Instead we get a schematic video game plot we've seen countless times before (even if we consider first-person 3D games only, the plot of Strife, released sixteen years before, is by and large identical), with a twist in the middle that feels by-the-book and predictable. Most characters lack charisma and personality, and most of the dialogue is as bland as they go. Voice acting is uniformly forgettable, and scenes that are supposed to move us emotionally barely do so. It is a bit sad to see that storytelling standards in video games are so low that even a game of such caliber survives without bothering to come up with anything more original and involving.

The Bottom Line
Dishonored may fall just short of the giants of the past, but it is nevertheless in the top echelon of smart gaming and an instant modern classic. Original setting, generous and inventive design, and loads of atmosphere resurrect the kind of playing experience we thought was mercilessly destroyed by modern streamlining, and restores hope in a better future for the medium.

Windows · by Unicorn Lynx (180489) · 2017

A Great little First Person Stealth Game.

The Good
I give credit where credit is due. The French know their political intrigue and have endued this game with a convoluted tale of backstabbing and double crossing. You start off as a valued body guard who is framed for a terrible murder. You're recruited by both the loyalists who want to see the rightful emperor restored to power and by a mystical figure who grants you magic powers to assist in your missions.

You're an assassin who has to remove political leaders from positions and assist the loyalists in their goals. Here is where the fun starts. You take two approaches to game play. You can hide, and sneak around, avoiding unnecessary kills. You can also go through and start killing everyone you see. The actions you take will reflect on your ending. You have the ability to jump, climb and teleport to various locations to get around tough obstacles. I tend to avoid killing in games like this for the challenge.

The levels are sprawling and complex. You can usually find more than one way to approach a location and with blink, you can often reach hard to find places. Light plays an important part of the game because it makes you more visible and more likely to attract attention. You spend a great deal of time exploring ruins that are infested with a plague that turns people into zombies.

There are hidden treasures everywhere, and exploration is necessary. You also have the option to restart any level you completed to see if you can make a better run of it.

There are interesting characters that are voiced by the likes of Susan Sarandon and Brad Doriff. The game is more than a little obvious in its inspiration, as it quotes "Thief" more than once. Once in a while, you get a outcome you didn't expect which makes your decisions more interesting.

The Bad
Be prepared to save and load a lot. You will die many times as you learn the layout of each level. You never know what to expect.

The powers handed out to you are a mixed bag. Some are extremely useful, and others barely do anything.

The Bottom Line
It's really fun and can be completed within a fairly short period.

Xbox 360 · by Scott Monster (985) · 2014

Trivia

1001 Video Games

Dishonored appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Awards

  • 4Players
    • 2012 – Best Localisation of the Year
  • GameSpy
    • 2012 – One of the Top 10 Games of the Year
  • GameStar (Germany) / GamePro (Germany)
    • 2012 - #2 Best Action Game of the Year (Readers' Vote)
  • PC Games (Germany)
    • Issue 01/2013 – #2 Game of the Year 2012 (together with Far Cry 3 and The Walking Dead)
    • Issue 01/2013 – #2 Action Game of the Year 2012 (Readers' Vote)

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Game added by Sciere.

Additional contributors: jaXen, Rik Hideto, Kennyannydenny, joicrawu.

Game added October 13th, 2012. Last modified September 14th, 2023.