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Game review: Get 'Dishonored' now!

Last updated on: November 1, 2012 18:14 IST

Game review: Get 'Dishonored' now!

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This game will give you the thrills of getting embroiled in the kidnap of an Empress's daughter, getting imprisoned and then bolting out to find the real culprits, says Murali Venukumar.

Murali is a full-time marketing exec, part-time writer and a life-long gamer.


Platforms: Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC
Price: Xbox 360/PS3: Rs 3,499 / PC: Rs 2,499
Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Distributor: E-xpress Interactive
Genre: First Person/Stealth/Action-Adventure
Rating: 9/10

Dishonored is a dense game. Not just in terms of the number of objects in the game world mind you, but also in its very complexity. And that's the first thing you notice about the game when you start it up. From the menu screens to your sedate introduction to the troubled world of Dunwall, everything in the virtual universe you inhibit seems like its there for a reason. Everything has a history, everything a place.

Including the man you play -- Corvo Attano. Returning from an errand you were sent on by the Empress, you come back to a land that's in direr straits than you left it.

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Photographs: Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks

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The rat plague continues to eat into the very political, social and emotional fabric that holds the city together. There are conspiracies brewing, and you're thrust into the quagmire headfirst in no time at all.

Falsely accused of assassinating the Empress and aiding in the kidnap of her daughter, the true heir, you're thrust into prison, due for summary execution before you're sprung out by a band of loyalists that want to see the aforementioned rightful heir restored to the throne.

Working out of an old, run down pub that acts as your base of operations, you chat with key figures, purchase upgrades and rest up as you jump from one elaborate mission to the next.

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Photographs: Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks
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There's an appealing steampunk-noir feel to the world thanks to stellar work by Half-Life 2 and Bioshock alumni Viktor Antonov, Sebastien Mitton and team. And while the textures are unfortunately of a lower resolution than is ideal, the strength of the architecture, art direction and the lovingly crafted minutiae of the set design never fail to impress.

Catchy character designs, reams of deep, well-delivered dialogue and loads of text to read are also par for the course. The original Deus Ex's Harvey Smith, along with developer Arkane Studios' Raphael Colantonio, are also on hand to lend the world structure in the vein of old-school classics such as System Shock and Thief.

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Photographs: Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks

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While Dishonored isn't an open-world game, its levels are constructed and designed from the ground up to allow you to go and pretty-much do as you please. The first-person perspective immerses the player in the world, and the choice of going into a particular assignment all-guns-blazing or stealthing it with zero kills is completely left to the player.

Aiding you are real-world weapons such as swords, pistols and crossbows and a set of magic-infused abilities that you come upon soon after you begin the game. You access your weapons and powers through a wheel-interface and the ones you fancy the most can be mapped to your D-pad for quick access.

These can also be upgraded by way to runes that you find around the gameworld using a beating heart (to go into the story in much more detail would be a crime in itself).

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Photographs: Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks
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As with most games in this genre, Dishonored rewards players who are patient. Watching guards patrol their routes, listening to their conversations, and either taking them out silently or bypassing them altogether is a skill unto itself. Dishonored also embraces the true verticality of your game world.

Powers such as Blink (that lets you teleport just about anywhere) and Possession (taking control of humans or animals) not only give you true freedom, but also let you bypass certain sections altogether. Other useful summons include the ability to conjure up body-devouring rats, a gale of wind that blows enemies away and the ability to bend or slow down time.

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Photographs: Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks
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The game tracks your progress through missions by way of a chaos meter. Kill too many and your meter will rise, and vice-versa. Your final ending will depend on how you've managed your chaos meter throughout the game. What would have been nice however, was there to have been enough incentive to do a brute force playthrough without it adversely affecting your chaos rank.

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If you do happen to use traditional combat, you'll be happy to know that everything feels just right. You can dual-wield a ranged weapon and a sword, and there's a block/parry button that lets you get a leg-in if you time it right.

Boss battles are also practically non-existent, and you don't even need to kill your assassination targets in certain cases, as there'll be a non-lethal way to deal with them instead. The AI routines that interact with each other and run the different systems that make the game must be very impressive indeed.

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This free-form gameplay is what Dishonored does best. Dropping you into a well-realised world and letting you accomplish your tasks (and side-tasks) as you see fit is how older gamers cut their teeth.

It's nice to see the genre again, polished admirably for a new generation of gamers but still not sacrificing its roots. Dishonored is stunning release at a time when the release calendar is chock full of me-too sequels.

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