At the end of Dishonored, Samuel, the man who would ferry me via boat from mission to mission turned to me and told me to get out of the boat. He practically barked it at me. He was pretty pissed at all of the carnage that I had caused throughout the game. Mostly at all the guards I killed. (Oh boy, I killed a LOT of them.)
It was at that very moment, that I realized I played Dishonored "wrong."
When I play videogames, I always play as the good guy. My Commander Shepard in the I franchise refused to let ANYONE die if he could avoid it. And my Cole in inFamous 2 never electrocuted an annoying drummer, no matter how badly he wanted to.
But since Dishonored is at its heart, a stealth game, and since I have the patience of a four year old child, I chose to run through the levels and kill many guards. Sometimes twenty at a time. And because of that, I missed out on the true genius of the game.
For instance, towards the end of the game, I found a device that could either make all of my enemies fall asleep or turn to ashes. Of course I chose the first option. That's just how I play videogames.
But... whoops. I forgot to mention that I murdered twenty guards just to get to that device. Had I snuck around a bit and did some investigating, I could have avoided it. And that's what Samuel was talking about.
If you don't know anything about Dishonored, the game starts off with you coming to visit the Empress of a land called Dunwall. You're her protector and within about five minutes, she's murdered right in front of you and her daughter. You're blamed and put in prison. You eventually escape and join up with a group called The Loyalists and you decide to take revenge, as well as take back the kingdom.
It's a first person game meaning you never see your character nor hear his voice—though he can answer questions and make decisions. In your right hand is a sword; your left hand is for performing spells and using powers. So while the setting is very similar to a European industrial city of the 1800s, there are supernatural parts in this game.
For instance, you can blink (or teleport) short distances. Or, you can unleash a swarm of rats to devour your victims. (One of my favorite powers.)
You're given assassination targets, but over the course of each mission, you have the option of taking them out non-lethally. For instance, when plotting to assassinate two brothers, I had the option to have their heads shaved and their tongues cut out so they could be dumped in mines as slaves. Miserable... sure. But alive? Yup.
In fact, you can play the entire game without killing a single person. That’s key to unlocking the "happier" of the endings. Cause tons of chaos as I did, and it not only reflects on your character, but in what shape you find the world, which has been suffering from a plague, at the end of the game.
Miss an opportunity to kill someone non-lethally because the guards discovered you? The developers wisely let you save the game at any point, which means you're encouraged to do trial and error. (Though, I must admit, the loading screens are a bit too long for my impatient tastes.) You’re even giving the option to replay a mission once you’ve completed it.
It's a fairly short campaign, but this game begs for replayability. It's not an open world game in the normal sense in that you can't do missions in any order, but it's open world in that there are multiple ways of taking out your target. Go in, guns and swords blazing sure, but it's way more fun if you go in quietly from sewer pipes and open windows.
While you can go from the beginning of the game to the credits sequence in about six hours, you're missing the point as I did. The nature of the game is to see the angles and the possibilities and then decide how you want to proceed. (As well as take in the beauty of the Dunwall.)
Dishonored is not a game for people like me. In fact, you could say I was pretty terrible at it. But it's a near masterpiece in gameplay and level design that you should play. (If you're not like me. Or you don't feel guilty about killing.) If this was April and not October, meaning there wasn't a ton of other games waiting for me at home, I would have played this game at least three times the hours I actually spent on it.
I played it "wrong." But I hope after reading this review, you not only want to play it... but you want to play it "right."
* Disclosure: An Xbox 360 review copy was provided by the publisher to this reviewer for the purposes of this review. *