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As intriguing as Dishonored’s storyline is, at its core is the gameplay. The developer is tasked with keeping the gameplay fresh while tying together a new way of making decisions in a game that has many outcomes. While innovative as Corvo’s abilities are, the “chaos meter” fails to outshine Corvo’s abilities.
Corvo’s main abilities are the highlight of the gameplay as one has the choice with Rat Swarm to literally unleash a swarm of rats upon unsuspecting enemies. The drawback from this power is that the rats will attack you if there aren’t any enemies around. However, one can use this ability in combination with the power Possession to possess a rat and run by guards without sounding any alarm. This ability to combine powers gives the player numerous ways to complete a level without raising any chaos.
Another useful and enjoyable power is Blink, which allows you to teleport from area to area relatively quickly. This power, when used in succession, can slow down time for a few seconds. In keeping with the time motif, Bend Time is a power that literally stops time for a short time period. This allows the player to set traps, escape from an area, run past guards or even assassinate without anyone realizing what has happened. The Outsider’s powers allow for numerous opportunities for the player to complete a level and each decision will affect the final outcome of the story.
“Dishonored’s” levels are linear with each taking about an hour in time to complete; however, the time taken could fluctuate depending on how one decides to influence the city of Dunwall. In high chaos, killing everyone in your path, including Weepers, shortens your playtime on each level. However, if you limit your chaos through putting everyone to sleep and taking your time collecting books, audio recordings and hunting down every Bone Charm and Rune then that time could easily drift into two hours per level. Other collectibles also included are the money of the world, “coins,” and Sokolov paintings.
On the combat side, Corvo can upgrade his weapons through coins collected or earned from taking rare artifacts from the richer citizen’s homes. Weapons available are common and include your sword, crossbow, pistol and grenade. However what is very entertaining is that Corvo can set traps with the Spring Razor, which can be tripped by enemies and eliminates them while you are hidden at a safe distance. Corvo can also rewire machines so they attack enemies instead of you, or you can choose to simply remove the power source from said machine. At the end of the level, your gameplay will be graded from highly chaotic to peaceful, which will affect how characters speak to you and whether the city will be infested with more or less rats, Weepers and security patrols.
As impressive as Corvo’s abilities are, “Dishonored” falls short in the story department. It has a great environment, characters and graphics but its foundation limits the story itself with a “chaos meter,” which tracks your movements and choices throughout the world and tallies them into how much or little chaos you have unleashed onto the environment. Consequences must be dealt with for either action or inaction. Weepers roaming the streets, more rats attacking everything in sight and many more guards on patrol are what high chaos brings to Dunwall if the player decides to kill or even ignore certain quests. In the end this “chaos meter” feels more like a morality meter as performing non-lethal actions yields no chaos, while killing everyone, even in self-defense, will punish the player.
Through environmental cues, such as posters and words written on walls the player can deduce how the people of Dunwall are faring throughout the siege of the plague. Main characters often leave journals and audio recordings behind which give the player more insight into their state of mind, plans or past. The player will have to be aware to look for such cues, since books or audio recordings are easily missed if one is concentrated on the mission at hand.
All in all, “Dishonored” is a solid game with its faults being underscored by the “chaos meter” and not tying up loose ends in the resolution of the game. In theory, the “chaos meter” sounds innovative, but it is really just a morality meter and in the end it becomes tiring sneaking everywhere and putting everyone to sleep with a choke hold. The highlights of the game really are the abilities earned throughout the game, with the Rat Swarm being a top favorite.
Rating 4/5 – For incorporating abilities which challenge the player to use different ways to solve a problem; however, it lacks that shocking twist in the storyline that was built up from the beginning. At the same time it did not build upon intriguing characters, such as The Outsider, to make the story more memorable.