Dishonored, created by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda, offers something that’s been lacking in a lot of video games I’ve played lately: creative combat. I have no problem with shooters like the gorgeous Gears of War… or with whipping out my bow to engage in some stealthy archery in Skyrim. There was a time when I found playing a mage in just about any game — most recently Dragon Age 2 — to be very versatile and inventive. But Dishonored has just blown every other game out of the water in terms of sheer innovation.
In Dishonored, you play as a supernatural assassin who’s wrongfully accused of murder. You can wield a pistol, crossbow, or blade if you want to take the sturdy approach, but the powers are much more fun. Being a spellsword or arcane warrior type is also extremely useful.
One thing I’ve always appreciated about Dragon Age: Origins is how increasing the difficulty changes the gameplay style. On Casual, quick hits in real time are all it takes to down an enemy, but on higher difficulties, I have to pause the game more often to set up combo attacks or switch to a companion’s POV to heal the party. It becomes a game of strategy.
Dishonored is very similar. As a stealth video game, it already lends itself to a more methodical approach as you sneak into mansions and take down enemies without them seeing you. (And if you’re not that good, sleep darts help.) It’s also possible to run into every situation with your sword raised, ready to make a bloody mess of everything by choice. And that’s fine, too.
I’ll admit, compared to a game like Skyrim or even Dragon Age: Origins, this game has quite a limited number of powers — but each one adds so much to the gameplay. Sure, some powers I’ve seen before, such as seeing through walls. But others are unlike any other powers I’ve encountered elsewhere. Possessing rats to escape into vents and equipping Blink to teleport onto a light shade hanging from the ceiling when guards are after me is beyond just fun: it’s something I’ve never done in a video game before. Even simple mechanics, such as being able to peek through keyholes and lean around cover without being seen, are both handy and clever.
I often find myself pausing as I enter a room — perhaps after escaping to some balcony that has an accessible door I never knew about — to think through the smartest approach. In my first missions, the fast pace of situations once I was caught overwhelmed me, as they do in a lot of shooters — except this time, I didn’t have cover. Instead, I had rooftops… if I could Blink to them successfully. (Before I upgraded Blink, 9 times out of 10 I failed.) As I became more comfortable with the game mechanics and upgraded skills, I became much more capable of thinking my way — and leaping my way — out of sticky situations. It’s even possible to wind down time, possess the enemy, and run him in front of a bullet. It’s a slow, methodical way of approaching the game, but it makes for such rewarding kills.
I hope to see more games with this type of combat in the future. Innovative gameplay and mechanics — perhaps combined with the variety of skills in Skyrim to make a massive skills tree — would be incredible. I know reviewers are already praising Dishonored all over the place right now, but I have to throw in my recommendation if you want a game that’s truly different than what’s already out there. Dishonored would make a fantastic rental for a weekend of gaming, at the very least.
I’ve also written a full review of Dishonored over on Pop GO. If you’re interested, you can read it here!