I’ll get this out of the way: go buy Dishonored. Not sold? What if I told you that the best parts of Deus Ex, Thief and Bioshock were put into a blender, and the resulting concoction was one of the most fantastic games you’d play all year? You need more convincing, you say? Fine. Let’s talk.
Dishonored is the story of Corvo, former bodyguard to the recently-assassinated Empress of Dunwall. Naturally, you’re blamed for her death, cast into prison, subsequently broken out of prison by a resistance to the new regime, and then given supernatural powers. Time to start stabbing people in the face and neck!
Player agency is the name of the game in Dishonored, and compared to nearly everything else on the market right now, it’s amazing how many ways you’ll be able to take on the various challenges that lie before you. See that guard? Sneak by him. Blink (teleport) behind him and stab him in the neck. Drug him & hide his sleepy body. Possess his body, walk past other guards in the area, then blink away. Possess a rat and crawl through a gap in the wall. You get the picture.
Did I mention that you can play the entire game without killing anyone? Even your assassination targets can be dealt with in non-lethal ways, though Dishonored makes you work for them (pay attention to in-level dialogue!).
While it’s entirely possible to speed-run the game, getting into straight up fights with the guards and killing everything with a pulse, Dishonored really shines when you string together Corvo’s powers. Whether you’re blinking in and out of a hiding spot to take out guards, possessing them while time is slowed down to force themselves to kill unintended targets, or simply sneaking your way throughout the environments, it never stops being entertaining.
While abusing your powers can lead to inefficient play, taking time to take stock of a situation and executing a carefully plotted plan is rewarding. Your playstyle will ultimately dictate the relative mood of the city - there’s a plague on, and leaving too many bodies will not only make the guards upgrade their equipment, but also add more rats to the streets.
While the premise and characters you're presented with with have massive amounts of potential, they falls a bit short in practice. Characters largely exist in between missions, and you don’t find yourself getting as much out of direct interactions with them as you do the bits of overheard dialogue, audio logs and notes found throughout the world.
The stealth system can also be a little hard to gauge at times - though the edges of the screen darken a bit and you’re given a visual indicator of whether you’re crouched or not, there were plenty of times where I thought I was well-hidden and an enemy spotted me. Overusing Dark Vision was a good deterrent for this particular issue, but not everyone wants to stare at a yellow game.
Shortcomings aside, Dishonored stands very tall as one of the best releases this year. Very few games give you as much agency, and discovering new & unique ways to fit your mood or play style will keep you coming back. I know I will.