Dishonored, from Bethesda Softworks, takes place in a fictional city called Dunwall, on the Isle of Gristol, the capitol of the Empire of Isles. Dunwall is a once prosperous whaling community that has recently been infected with a deadly plague. It's a port/industrial city that is simply trying to hold on to the last threads of its former glory. The island environs are fun to explore and aside from their visual appeal, there are a lot of hidden pathways that lead to loot or alternate routes to your target. Although there is a certain urgency to your mission, it is often beneficial to take time to look around. But not too long as you must always be on the move.
Combat is almost a rarity. Instead Corvo must traverse his terrain, hiding in shadows and behind objects. Entering a room of bad guys and slinging steel is a good way to end up respawning at your last checkpoint. In fact, the game almost encourages non-lethal take downs over stealthy kills. Killing is frequently too noisy and attracts other guards or bad guys and things just get messy.
Aside from your trusty blade, your crossbow, and pistol, you are quickly given magical powers to help you complete your vengeful agenda. Through runes and charms you can upgrade your abilities and perform some fantastical feats. For starters you can summon hordes of rats or other creatures to attack your enemies for you as you hide out of sight. It may not sound scary at first until you find that the rats can devour a person rather quickly, whether living or dead. You included.
There are a lot of fun things to do with the magic. You can possess a creature such as a rat in order to sneak up behind baddies or freeze time to allow for stealthy sneak attacks whereby you suddenly appear in front of your foes catching them by surprise. My favorite ability comes as an answer to any assassin's most important question: Where do you hide the bodies? It doesn't take long to realize that it's best to hide the people you incapacitate. Usually you will hide them in dark corners or behind objects because their presence alerts other guards. But with a Shadow Kill your enemy's body is turned to ash on the spot, forever out-of-sight.
Playing with the different things you can do with your powers is probably the most fun aspect to the game but what is really going to keep gamers coming back for more is the non-linear story line. Every decision will take you down a different path and ultimately to a different ending. Every kill you make, every path you take and everything you say to anyone could conceivably be of the utmost importance in how things turn out. Wise choices will win out over shear brute force every time.
As stated previously, the game is visually appealing. Everything from the stonework to the character design is rendered and animated with precision. The facial expressions coupled with the excellent voice-over acting help to make the characters believable and ultimately keep you interested in their outcomes. There may have been a tad too many cut-scene animations or times when you were forced to stand and listen to monologues that were a little ho-hum but when it's there, the action will quickly take away the frowns.
As a whole, Dishonored is truly a total package. Fantastic graphics, great character development, a non-linear storyline, and all-too-fun game play will keep gamers happy for a long time. Its sneak and peek style of play will be familiar to fans of Assassin's Creed or 007 but it will definitely appeal to a much larger audience. If you are tired of mashing buttons as a means of finding victory, Dishonored might be your Game of the Year.