In the end, 'Dishonored' gets it wrong

Special to the ManifestoDecember 27, 2012 

Players have a wide variety of options in Dishonored, which is set in a kingdom where a princess's bodyguard has been accused of killing her and becomes an assassin to fight evil.

PHOTO COURTESY GAMES PRESS

  • VIDEO GAME REVIEW

    'Dishonored'

    About: A stealth action-adventure game from Bethesda Softworks

    Players: Single-player

    Pros: The deep and engaging setting is bolstered by a wide variety of mission options.

    Cons: The game offers options but really wants you to play only as the developers intended.

    Availability and price: $59.99 on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC

    ESRB rating: M

    Manifesto's rating: 7/10 (Xbox 360)

    Metacritic rating: 8.8/10 (Xbox 360)

At its core, Dishonored is a non- violent stealth game. This is very important to realize from the outset because even though you're given weapons and encouraged to use them, you'll regret the decision to do so.

Played in the first-person, the game tells the story of a bodyguard-turned- assassin and is set in a kind of dystopian alternate past. Think London several centuries ago but with a plague and magic-wielding assassins. Outside of the setting, the gameplay itself is very reminiscent of the Deus Ex or Thief series of games.

While you were once the bodyguard of the kingdom's empress, you've been accused of killing her. Of course, you're innocent. So you're forced to escape captivity and become a stealthy assassin to rescue the kingdom from the clutches of evil. If it sounds a bit ridiculous, that's because it is.

But once you're over the clichéd story, the game's setting begins to shine. The city is alive with madness, and you're immersed in it well. It's easy to get lost staring at the level of detail put into the city and wondering just what makes it seem so alive and dangerous compared to other games. I would compare the quality of the setting to that of BioShock, and that's a lofty compliment for the developers of Dishonored.

The game's other major selling point is the vast amount of options available to players to complete each level. This is a game that could be played 20 times and wouldn't be the same even once. It's quite amazing how much work was put into giving players options.

But even with these varied options, the game starts to fall apart near the end, which comes very abruptly and quickly. You begin to realize you're being punished for anything but the most stealthy of approaches. Sure, you can go in guns blazing and clear a room or silently stab a guard and hide him, but each time you do, you'll find yourself punished.

For a game that has so much extremely varied gameplay, it's the most frustrating thing in the world to get to the end and be so completely disappointed. This is the most disappointing ending to a game I can remember in a very long time.

If you're a lover of stealth games that give you the most wide-open options to complete missions, this is a must-have. But outside this niche category of gamers, I wouldn't recommend it. Instead, head for another offering in this genre that doesn't punish players for playing how they want.

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