“Dishonored” blends a unique gameplay system with expansive environments to provide the right experiences for gamers to play their own way.
The game from Arkane Studios and Bethesda Softworks puts players in the role of Corvo, a bodyguard to an Empress who is wrong accused of her murder. You are tasked with clearing your name, ousting those who currently hold power and putting the Empress’s daughter back on the throne.
Apparently, Corvo’s skills at stealth and assassination are what got him his bodyguard position and what he’ll need to use to accomplish his goals. A sword in one hand and a projectile weapon (pistol or crossbow) in the other, he has the option of confronting enemies directly or finding ways to sneak around them.
Here lies the heart of the game – there are two distinct ways to play and succeed, through combat or stealth. Both can be utilized throughout and interchanged as needed, but there are consequences to taking the bloody route.
Combat, if you choose it, is fast paced and frenetic at times. All the action is from the first-person perspective, so bad guys get up in your face with swords flashing. Blocking and counterattacking with your own sword is often the best way to defeat them because they will do the same to you.
Players can also drop down on unsuspecting victims and dispatch them with ease.
Using a pistol or crossbow loaded with a variety of bolts will do the job from a distance if you want. The loud crack of the gun will attract attention, but also has the most devastating effect on enemies.
Crossbow bolts come in different flavors for different effects. Standard bolts should be aimed at the opponent’s head for maximum effect. Sleep darts do a great job if you don’t want to kill someone or attract too much attention. Incendiary bolts will set people (and things) on fire.
Stealth, on the other hand, will take patience and a keen eye and ear. Developers filled the environments with many different passages to the mission goal. Look high across the rooftops or low through alleyways and corridors to bypass many guards. Listen often for the sounds of conversation or footsteps so you don’t blindly stumble into someone’s path.
There is an additional element to completing your missions: magic. Early on, Corvo meets up with a mystical figure that bestows magical abilities on the assassin. Your first power, Blink, allows you to teleport a short distance, which comes in handy when trying to sneak up on guards or for quick escapes.
More abilities get unlocked as runes are discovered. These runes grant players access to offensive and defensive abilities for combat and stealth. What powers you select will likely be based on how you want to play the game.
Tip: it doesn’t matter if you want to go the combat route or the stealth route, take the Dark Vision power. It allows you to see through walls and spot enemies before they can see you. Level two of Dark Vision highlights their field of vision so you can determine when they are facing you and when they are looking elsewhere.
In addition to runes, there are also bone charms which convey small bonuses to different abilities. While there are many scattered around, only three can be active at a time. Upgrades can raise that number to five.
The world of “Dishonored” is a mix of steampunk and science fiction. Many of the surroundings have a retro, Victorian era look and feel to them. The clothing and buildings are stylized to resemble the 1800s, but there are some very distinct futuristic elements in place as well.
Electricity has been turned into a weapon as scientists have created defensive structures that have devastating effects. Wall of Light is a field of electricity that will disintegrate trespassers and Arc Pylons shoot out bolts of electricity to fry enemies. However, these can be used against Corvo’s foes by simply rewiring them so they recognize him as a friendly and the guards as targets.
The world itself is a new, and apparently, dangerous place. Events occur on one of a series of islands where civilization apparently resides. There are mentions of a vast continent, filled with savages and wild beasts, but Corvo never ventures there. All of the action transpires in the city of Dunwall, the capital of the Empire of Isles.
The city is dark and foreboding, even in daylight. It is an industrial whaling town that once was prosperous, but has fallen on dark times due to a crushing plague transmitted by rats. Indeed, the rats are everywhere, including some of the posh parties in the cities, and larger swarms of them will attack people immediately. Oh, and they particularly like unconscious or dead bodies.
Trinkets found along the way are automatically converted into coins, so no selling of items or overloaded inventory screens to deal with. Coins and potions (both health and mana) can also be discovered. There are some vendors who will accept your money in exchange for ammo, upgrades and potions.
The story plays out as a series of mission taking Corvo to various parts of Dunwall. These areas are open and offer many side missions along the way. While there is an ultimate goal and end to each segment, how you get there and what you see can and will vary from player to player.
Streaking to the goal is not advisable. While it can be done, you’ll miss out on a lot and, my big complaint, you can’t go back after you’ve completed the mission to see what you’ve missed. There are conversations to be heard, people to rescue, items to find and new ways to explore that will likely get passed over by players if you don’t take the time to wander.
In a conversation with co-creator Harvey Smith, he said the average player will only get to see about 30% of the narrative because there is so much to see/read/do on each mission. He and co-creator Raphael Colantonio truly wanted to give players the options to play the game their own way, which is to their credit.
“Dishonored” is about choice – stealth or combat, high road or low road, magic or no magic. The list of options goes on and on. Letting players choose their own adventure allows enjoyment of the game by a wide variety of gamers.
The new, highly detailed environments add to a gripping story that evolves and changes as the player progresses through the game. While the missions themselves are linear, the areas are expansive enough to give players freedom without letting them run wild in a sandbox.
Bloody or not bloody? Which path do you choose? And how will you get there? It is all in your hands.
“Dishonored” will be released Tuesday, October 9, in North America, October 11 in Australia and Japan, and October 12 in Europe. It is available on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
The game builds off lessons learned from the other titles in the franchise and developers worked hard to make the region of Skyrim come alive. Players get to start as one of ten different races – from Argonians (lizard men) and Khajiit (cat men) to the more typical human, elf or orc races.
You don’t choose a class for your character as in previous games. Developers at Bethesda Game Studios wanted gamers to have more flexibility to let players do what they wanted to do. There are still skills to be learned and enhanced, but the player could potentially become skilled at wielding a sword and shield before deciding they want to learn to use magic spells.
“Be who you want to be and do what you want to do,” game director Todd Howard said. “You can choose your abilities as the game goes on and get rewarded for your choices.”
Obviously, focusing on one discipline will increase your power faster than if you tried to learn to be a thief, then a mage, then a fighter. However, the options are there to let you change your mind if you are so inclined.
The environments are amazing and not just for show. Climb to any of the tall mountaintops and look around. If you can see it, you can walk to it. Everything in the game is designed to make you feel like you are in a real world.
Moving around in such an open location can be done on foot, carriage or horseback. Once you visit a place, you can then return using a fast travel mode that gets you there without incident, but it does use up the same time in game as if you had walked there.
Cities have their own unique style and certain creatures can only be found in what could be called their natural habitat. Nearly everything can be picked up, examined and possibly sold later to someone else. But you’ll get weighed down in a hurry if you grab every plate and cup you come across.
Non-player characters also have their own look and feel. However, it is the person-to-person interaction where some of the detail breaks down.
When your character walks into a room, everyone turns to face you. While at a party on a quest, all the partygoers kept looking at me while walking around the room and into each other. Even while talking to someone else, their eyes were locked on my position. It was creepy.
The animation of the non-player characters also seems stiff and repetitive when projected against the richly detailed and free flowing environment. They will also occasionally walk themselves into corners and not be able to figure a way out.
Enemies will also occasionally suffer from the same bug. Pursuing creatures will get hung up on a pot or doorway and not be able to move. The benefit for the player is the ability to attack repeatedly with ranged weapons or spells with impunity.
Combat controls differ between the console and PC versions, but the premise is the same. Each hand can hold a weapon or cast a spell. Changing weapons or spells, even in mid-combat, is a simple pause and reassigning of the new item.
Potions, poisons and other items are accessed in a similar manner. The trick is to not get so involved in the fight that you lose track of your health when there are 15 healing potions in your inventory.
Not everything is out to kill you and, indeed, some creatures you come across will actually help you battle your foes. Finding out who is inherently going to stab you as opposed to shake your hand is usually a trial-and-error proposition, but one that can quickly be spun to your advantage.
Oh, and there are dragons.
Dragons are key to many of the stories told in the game, but there are also random dragons that swoop over towns while you are trying to sell some loot. The choice then becomes whether to battle the dragon right away (and damage the town) or track him back to his lair.
Hundreds of quests, including 180 specific storyline quests, will keep players interested for many hours. Some of the quests are very specific depending on what skills you’ve chosen to master.
“Other quests are random or can change depending on the outcomes of previous missions,” Howard said. “It is a game for people who play a lot of games.”
“The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” is truly a wide-open game with many possibilities and visually stunning places to explore. There are many “wow” moments to discover and those personal interaction bugs are a mere annoyance that can be overlooked.
Players will feel like they truly are in Skyrim. Just keep an eye on the sky.
“The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” is available now in most markets, but due to be released in Japan on December 8. It is available for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It is rated M for Mature due to blood and gore, intense violence, sexual themes and use of alcohol. This review was done playing on the Xbox 360 version.
“Rage” starts off full of promise and beauty, but finishes with clunky game mechanics and an ending that was probably the most disappointing I’ve experienced in years.
The new first person shooter game from id Software draws heavily from the developer’s history and pedigree for producing intense action and violence in titles such as “Doom” and “Quake.” Players start out as survivors of a world hit by an asteroid and wake up from a cryo-sleep inside an Ark to a planet full of mutants and tribal clans.
The scenery is both gorgeous and dangerous. The surroundings are wide open and encourage exploration. The level of detail in even the smallest rock really immerses the player in a world that has lost civilization as we know it and is struggling to survive.
Once players get to “cities” where clans have gathered, the graphics continue to shine. Water droplets from a broken overhead pipe cloud your vision temporarily as small, furry creatures scramble around your feet.
Other characters in the game are equally impressive looking with individual features that make them very lifelike. Everything moves naturally and there are very few moments where something looks out of place even in this post-asteroid world.
While non-player characters (NPCs) do look alive, it is when they die that the graphics break down. Dead enemies will often fall through walls or desks and multiple bodies will occupy the same space, making it seem like you’ve just killed a three-headed, six-armed, six-legged person. Those are the moments that distract from gameplay.
Combat is varied and brutal. There are plenty of weapon choices to be found and used to blow away enemies. While only four weapon slots are handy, the game allows access to your weapon locker at any time to mix and match your selections to your opponents.
From a wingstick (sort of a three legged boomerang) to a crossbow with exploding arrows to assault rifles and machine guns, players will have many options to exact bloody damage. Each weapon also has a variety of ammo choices that can pierce armor or explode on contact.
A crafting system lets you create health bandages, grenades and remote controlled bombs, which comes in handy when funds to purchase these things are low. But it does force you to scavenge and pick up everything you can when walking around.
The story is pretty basic at its core. You awaken from the Ark and are expected to be humanity’s savior in this god-forsaken world. Your player moves from city to city as you try to stay one step ahead of The Authority, the military force that acts as the rulers of the planet.
Despite the game being filled with extra missions and plenty to do off the beaten path, the story tries to hurry you along to the next plot point. NPCs are constantly reminding you that The Authority is ready to invade their city if you remain too long or telling you to hurry to complete your mission because time is of the essence.
Most of the missions are what you’d expect from a wide-open game – fetch and return quests. You are often directed to a location (oh, and use a vehicle because walking takes WAY too long), have to kill either mutants or another clan, retrieve some item and return. The quests aren’t repetitive in their detail so each one does hold interest plus the opportunity to scavenge for more crafting parts.
The main points are generally more difficult and move the story along. You discover that your bio chip from your sleeptime in the Ark holds the key to surviving the future. Eventually, you become part of The Resistance, whose mission it is to overthrow the evil (?) Authority and make the world better for all survivors.
The game will offer tips along the way during loading screens. One reminds players to save often.
Do it. I’m not kidding.
The automatic checkpoints are spaced so far apart as to be nearly useless. Many a mission was restarted because I neglected to save after 30 minutes of gameplay and died. Pausing the game to save after every battle ruins the flow of the action.
Ultimately, you are tasked to take a disc to The Authority’s main city, upload data to a satellite and wake up people who are sleeping in undiscovered Arks. Why they would automatically join the Resistance side is never really explained, nor how the Authority managed to retain a full army complete with futuristic weapons after the asteroid hit.
Without revealing any details (no spoilers!), the ending was probably the most unsatisfying and disappointing I’ve experiences in years. When the credits started to roll, I actually shouted at the screen, “Are you kidding me?!?”
After obviously investing a lot towards environmental and combat graphics to make the game as immersive for the player as possible, I was stunned by the lack of an ending, answers to obvious and lingering questions, anything that would make me feel like I didn’t just walk out in the middle of a movie.
“Rage” is a beautiful game that lovingly renders a post-apocalyptic world into a place that draws the player in and makes them feel part of the whole. However, graphics issues with dead characters and an ending that is weak and incomplete makes the player feel like the audience of a magician who just told everyone how he did all his tricks.
“Rage” is available now on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. It is rated M for mature due to blood and gore, intense violence, and strong language. This review was done using the Xbox 360 version, which comes on 3 disks – 2 for single player and 1 for multi-player.