The design of the city and Corvo's array of skills create an elasticity of play that makes every mission a joy to explore. Each new objective feels like a natural extension of the overall drama, rather than just another tick in your journal, and your options for completing those objectives never feel like they were put there just to help you solve a puzzle. You don't suddenly obtain the ability to possess a rat just as you need to scuttle your way through a convenient vent - the power is yours to use, or not, the entire time. You're not being given a path to follow with a target at the end, the world simply exists and you must decide how you will navigate through it. That both stealth and combat options work so smoothly and are both so enjoyable is a testament to the great thought and care put into Dishonored's design.
Inevitably, that flexibility of design does create some minor shortcomings. While experimentation is part of the joy of playing Dishonored, when it comes to actually getting things done, you'll probably settle on a few key skills, and once they're fully upgraded, you won't have much incentive to go hunting for Runes anymore. There's plenty of loot to be found and cashed in at Piero's lab, but if you opt for a stealthy approach you won't have much opportunity to spend your money because you won't really need to upgrade your weapons or buy more ammunition. In one mission late in the game, you can get information out of an informant either by bribing him with his favorite wine, or torturing him with rats. Piero makes a great show out of how rare the wine is, but it only costs 150 gold pieces, and by that time, your pockets should be more than full enough for such a pittance. After a certain point, tracking down Dishonored's various collectibles feels more like satisfying busywork than something truly necessary for success, but that's a minor complaint when contrasted against everything else you're able to do.
Bottom Line: Dishonored gives you a beautiful, fascinating, new world to explore, and then makes it your playground for grand misdeeds. Its story of political intrigue and betrayal is told at exactly the right pace, balancing information with action in a way that keeps you interested, but not overloaded. Dishonored is smart enough to know not to try too hard to impress you, and as a result, it will blow you away.
Recommendation: Grab it so you'll know what everyone is talking about when the Game of the Year conversations start happening.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
Genre: Action Adventure
Platform(s): PC, Xbox 360, PS3