“I don’t know about you, Corvo, but I’ve had a lovely time. Intrigue and mystery, butchery and betrayal. The death throes of an Empire!”
Dishonored is a hodgepodge of stolen ideas, mashed together into a shambling, Frankenstein’s monster of a game. When faced with a design dilemma, the Dishonored team did what should come naturally to all developers: They stole liberally from Thief 2. Yet, somehow, despite the fact it’s positively overflowing with often contradictory ideas pilfered from a dozen contradictory games, Dishonored works.
It isn’t the most structured game, the levels are basically extended playgrounds for you to test out Corvo’s variety of skills. I ended up as a kind of vengeful rat herder – the Pied Piper of Fuck You, here to ruin everyone’s day with my swarm of flesh-eating rodents.
Unfortunately, Dishonored‘s larger campaign structure did nothing but hamper the fun. The plot was bare bones, the characterization lacking and the tiresome “moral choice” system was the gaming equivalent of an old man who comes out and shouts at you for playing on his lawn. “Are you burning people alive with fire arrows again? Stop it at once. Stop having fun, you little bastards!” Yet the game was brilliant nonetheless. Why? Dunwall.
While Corvo and his silly mask may take up most of the game’s cover, the city of Dunwall is the true star of Dishonored. It’s a vibrant, filthy, sad, beautiful place that seems to exist midway between City 17 and Ankh-Morpork. Few game environments have been rendered with as much clarity. Dunwall doesn’t just feel alive, it feels like it’s dying.