Dishonored’s world is a sandbox of endless possibilities where you get to play supernatural assassin

There’s nothing like a healthy dose of vengeance to fix all of the world's problems — just be sure to throw in a little betrayal prior so that the violence that follows is justified. Videogame (and film) plots have revolved around exactly this for several decades now, but not quite in the way Arkane Studios and Bethesda Softworks' Dishonored does. Murdering everything that moves might seem like the most logical path to take, but Dishonored doesn't necessarily reward you for actually killing your mark. All your actions have consequences, and while an inexplicable number of paths to your final goal (be it assassinate, disable, ex-filtrate or merely gather information) are laid out in front of you, the choices never seem to overwhelm. Somehow, you can accomplish a lot by not doing much at all. Vengeance, in Dishonored, is often mildly electrocuting an art dealer until he gives you the combination to his safe. Well, it's a whole lot more fun than I just made it sound.

You play as Corvo Attano, bodyguard of Empress Jessamine of Dunwall, a city ravaged by a mysterious plague. Corvo is sent on a mission to seek aid from other cities, but they're less than forthcoming with any kind of help. They've also gone one step ahead, deciding to blockade Dunwall until the whole plague thing blows over. Nice of them. When our protagonist returns with this wonderful news, the Empress is murdered and Corvo is framed and thrown in prison. This is where your journey begins.

Dunwall's architecture draws inspiration from Victorian era London and Edinburgh, but there's a steampunk twist to everything. The buildings look weathered and people you encounter look desperate, while magic and technology coexist. It's not often that you get to explore a setting like this, so make the most of it and do as many side missions as you can. Sight-seeing aside, Dunwall is also perfectly built for assassins of the supernatural variety, featuring navigable pipes, balconies, rooftops, sewers and dimly lit corners to skulk in. It's Corvo's wet dream, literally. His otherworldly powers such as ‘blink’ (teleportation), ‘possession’ ‘bend time' (think Max Payne) and ‘devouring swarm’ (summon rats) can be unleashed from anywhere at any time; a testament to the superb level design. His weapons and gadgets will come good as well, since Dunwall features a number of sufficiently shady alleys for quiet assassinations — this is a stealth game that lets you get creative. Apart from the multiple avenues to bring down your main target, you can remove guards from the equation in a number of ways. For instance, corpses draw rat swarms — so you can take out a couple of guards, carry their bodies and dump them in heavily guarded areas to create distractions or have said rat swarms do the dirty work for you. Prefer a direct approach? Go in guns, crossbows and knives blazing. The combat system is top-notch, so it's just as much fun getting caught or raising alarms as it is to rain silent, shadowy death.

Despite its interesting visual aesthetic, Dishonored (on consoles, in particular) suffers from a surprising lack of visual fidelity, but it does make up for it with great sound and atmosphere. The voice acting features the likes of Susan Sarandon, Carrie Fisher and Chloë Grace Moretz (of Hugo fame).

Ultimately, Dishonored is quite the experience. It gives you cause, choice, an incredibly realised world, and a sandbox with seemingly endless possibilities in which to play the supernatural assassin. The game is available on PS3, X360 and PC.

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ApocalypticSeptember 12, 2012