ByJonathan Reetun, writer at
I'm basically Bear Grylls except I stay inside and play games. @jreetun
Jonathan Reetun

With the release of Dishonored 2 less than two months away, I invite you to stroll down the blood-soaked cobblestone streets of Dunwall one last time before you set off for the sunny shores of Karnaca. Just watch out for the Wall of Light up ahead!

The Backstory

The catalyst that sets the events of Dishonored into motion is a simple one: The assassination of the Empress of the Isles, which sees her bodyguard Corvo framed for murder and the abduction of said empress's daughter. The act sends you on a path of revolution against the newly installed totalitarian regime. So it's safe to say that at the heart of Dishonored is the age-old story of a hero attempting to save the princess.

Time to return to Dunwall...
Time to return to Dunwall...

See? Pretty simple right?

Well, that's where the story becomes a bit more complicated. Before you set off on your task, you are visited by a mystical figure known as the Outsider, who endows you with supernatural powers to aid in your mission. What is strange about the Outsider is that he holds no stake in the events that transpire; he is merely intrigued as to how you approach your work.

And so the simple story is complicated somewhat. The by-any-means-necessary hero approach that the prologue afforded you is no longer valid, and all of a sudden there are both moralistic and physical consequences for your actions. While these types of features are now a trope of sorts of contemporary games, it is no less an extra layer of story that brings a sense of ownership to your actions. It is because of this ownership, this culmination of choices that are laid out before you at the game’s conclusion, that you will happily play through a story you know off by heart — because you have imprinted a piece of yourself onto the actions of Corvo.

The mystical Outsider.
The mystical Outsider.

Level Design

Dishonored is certainly the kind of game that many studios would have thought welcomes a huge open world; one in which players could have chosen which targets to assassinate at their leisure. However, Arkane Studios decided against this, instead opting for medium-scale, nonlinear-level design — and this is a decision that has bought out the best in the game.

Giving the player a finite space to work with means that there is more thought behind the space available. Now, I really enjoyed Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, but one of the drawbacks for me were that all the missions felt like obstacle courses that took a sharp turn and dropped you in a large open space with not too much to do. This is what Dishonored did so well through level design. Rather than having the powers become second nature and therefore tiresome as players used them to traverse the streets of an open world, the nature of the design allowed players to explore a relatively large area and come to their own decision as to how they approach their objective. Simply put, the choice of design works to allow more creativity in the players' actions — whether those actions are lethal or nonlethal.

The World

The depth of Dishonored is reflective of the immersive factor that runs throughout the titles put out by Bethesda. Indeed, players are treated to the aesthetic delights of Dunwall with its winding rivers, shadowy alleyways and variety of architecture. The recreation of a retro-futuristic Victorian London is an excellent choice, allowing for a creative interpretation of the Industrial Age of the early 19th century. Of course, you can also make links between the choice of setting and the implementation of gothic-revival features balanced against the progressive use of science, which again complements the choice of setting. All this allows for a hugely diverse world in which the player can plainly see the differing sections of Dunwall — something that I believe is made more effective by the choice of level design.

Of course, as with any Bethesda game, this sense of world building extends beyond the physical aesthetics. As any hardcore fan will know, much of the lore surrounding the Dishonored universe is located within the texts and audio notes found across the various nooks and crannies of the rooms you uncover. The detail that is recorded within these notes works to develop the lore of the Outsider, the thought behind the Empress’ assassination, and the role that Corvo inadvertently plays in the act.

It is these varied aspects of the game — each different yet dependent on one another — that act as the foundation of an immersive and enjoyable game that, if nothing else, proves that bigger is not always better. But Dishonored really does do more than that; I have not been drawn into a naughties game so effectively since BioShock Infinite, and if by some twist of fate you have still not played this game, then go outside, run to your nearest shop, and throw your money on the counter (or just download it from the PlayStation or Xbox stores).

Until then, we anxiously await the release of Dishonored 2 on November 11. Check out the trailer below:

And to read more about Dishonored 2, check out:

What do you think? Did I miss anything out about the game? Do you think the game was as good as I do? Are you excited for the November release of Dishonored 2? Let me know in the comments and why not follow me on Twitter @jreetun – see you on the sunny shores of Karnaca!


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