Monday, December 03, 2012

Dishonored PS3 review

I'll start give Dishonored the highest praise I can offer - it reminds me of Thief. Sadly though it's not as good, but then again what is?

You play Corvo another mute protagonist from a long line of mute protagonists, wrongly convicted of the murder of the empress, imprisoned, escaped, and seeking to restore the rightful heir to the throne. All set against a steampunkish victoriana industrial setting with magic. It's a little Thief 2 ish with camera-type  sentries and roving guards some encased in stilt-walkers all the while sneaking around to get to the goal; knocking out guards, hiding bodies, and picking up loot. That's if you want to, nothing wrong per se in killing all the guards and charging through. Well nothing overtly wrong but doing so will result in the 'bad' chaos ending.

The influences are clear mostly Thief 2, a dash of Bioshock 2 and a light brush with Assassin's Creed. So inevitably I'm going to be comparing this to Thief 2 so if you haven't played this game - what the hell is wrong with you! Go, buy it now it's dirt cheap and play it, then play it again on the hardest setting now come back after the week it's taken you.

Okay all done? I'll start. The best way to play Dishonored (and boy do I want to keep adding the missing "U" there) is by sneaking and the level 'rewards' you if you don't kill anyone or alert any guards and that's in inverted commas as you get an achievement and a tick box on the level completion screen. Rather than a bow Corvo gets a crossbow fitted with normal bolts, sleep bolts or incendiary bolts. Also a blade, grenades, security breaking tools, traps and magic. Ah magic. Active magic is bought and upgraded through the use of runes which are scatted through the level; passive magic is unlocked through the use of bone charms which come in a variety of flavours and require equipping. It's a straight 'steal' from Bioshock's Plasmid Tonic mechanic and it works well.

Magic is the biggest difference between this and Thief, particularly the Blink ability. Point to a destination and Blink over to it, this negates the need for Thief's rope arrows and makes for some fun manoeuvres. Add in Time Stop and Dark Vision (see through walls) as well as a sneaking pace that is far greater than the walking pace of guards and sadly it makes it a little too easy. I can see why there's an achievement for playing through only buying Blink.

Sleep darts too make this a little too easy especially when combined with the combat upgrade that allows them to work with alerted/attacking guards; though this is tempered with the low stock in hand and the rarity of finding them within a level.

On the other hand one of the 'fun' parts of Thief was crouching in shadows or somewhere up high and watching the guard patterns for five minutes (or longer) before making a move; in theory this is possible in Dishonored except it doesn't always work. Guards meeting can slightly offset their patterns, sometimes they'll seem to get looped walking between two points rather than continuing their rounds. Oddly this inconsistency increases the realism; one can't treat the guards as automatons. This was highlighted to me twice - the first time was when I peered through a keyhole and watched a guard approach; I backed off in case they opened the door and activated Dark Vision to keep an eye on them then watched as they bent down to peer through the keyhole themselves. I've had guards alerted to doors being open, being opened, or closed with no visible guard; and I've had guards alerted to the lack of a guard I've taken out; yep they actually wonder why someone isn't guarding or patrolling that area and actively investigate.

It's a shame therefore that their conversation is so stilted. Oh sure there's some set conversations which set the tone or provide mission information, but it quickly drops to a random greeting from a list and a random response from another which doesn't change between levels.

Onto levels. Not bad. There's a hub of sorts where the player starts and returns and provides the option to purchase equipment and upgrades but each mission level is set in sections with a loading screen between each. Normally around three to four sections per level varying in size with the outdoor ones being the largest and providing a nice variety between open and crowded areas. But they are smaller than Thief's and inevitably that means less routes to take to achieve the objective. Although that later does have a Thief-esque touch to it.

At the start of a mission there's generally one main objective and one sub-quest handed over by an accomplice. However during play it's possible to come across additional information that creates more sub-quests or modifies the main objective - the most obvious being a means to complete the mission in a non-lethal manner. That and locating Runes and Bone Charms pads out the game; and sadly that's a necessity as there are only nine missions in total which is poor compared to Thief 2's fifteen, which are also larger.

Onto technical matters. Weapon selection and switching is quick via a slow time radial, but you can only change the left-hand, right hand is always the blade. Shame as dual-wielding Stop-Time and the Crossbow would have been fun. As is, it means a little fumbling between magic and weapon which disrupts the flow. graphics are nothing spectacular; textures can take a while to load with the correct level of detail and backgrounds can often remain blurry a particular fault given the length of time hugging walls etc.

I've also managed to get a non-standard game over thanks to an unpleasant bug that meant that although finishing a mission, and getting the mission complete status, it then booted me out as failing. Given the position I was in had I not found a way around it would have meant a complete restart of the mission.

This is also the only game ever that has crashed on me with a Game Data corrupt error. I had noticed that over time the game started to cut out sound; and slow down responses in and to the menu, but I've had the same thing with Fallout 3 and New Vegas. Dropping to the menu and reloading normally does the trick; except it didn't with Dishonored a full "Close Game" was required and boy did it take a long time to get back to the PS3 menu. In this one instance though the sound went flakey and then switched to a PS3 screen then back to the game before flickering between the two before I could pull up the PS3 menu and Close it. I then re-installed the game data which still featured the sound-outs I then uninstalled and re-installed the patch and it's still present. It appears to be a game fault as I've seen reports for the Xbox360 and Steam versions as well as the PS3.

Annoying to is that although the game features a mission select option; it simply allows a re-play through of the same level with exactly the same equipment and abilities as originally possessed. With no ability to respec equipment or powers and the limited objectives the only point of being able to do this is to explore the few areas left untouched, which generally aren't worth the effort.

By and large this is an enjoyable game. It needed to be bigger with more objectives and the entire good ending/bad ending needed to be handled so much better. For a console this will scratch the Thief itch; on PC... stick with the best.