The illusion of ‘choice’ or player agency separates video games from all other media. No game in this console generation can match the breadth and depth of choices offered by Arkane Studio’s phenomenal stealth shooter.
Dishonored stars you as Corvo, bodyguard to the Empress of Dunwall, a dystopian steampunk city wracked by a deadly rat-plague. The game kicks off with Corvo’s failure to protect her from assassination.
The corrupt court grabs power and condemns Corvo for the murder. In chains and awaiting death, Corvo is rescued by rebel noblemen loyal to the old regime, who arm him, and set him on his powerful betrayers. Corvo is further aided by a mysterious figure who gifts him demonic powers, turning Corvo into the perfect assassin.
The game follows Corvo as he sequentially eliminates key political figures along his path of vengeance. This predictable story however, sets up fabulous gameplay.
Each level is sandbox, with a target in a heavily guarded location with multiple entries and exits. It is entirely up to you to determine your path forward. You can go in with guns and grenades, leaving a trail of bodies. You can sneak in as a shadow unseen — even finding a non-violent alternative to assassination.
Both paths, and all the shades between them, are equally viable. The tactical options are staggering, almost forcing you to replay to discover them all. Corvo’s weapons have a real sense of weight and his powers, dark and gritty, are well executed — making Corvo powerful but far from invincible. Expect to reload.
The game world’s steampunk setting, where Victorian ball pistols co-exist with whale-oil powered Tesla coils, allows for amazing art direction. The levels are rich and textured, and the city of Dunwall shows tremendous personality even as it wilts and wails around you. Graphics are sharp, and controls are tight. Voice acting is pitch perfect. Dishonored is the perfect stealth shooter set in a fascinating world. Game of the year.