It is 3:30 in the freaking morning. On a weeknight. I know damn well that my alarm will go off in just a few short hours, demanding I get up, get showered and get to work. I know that if I don't crawl into bed soon, I'm going to be a wreck tomorrow; with symptoms of exhaustion that will no doubt look like the flu or a serious hangover to my coworkers. And I just do. not. care. What has me hypnotized in front of my TV in a way that I haven't been in years? Developer Arkane Studios' new first-person stealth action masterpiece Dishonored is the party at fault. Seriously, if you have ever enjoyed any kind of video game from any genre on any platform, you need to experience (not play, experience) this amazing new title. Right now. I can only hope you have a sick day or two coming; you will need the time.
Dishonored starts off with Corvo Attano, a soldier/bodyguard returning to his native Dunwall a victor in some faraway battle. He is reunited with Dunwall's Empress Kaldwin and her daughter, Emily, but it isn't long before everything goes to hell. The Empress is murdered, her daughter kidnapped and Corvo is framed for the whole mess. The game really begins with Corvo's escape from prison, mere hours before his scheduled execution, and his forming an allegiance with the Empire Loyalists, a group seeking the still-missing Emily as rightful heir to the throne. What follows is a series of missions that see Corvo working his way up through the ranks of the usurpers, killing or otherwise dismissing them on his way to the top. Dishonored's plot isn't anywhere near as fresh and original as the gameplay it serves as a framework for, nor does it contain a single twist or unexpected development but plenty of NPC interaction and tons of lore keep things interesting until the final frames.
Remember me mentioning the first-person view? Though it makes Corvo's adventure much more deeply personal to the player, it also gives rise to the one and only complaint I've got to level against Dishonored. Like the Metroid Prime series or BioShock, Dishonored's perspective is essential to the game and shouldn't be confused with first-person shooters like Call of Duty or Halo. But unlike Metroid and BioShock, the jumping in Corvo's adventure just isn't what it should have been. It can be tough to leap seemingly small distances, vertical or horizontal. Even the purchase of a double-jump ability does almost nothing to fix this, making hopping from platform to platform an exercise in mashing the jump button and hoping Corvo will scale the ledge. Abilities like Blink (that short range teleport I mentioned) help a little, but even with that in full effect jumping can be a smidgen too touchy. We all know by now, thanks to Metroid, that first-person games' jumping can be handled with skill so Dishonored's fumbling of this ball is pretty disappointing.
BioShock. Shadow of the Colossus. Journey. Braid. Okami. The "games as high art" list isn't a long one, but you can go ahead and tack Dishonored right on it. Giving the player the freedom to proceed in almost any way they can imagine, along with the substantial amount of backstory and visual mastery makes Dishonored a game for the ages, one you will likely continue to play and replay for some time to come. Corvo's adventure is, without a doubt, at the very top of the Game of the Year 2012 list and deservedly so. If you like video games, you will absolutely love Dishonored. Do not hesitate to dive in head-first.
Final Rating: 99%. If you like video games, you will absolutely love Dishonored.