Current Mood: Disappointed
As you well know, I am a disciple of Bethesda. So when Pete Hines started relentlessly tweeting about Dishonored, my interest was understandably piqued. I hadn't heard much about it before the tweeting. So I did my due diligence, as money is tight and the economy sucks. I read previews and whatnot, and a few words stuck out. Those words were "Deus Ex" and "Thief". And my interest went from piqued to... a little out of hand.
Deus Ex is my favorite game of all time. OF ALL TIME. And before that, Thief was my favorite game. These games were game CHANGERS. Even now, a decade and a half later, they have not been matched, not even by their own sequels (though Thief's sequels, in my opinion, were pretty damn tight, and Deus Ex 3 came tantalizingly close to the original). Needless to say, Deus Ex (and to a lesser extent, Thief) will be referenced heavily in the following review.
So when I read that the two main guys responsible for Dishonored were two of the guys involved in the creation of Deus Ex and Thief (and even System Shock, which was a very enjoyable missing link between the two), I got excited. Not Elder Scrolls-level excited, but cautiously optimistic. So I pre-ordered the game, paid a few bucks whenever I happened by the store, and picked up the game on release day. I couldn't install it on release day due to technical difficulties, but the day after that, it was Game On. In the meantime, I enjoyed the refreshingly thorough game manual. Manuals these days are crap. Basically instructions on how to install the game ("insert Disc and click OK" evidently needs to be spelled out to kids these days). But the Dishonored manual went into great detail, and I have to say, that is appreciated. I enjoyed the manual.
It kinda went a little downhill from there. The graphics shocked me. As in, they were not up to par with current gaming technology. Surely not the quality I've come to expect from games bearing the sigil of Bethesda. But hey, Deus Ex had crappy graphics and is still the best game ever created by humans (presumably), so I went on. And I have to admit, I did have some fun. Not remotely CLOSE to the amount of fun I had on Deus Ex, but it wasn't the worst game I've ever played. Deus Ex is similar to Dishonored in much the same way that Star Wars is similar to... Battle Beyond the Stars (the one that had the ship with boobs). Similar mechanics, but one is legendary while the other has to be described as "the one that had the ship with boobs".
The game lasted a day. I was done IN A DAY. Finished both endings in three days. That's the entire length and breadth of a 60 dollar game in three frickin' days. Now, bear in mind, I'm not one of those guys who tries to do all the achievements. I'm not going to walk around for six hours and backstab 500 rats to gain a frickin' achievement. I'm not that guy. I have my eyes on the prize, I do the mission, level up, and complete the objective.
There are maybe five to ten side quests in the game. Maybe two or three genuinely useful powers, only one of which is innovative in my opinion. The characters are boring; I had no interest in any of the characters but two of them. There were no opportunities for discussion or character building. Hardly any two-way dialogue. The missions were simplistic, and though you were given multiple avenues to complete a mission, they were nowhere near as impressive as Deus Ex. For example, rather than figuring out an alternate path, an NPC will say something to the effect of "I say, good man! If you do this side mission for me, I will non-lethally complete your main story mission for you. Jolly good, ehwhat?" The stealth in Dishonored was nowhere near as tense as in Thief. I was never worried about getting caught. I didn't care. I wasn't invested. The game didn't move me. It wasn't challenging.
That said, I was never bored. I did enjoy my time in Dunwall; I was just very disappointed by the inverse proportion of hype to enjoyment. It was like all of the Star Wars fans who were all excited about Phantom Menace (myself among them), and then after seeing it, somehow feeling dirty. When people praise Phantom Menace, I wonder if they ever even saw the original trilogy. When I see people pissing themselves in joy about Dishonored, I wonder if they ever played Deus Ex. It's like comparing apples to... lugnuts. It's not even a rational comparison.
So, in the end, I uninstalled Dishonored after three days, and used that disc space to reinstall Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which in my opinion was orders of magnitude a superior game. And the best thing was, it took a LONG TIME to explore that game and its myriad options. Think about Skyrim. What if Skyrim had only the main quest and maybe ten side quests? What if you could only be in one city at a time until your mission was over? What if there were only two merchants (TWO!!!!) in the entire game? Would you still enjoy the game? Or would you miss Oblivion?
So, yeah, I had fun, but it just left me PISSED OFF over what it should have been. I'm very interested to see what all the hubbub is about. Obviously the world seems to be hailing it as some visionary achievement and I'm curious to know what I'm missing. My theory is this: Deus Ex did everything this game does (except teleportation), but it did it 14 years ago. Back then, it was new and exciting; it had never been done before. Perhaps this is a similar accomplishment, just not as new or original, and I'm biased because Deus Ex affected me so profoundly. Still, you have to admit, in Deus Ex, you'd have a conversation and make a choice, and that choice would resonate throughout the game.
In Dishonored, every choice you make boils down to two results. Good guy ending or bad guy ending. And I have to say, the Bad Guy ending is a small price to pay for how much more fun it is to just kill everything in a uniform. The stealthy, non-lethal approach was tedious, time consuming, and ultimately not rewarding. The lackluster ending was not worth the extra care taken to be sneaky, in my opinion. Plus, the lethal gameplay style afforded me all the money I could ever want, every upgrade available, and every secret found. Just more fun that way to me.
In the end, though, after my Dishonored experience was done, I booted up Skyrim. I literally walked around for two minutes and nearly wept. The disparity in graphics quality was emotionally JARRING. And I was walking on a dirt road near a forest. That's IT. Walking around in Skyrim affected me more than the entire game of Dishonored, TWICE. Obviously, I'm biased, but, dude. What was I missing?
Final Verdict: An enjoyable attempt that was done better, and more enjoyably, a decade and a half ago. Two and a half Skooma bottles.