Dishonored is an engaging, beautiful open world assassination simulation that puts you in the boots of Corvo, a seasoned assassin that prefers only to kill when he has to. The story is an old and familiar tale of honour and revenge. It plays out on a large, intricate stage of a dystopian cyberpunk city. Corvo has an extremely useful selection of upgradeable abilities that combine well to produce explosive action at your fingertips.
Modern games have a tendency to wrest control from the player. They have annotations, notes, prompts, cluttered heads up displays that tell me where to go, what to do, how to do it and when to do it. Playable parts are interspersed with long and lengthy cut scenes to help my character back on track, just in case I screwed up whilst I was allowed the use of a controller. During those I am allowed to look around, if I am lucky.
Dishonored does not do away with traditional design, there are objective markers and cut scenes, but at no point do I feel like a spectator. During all its missions, it was up to me to find a way in, choose how I would like to execute my objective and then find my way out again. The terrain lent itself to many different approaches and I could engage in as much or little combat as I chose to. Any cues that were given was part of the game, like non-player characters that start complaining if I killed too many people and the rat population explodes, making it harder to get around.
Reasons to play it
I played a lot of cops and robbers team tag growing up. We lived in a small town within a farming community and had access to large outdoor spaces with many places to hide and set up ambushes. Twilight and after dark was my favourite time. My eyes are light sensitive, a quirk of my condition, which has the added bonus of allowing me to see better in dimmer lights than most. I had an unfair advantage and exploited it ruthlessly. I played best removed from my team mates. I was quiet, patient and a very good tree climber and when we played in our garden where I knew the nooks and crannies of each tree, I was always the last person standing. Nobody ever looks up. Dishonored plays just like that.
There’s just you
Dishonored plays out in a series of small sandboxes, each a playground of its own and its the details and the story the player creates within these that will be the moments remembered when the credits roll. It plays best when approached as a collection of short-stories, not a novel, with details etched into the mind. The moments I remember with fondness are of my own making. It placed the action in my hands and it was always up to me to make it work. There are no guided paths, linear routes and frequent big cut scenes that smooth over the clumsy mess I made when I was allowed input. It’s a game that trusts and respects the player, a rare find in modern games indeed.
Room for Improvement
Stealth is its own reward
The cool combat abilities in Dishonored have a tendency to be lethal. It fits in perfectly with the plot, Corvo is a master assassin and master assassins should have an arsenal of lethal tricks, but the Corvo that plays best is a reluctant killer, efficient and ruthless, but generally sees murder as the last resort, leaving little room for digging into that arsenal of skill. I could live with that restraint happily, if only I was allowed just a few more sleep darts in my quiver.
Photophobia (Light Sensitivity)
Dishonored is moderately accessible if you have photophobia, a common symptom of migraine, autistic spectrum disorders, cataracts, colour blindness, dyslexia or traumatic brain injury. It does have some flash and flicker, particularly lightning and weather effects, but these are only a problem if you are very sensitive.
It is not accessible if you suffer from simulation sickness, motion sickness induced by video games. There are many triggers that cannot be avoided throughout, including a first person perspective, visual distortion effects with both blur and movement. Head bobbing can be disabled and kill cam mode can be adjusted, but I still found it difficult to play.
Low Vision and Visual Field Defects
Dishonored is very accessible if you have blurred vision, visual distortion, tunnel vision (peripheral field loss) or blind spots in your visual field. The menu system and UI is well designed with large icons usually against a high contrast background. In-game elements are easy to discern, particularly with the help of dark vision and audio cues are extremely helpful.
Colour Blindness (Colour Vision Deficiency)
It is very accessible if playing with a colour vision deficiency and there is no reliance on colour alone.
- Adjust Brightness with a slider
- FOV (field of view) slider
- Texture Details with a drop down box selection
- Model Details with a drop down box selection
- Light Shafts on/off toggle
- Anti-Aliasing Mode with a drop down box selection
- Rat Shadows on/off toggle
- Video Settings adjustments include Fullscreen on/off, Vertical Sync On/Off and Resolution with a drop down box selection
Subtitles & Closed captioning
All dialogue has subtitles. Subtitles are turned off as default, but can be turned on in the Options menu. For those with tinnitus or a mild to moderate hearing impairment, audio is clear and relatively easy to follow with minimal background noise during cut scenes or pivotal conversations. One of Corvo’s abilities also adds a visual indicator to audio cues and displays with ripples across the screen how loud and intrusive they are.
Reliance on auditory cues
Audio cues are vital, but do have a visual counterpart. Dishonored can be played without sound, but it is a bit harder without access to the audio cues.
- Global volume slider
- Music volume slider
- SFX volume slider
- Voices volume slider
- Subtitles Mode with a drop down box selection
- Speaker configuration with a drop down box selection
Combat in Dishonored does need relatively quick reflexes and reactions , but there are no timed sections or any quick time events (QTEs). The difficulty level can be adjusted to make combat easier and certain abilities, Blink in particular, also reduce the need for quick or timed reactions.
Precision (Manual Dexterity)
A moderate level of precision is needed to complete Dishonored. Much of the game is about finding the best route to target spots without being detected. Blink is invaluable and makes getting around vertical spaces is very easy. Some precision is needed to aim Blink and aim your weapons, but not only is auto aim available, aim strength can be adjusted with a slider and aim assist is also available. Using support options makes it a very accessible title for anyone who lacks precise muscular control, often a result of partial paralysis, tremors, spasms or other involuntary movement.
Dishonored offers a 7-11 hour long campaign that plays out through individual chapters. It is most enjoyable when played in 60-90 minutes sessions (or 30-45 if you play quickly) that provide ample time to complete a chapter in a single setting.
For those with chronic fatigue or pain conditions who need frequent or unplanned breaks, the option to pause any time is very useful. The game can be saved manually and autosaves at checkpoints and it is easy to play for however long you wish and to stop the moment you need to.
Complexity of Controls
The controls employed by Dishonored are complex but well-designed and quite easy to master and remember after a few minutes of playing. It can be played with a keyboard and mouse or controller and the relatively small number of keys for a combat game makes it easy to add either a switch system or play with a multi-button mouse only. It can be played with one hand when using an multi-button mouse, but the viewpoint is controlled by either the mouse or right analog stick only.
Dishonored uses more than a dozen keys that are fully remappable for the keyboard. Four controller schemes are available, but buttons cannot be remapped individually by the player. The controls are relatively easy single button presses and the occasional button hold to use functions like the quick-access wheel on the controller. There is no autorun key and players have to hold down “W” or the left analog stick to move forwards.
- Key mapping: Full key mapping for the keyboard and four controller schemes to choose from
- Windowed mode that works with on-screen keyboards, dwell clickers and other accessible software applications
- Pause anytime Option
- Manual and Auto-save
- Vibration on/off toggle
- Look X and Y sensitivity individually adjusted by slider
- Invert Y on/off option
- Auto Aim on/off option
- Auto Aim Strength slider
- Aim Asist on/off
The language used is secondary school level and provided as both audio and text. Text is in an easy to read font and format against a high contrast background. Menus and tutorials are easy to understand and text has diagrams to assist. It can be read at own pace with a button press activating the next part. Writing is not required at any point.
Basic memory is required to plan routes and remember what all the buttons do.
Calculations and Currency
Dishonored has basic mathematical requirements. Players have to manage their budget and ammo, but neither of these are particularly complex.
Complexity and Support
The game’s menu, mechanics, plot and game controls are relatively easy to master and there is plenty of in-game support available. A tutorial and other support is available, but it can be turned off to make it more challenging. There is a selection of difficulty levels, easy, normal and hard. Little navigational skill is needed to get around as the areas are relatively small and boundaries clear. There is a map and directions and objective markers on a HUD to help.
It is a single player campaign with some NPC interaction, but there are no role playing elements involved and the stories plays out based on your actions, not your dialogue choices. There is no co-op or multiplayer mode.
- The Heads Up Display has extensive customizability options and each indicator can be turned on to aid memory or turned off to avoid clutter and information overload.
Dishonored is a rare treat where subtle cues are important and within its beautiful dystopia, despite its somewhat predictable and mellow story, lies a challenge that requires just the right amount of skill, thought and luck to pull off the most amazing feats. It is a very accessible game with many supportive features. My only objection is the various visual distortion effects and first person perspective, but even here, the developers have tried to make it more accessible by adding special features to reduce the possibility of motion sickness. It is a critically acclaimed title and rightly so. Unless you suffer from severe motion sickness and migraine attacks or other conditions triggered by strong visual effects, I would highly recommend it.
Product: Dishonored | Developer: Arkane Studios | Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3 | Genre: Stealth Action Adventure | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | Release Date: October 2012 | Content Rating: PEGI 18, ESRB M