Dishonored is fantastic, it took me captive for its whole duration. I didn’t play anything else, I didn’t watch any movies or shows, didn’t even listen to music. It was intense. The duration must differ quite extreme. It’s possible to shoot at everything and everyone (then the game must be relatively short) or sneak through the whole adventure and never kill anyone (that’s what I did). Dishonored is also one of the first games I ever played, that were actually following through on this idea without compromises. Players who look for alternative paths (instead of killing the targets) can indeed find them. You could sneak a lot in Deus Ex: Human Revolution and spare all the guards, but that didn’t influence the boss fights at all, during those, the player had to kill the adversaries – no way around it (The Missing Link was different/improved in this regard though). Dishonored however can be successfully finished with 0 kills!
The game is a very successful combination of titles like Thief and BioShock… Since Thief I’ve missed being able to lean around edges in way too many games and the abilities and guns are exactly like being in BioShock (upgraded equipment gains a new look). Knowing this, it’s possible to imagine how awesome Dishonored is!
The next strong part, no doubt about it, is the level design. The architecture of all the surroundings, the textures… everything is unique, distinctive. It constantly shows how much effort has been put into all this. Those folks are absolute masters of their craft. Few games offer this much diversity and overall quality.
Handling and gameplay were generally very satisfying. I especially liked the heart and often used it until it started repeating the commentary. It was fantastic. It’s definitely one of the reasons why it took me twice as long to finish the game compared to lots of other players.
Levels have to have borders, at some point there’ll be a loading screen waiting – what always annoyed me, is if you select such a door in a hurry not knowing it is such a loading point and before you can do anything about it, you are stuck on the loading screen… Dishonored solves this issue elegantly, by simply asking first if you really want to leave… BOOM! Too few games do that. It should be standard. Even rarer than this, is the option to abort already selected abilities. I can’t remember one game that offered this before. Some allow to abort already running abilities, but not to prevent the execution itself (I remember how long you had to hold the left mouse button in Thief until Garrett would put an arrow away again, whenever the situation had changed and you couldn’t fire anymore, it took ages – would have been so much better with a manual abort – my apologies, if there was one and I just never knew about it).
The only things that left me wanting, were tied to the story and some characters. The ending was much too short and abrupt for me (like I said, I never killed anyone=the most accomplished way to finish this game IMHO and I wanted a fitting payoff at the end). I get it that it’s not an RPG or anything, but there were so many optional things possible during missions (listed as special actions after every mission on the debriefing screen), that it would have been nice if any of them would have mattered in a way other than merely being stated once on that screen. I would have liked more details on the Outsider. Maybe it was good that he stayed mysterious, but he was introduced as such a vital part of the story and then there was… absolutely nothing. Suddenly he was nothing but a plot tool to explain why Corvo (the protagonist) could have superpowers/magic. Sometimes the level of detail was really great, notes lying around and the availability of books and such was very welcome and then other interesting parts were neglected completely. The sole story DLC that is announced so far, doesn’t sound like it will elaborate on the elements I thought were neglected most, it appears it won’t even feature Corvo as PC anymore. Anyways, I hope it sells like crazy, so they’ll make a part 2 or something one day because it’s already one of the best games of this genre EVER. If Thief would have been released today, I’m sure it would have been pretty much like this.
PS: I’m also a huge fan of Half-Life² and it doesn’t disturb me at all, that Dunwall sometimes features these “original City 17 walls”. I interpreted it as a nice nod, that some of the same folks worked on it (I didn’t check up on that, guessing here), which, apparently, can only be good for a game.