Romtin Erfani / Aug 20th, 2012 No Comments
Dishonored is a first-person action adventure game in development by Arkane Studios. At first glance, it resembles a cross between Bioshock and Assassin’s Creed. There’s stealth, magic, gadgets, and a flavor of steampunk. But at the heart of its gameplay, Dishonored seems to be a game all about giving players unique campaign experiences through an immense variety of ways to accomplish objectives.
You play as Corvo Atano, bodyguard to the Empress of Dunwall. Life’s pretty good until the Empress is killed and you are framed for her murder. With the help of a mysterious figure called The Outsider (who grants you supernatural abilities and is genuinely a very creepy dude), you exact your vengeance on the corrupt aristocrats responsible for killing the Empress and sending Dunwall into chaos.
Visually, Dunwall itself is reminiscent of Victorian London and Edinburgh. It’s a whaling city going through an industrial revolution but troubled by a devastating plague at the same time. The spread of the infection is so overwhelming it creates a class of disfigured individuals called Weepers, who are named so because they bleed from their eyes. Under the control of the rich, Dunwall is harshly divided and the poor are quarantined off in plague-ridden ghettos guarded by electric gates and unforgiving mech soldiers. It’s actually a bit reminiscent of Half-Life 2 in this way. In fact, Dishonored has the same great art director (Viktor Antonov) as the Valve title.
Gameplay has been shown off in several videos so far. As Corvo, you have an arsenal of supernatural abilities and nifty gadgets at your disposal. On the magic side of things, there’s the ability to slow down time, possess people or animals, and teleport short distances in any direction. You also have tools like a crossbow loaded with lethal and nonlethal darts, a collapsible sword (not sure why it folds apart, but it looks cool), and mines called “Spring Razors” that do some vicious areal damage. Magic is performed by Corvo’s left hand and abilities are upgraded by runes you find hidden throughout the story.
Missions look pretty self-contained. You enter a location with an objective and you have to decide how you want to accomplish it. In a mission called “The Golden Cat”, developers from Arkane Studios shows how goals can be accomplished in different ways. The objective is to infiltrate a brothel and capture/assassinate two brothers called the Pendleton twins. Right from the start, you have to figure out how to get into the courtesan house. You can take the direct approach and hop across rooftops up to an open window, teleporting along the way over steep and impossible jumps. Or you can try the safe route and possess a courtesan on the street who has easy access into the building. Better yet, why not possess a fish in the water and swim right into the basement through a broken pipe? (Yep, you can really do that last one, too.) There are a number of interesting possibilities but the more creative you are with puzzles like this the more unique your experience becomes.
What’s even cooler is that everything’s dynamic. In this case, depending on how you enter the brothel the Pendelton brothers are in different locations and you have to stealthily listen in on conversations and search for clues to find them. Dialogue is affected by geometry, so depending on where you’re hiding in the building conversations between courtesans and their clients may sound muffled or perfectly clear. When you run into guards or enemies in the campaign, you have the choice to sneak past them, fight them head on, or stealthily put them down. Fighting enemies head on eats through mana and health quickly. According to the developers, players can actually finish the game without killing anyone (including primary targets like the Pendleton brothers).
If you do make the decision to do some slicing and dicing, though, make no mistake about it: there will be blood. With all of it’s bleak locations and melancholy, Dishonored packs its punch of violence and gore. And with all of Corvo’s powers and weapons, there are a lot of cool ways to kill baddies in the story. Like everything else in the game, you have a choice. Use individual powers or weapons by themselves, or string together combos and do something a lot cooler and more creative.
One thing I know I’ll be spamming for hours when I get my hands on the game is making enemies kill themselves. It’s simple: let a guard shoot at you, freeze time, possess the poor fella and move him into the bullet’s trajectory. Then unpossess, unfreeze time, and watch. The game packs it’s share of enemies, though, so you’ll have to adopt new strategies for each threat. There are street gangs, War of the Worlds-looking mechs called Tall Boys, evil courtesans, religious overseers, and the top dog in the aristocracy– The Lord Regent.
Altogether, Dishonored looks like it could be a great title, perhaps even a game-changer amongst stealth games. Synopses suggest top notch story and characters. Locations look beautiful, in a terribly depressing kind of way. But the most eyebrow-raising thing about it is the sandbox-style gameplay that gives players all kinds of ways to approach a given task. Having 7 or 8 different options for getting into a building makes for some unique playthroughs and a lot of fresh replay value.
Dishonored is set to release for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC on October 9 (North America), 11 (Australia), and 12 (Europe).
tags: arkane , bethesda , dishonored , first person , preview