Stealth fans are being well fed in late 2012. Blockbuster hits such as Hitman: Absolution and Assassin’s Creed III are sure to knock people off their feet, but one game stands above the rest as an incredibly faithful addition to the stealth action genre, whilst simultaneously being one of the most creative and personal experiences you’ll play all year.
Dishonored is a first person action game developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda. It’s not long until release time, and Dishonored has gained a mass of interest due to its diversity and huge scope in player choice. With a wide palette of powers, solutions and techniques at your disposal, Dishonored is shaping up to be a game dictated heavily by the player’s own initiative. If a guns blazing approach tickles your fancy, Dishonored accommodates, and if you enjoy a more silent approach, this game seeks to fit the bill handsomely.
But Dishonored goes deeper than that. You take on the role of Corvo—a bodyguard to the Empress in the city of Dunwall—and after she is killed and you are framed for the murder, Corvo has other ambitions in mind. His goal is vengeance on all of those responsible, and though a revenge story is nothing new, what your revenge entails is very much up to you. This doesn’t mean that your choices are limited to pre-made dialogue trees, but that your own actions within the gameplay will dictate just how bloodthirsty you want Corvo to be (or not). Of course, there will be moments where more direct choices take the stage, choosing whether or not to do a particular side quest may lend you favor in the future, but Dishonored is looking to have an in-built narrative that grows organically with the player throughout the experience. You’ll move from one target to the next, playing as the ultimate, supernatural assassin.
A shadowy figure known as The Outsider grants Corvo a wealth of supernatural abilities and this will be the appeal to most gamers. Powers range from teleportation, speed boosts and healing, but other abilities such as possession, time bend and devouring swarm give Dishonored its own identity. These powers can all be combined one after the other, allowing you to create some truly unique scenarios. Maybe you’ll stop time as an enemy shoots at you, take possession of his body and turn him around to face his own execution, or perhaps you’d like to set a swarm of rats on your foes, it’s all up to you and how you wish to approach the situation.
This level of diversity is shared amongst your enemies also. Standard guards will be easy to slip by, while more specialty enemies such as your primary targets, or the “Overseer Musician”, will require more creative tactics. Speaking with the EU PlayStation Blog, Harvey Smith (Co-Creative Director) had this to say:
“It’s pretty easy to avoid killing a standard guard. You just throw a bottle and when he goes to investigate you sneak by. But it gets much harder for the key target. For example, there’s a mission where you get sent to kill two brothers who are corrupt members of parliaments. You can go straight ahead and kill them – they’re in the bath house – or you can do a side quest for a crime lord. If you do the right things for him he will have them captured, their tongues cut out, their heads shaved and then put to work in their own mines where nobody will know it’s them. It’s poetic justice. It’s dark, but not as dark as killing them. The two approaches are hard in different ways. The game gets very reactive if you just go in guns blazing – it fights back. But, on the other hand, stealth demands patience.”
Your powers aren’t just for kills, either. They’ll come in handy as you attempt to traverse and explore the multiple pathways within your missions. While Dishonored may look to be an open-world game, it is infact a linear adventure. This linear route allows for a more focused gameplay experience and it certainly won’t hold back any of the game’s scope. As you can tell from the images and video in this article, Dishonored’s scope is quite astonishing despite its lack of a true open world. The presentation is top notch, and Half Life 2 fans will be happy to know that art director, Victor Antonov (designer of City 17), had a hand in crafting Dishonored’s 1850’s London influenced, steampunk environments.
The huge levels offer a lot of eye candy, and there are a multitude of solutions and pathways available to you for any given objective. But these options aren’t born from pre-made scripting, they’re born from simulation. Similar to that of an Elder Scrolls RPG, Dishonored has a living, breathing environment within its levels. NPCs appear to behave very realistically, and there’s a strong sense that this world existed long before the player ever picked up the controller. It is within this simulation that your powers and creativity will come to life. You’ll be able to manipulate and affect the world realistically, and this is where Dishonored’s diversity is forged. You’re not limited by the developer’s imagination—as is so often the case with a lot of games. Many games boast a wealth of scenarios, but these options are limited by how much time and how many ideas could be implemented into the game during development. Thanks to Dishonored’s system of simulation, you have much more room to play.
If powers aren’t your style and you’d like to take a more traditional route, Dishonored will keep the hardcore happy. The core stealth system—detailed in this video—is based on a system of occlusion, line of sight and sound. Rather than a light and shadow based model, Dishonored’s stealth mechanics are driven by a more realistic system. If you’re hidden behind a wall, or out of range of your enemy’s vision, you’ll continue to go unnoticed. Additionally, if you skulk around the environments keeping noise to a minimum, the guards won’t recognize your presence—allowing you to take them out silently, be it lethal or non-lethal. Gamer’s looking for more accurate feedback regarding the enemy’s senses will be happy to know that Dishonored’s “Dark Vision” will show you the vision cone of each enemy in the room using a real-time 3D display. If you’d rather not use this feature, you’re welcome to, and this goes for any of the in-game feedback presented to you via the game’s HUD.
Dishonored is highly anticipated and it’s not hard to see why. An incredibly reactive gaming experience featuring sneaking, stabbing, shooting and detective work, all wrapped up in fantastic art and a high level of technical fidelity, Dishonored is going to be a day-one buy for many stealth action fans. Be sure to check out our review on Dishonored in the coming months!
Dishonored is due for release on October 12th throughout Europe, October 11th for Australia and Spain, and in the US on October 9th!
For more information regarding Dishonored, check out the official website!