by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
Supernatural assassin redeemed
“Revenge solves everything” the trailer for Dishonored tells us, giving a good indication of what the game is about. You play as Corvo, a supernatural assassin in this first person action game from Arkane Studios. At the beginning of the game, Corvo is falsely accused of murdering the Empress, the very person he is supposed to protect. Not long after his imprisonment Corvo is helped to escape and, from there, it is up to the player to pursue Corvo’s redemption as they see fit, either by clearing his name or simply seeking revenge.
Master of arms and magic
Dishonored’s pedigree is of the highest calibre, especially for a game of its type, with Harvey Smith of System Shock and Deus Ex fame as one of the lead designers. The excellent combinations of stealth, combat and gadgetry found in those games definitely seems to have been brought to this one.
Dishonored will be structured into separate missions, with a hub world in between each one where Corvo can upgrade his powers and abilities, with options to allow the player to play how they want, whether that be as a swordmaster, a ranged fighter, a stealthy assassin or anything in between. When on missions, Arkane promises that the game will have a high degree of freedom, with multiple ways to approach your tasks.
In addition to being a master of sword and firearm combat, stealth and infiltration, Corvo has access to supernatural powers such as the ability to pause time and possess the bodies of other people and even animals. He will have all manner of weapons at his disposal, including swords, traps and a one handed crossbow, and he will be able to peek around corners and through keyholes, drag bodies out of the way and eavesdrop on conversations.
Corvo can use his magical abilities to aid him in either being stealthy, or to bring chaos and destruction against those who stand in his way, the choice is up to the player. For example, he has an ability that allows him to teleport short distances called Blink, so to avoid a combat he could teleport to the other side of the street. He could also summon a horde of ravenous rats to his position and then possess one of the rats and move to safety. If the player wanted a more direct approach, Corvo could run towards a group of enemies guns blazing and then pause time and physically rearrange the battle scene, perhaps turning the enemies so that they would be aiming and shooting at each other when time was unpaused again.
Immersive game world
It is the interesting game world that Arkane hopes will set Dishonored apart from other games. The setting looks very much like a stylised version of Victorian England, with a healthy dose of Steampunk added in for good measure. The events takes place in the fictional city of Dunwall, heavily based on London, and indeed the art team made several trips to the city and others in Britain to get an idea of what they wanted for the game. And the result of that effort is Dunwall: a city with gloomy, plague-ridden cobblestone streets with a mixture of decrepit and grand architecture. But interwoven with this are Arkane Studios’ stylistic additions, such as huge spindly bipedal mechs controlled by soldiers, railways suspended in the air and electrified coils acting as barriers, disintegrating anyone foolish enough to try and get past them. The city streets have a really dark and desperate feel to them, but the design team have also tried to have contrasting, decadent areas such as the Burlesque house to keep the world fresh and interesting.
The developers really want the player to feel in control and immersed in the game world. This is aided by the relatively small number of cut-scenes where control is taken away from the player. Instead, the aim is to tell the story primarily through actual events in the game world, such as by overhearing conversations and picking up notes.
Sign of things to come
Dishonored looks a very promising game, with an exciting mix of potential gameplay styles that we have come to expect from games such as Bioshock and Deus Ex. Corvo will seek his revenge later in 2012 and hopefully we will be there to help him hack, slash and sneak his way to find it.