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Dishonored (Xbox 360, PC, PS3)


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Didn't see a thread for this, so thought I'd start one. It looks and sounds very adventurous, and definitely one to keep an eye on in the coming months... :)





"Choice and consequence" may be the action-adventure cliché du jour, but being able to define your own combat style through a suite of overlapping toys is definitely up there too. Pretty much ever since BioShock invited us to paralyse splicers with electricity and then whack 'em with a wrench, everyone's been at it.


Typically though, with great power comes great limitation, and in order to keep worlds like Rapture from descending into anarchy mechanically as well as narratively, designers have become jailors, building environments around you like gilded cages that lock you away from too much imagination.


So it's pretty interesting to sit down and watch Arkane Studios' Harvey Smith and Raf Colantonio play around with the tools you get in Dishonored, their first-person stealth game about an assassin with magical powers, because they insist they've taken the opposite approach.


Whenever they introduce a new power or tool during development, within hours someone on the team invents an exploit that kind of breaks the game, like coupling the high-jumping ability with a partial-teleport to travel vast distances and meddle around in the rafters of the world. Rather than shut that option down again, they then think about how they can design levels that benefit from it.



Dunwall isn't an open world – it's a series of missions – but there's a lot of paths through each of them.

Dishonored is set in a retro-future industrial world where human civilisation is crowded onto four islands in a large and turbulent ocean, and this adventure takes place in the whaling city of Dunwall, ruled over by an oppressive regime against whom your character, a voiceless blank slate called Corvo, has a grudge to bear.


Corvo's been wrongly accused of murdering his employer, the Empress, and the game is about his quest to visit revenge on the people who framed him. In the demo we're seeing at QuakeCon, Corvo is on the tail of a dodgy lawyer who is rinsing the local population for their homes and possessions, but it's up to you how you prosecute your agenda.


Armed with various powers in your left hand and a short, cutlass-like blade in your right, you can hack and slash your way through melee combat, but you can also do things like bending time – pausing enemies and queuing up bullets a couple of inches from their faces, then unpausing – or blasting them out of windows on bursts of concentrated air.


You can also possess people and animals – like rats – and use them to travel around, scurrying through ducts into servants' quarters and then resuming Corvo's original shape once you're inside. Again, it's pregnant with game-breaking potential, but Arkane doesn't seem to mind.



You can hide the bodies, but the idea is that someone in the world would miss them, which sows chaos.

Smith and Colantonio answer most questions with examples of combinations people have come up with. For example, strapping a mine to a rat, possessing the rat and walking it into a crowd of enemies, then possessing something else and getting out of there before the mine explodes.


Another one they rather like is pausing time just after an enemy has fired his gun, possessing him and walking him in front of his own bullet, then getting out of there and letting him suicide himself.


Dunwall is an interesting place to do all these things. Arkane's art director is Viktor Antonov, the guy who imagined Half-Life 2's City 17, and his touch is evident right from the first frame of our demo, staring at the reflection of a bleak, overcast sky in a glassy ocean that stretches as far as the horizon.


There's a whaling ship coming in – its blubbery mass suspended above the deck by a huge H-frame crane. There's no electricity in Dunwall – although this is not Earth, the architecture and period dress is decidedly Victorian – but the volatile whale oil has recently been harnessed into various echoes of Nikola Tesla, like Wall of Light barricades that zap anything that passes through them into mists of blood.


Dunwall is also in the grip of a plague, spread by the swarms of rats that clog the streets. They approach the player or dead bodies and feast on them in daylight, munching loudly amidst the scarlet haze of disintegrating flesh. The local government is using the plague as a good excuse to harvest and purge whatever takes their fancy. Everything's in some way corrupt.


As well as the central objective, you can also explore the world around you to try to find hard evidence of the lawyer's corruption, or other tools that you can benefit from – like blueprints that allow you to hack the Walls of Light so they let you through but aren't so kind to pursuing guards.


Every significant action you perform has a potential ripple effect on events later on – especially negative actions like killing civilians or guards, which feed into the game's Chaos system.


The more of this chaos you set in motion over time, the more your options change. A character who discourages your violence may choose not to support you – or even betray you – further down the line if you ignore his advice, for instance. Or areas of the world may be more hostile to your presence.


You can always choose not to kill. Dishonored – as perhaps befits a game designed by the men who made Deus Ex and Arx Fatalis – is an assassin game where you don't have to assassinate anyone. Silence, shadow, occlusion and distance protect you from discovery as you stalk side streets and rooftops, and by exploring all your options you can even find ways to eliminate your target without actually killing them.



Arkane has spent a lot of time working with 3D sound, muffling it through walls and so on, so you can plot your stealth effectively.

The developers estimate only one per cent of players will want to take this path, but they evidently care about that one per cent, allowing them to save anywhere – even on console – so they can try to preserve that invisibility by recalling earlier states.


Arkane clearly wants you to experiment, too, allowing for partial failure all over the place. In our demo, Corvo sneaks into the lawyer's home and makes it to his office – lurking in shadows, peering through keyholes and waiting for guards to pause in front of paintings or warm their hands by fireplaces to sneak past on the way – and eventually confronts and kills him in a blaze of magical abilities. But if you do alert the lawyer, you can continue – he'll cower somewhere, or run away, and that will change the way the mission unfolds but won't stop you from succeeding in it.


Games like Dishonored often have a sort of purity problem here, where being discovered feels like a shoddier outcome, and it remains to be seen how that will pan out, but there seems to be enough interesting content around every corner to distract you from that notion, like a final battle with Tall Boys – tough, shielded enemies on stilts who fire rockets at you.



Arkane says we can expect multiple game endings depending on your actions, although there's no New Game Plus option - you just start over.

Dishonored looks rough around the edges at the moment. Some scenes, like the arrival of the whaling ship, closely followed by a quick eavesdrop on a pair of guards dumping plague corpses in the sea, are polished and compelling. Others, like the ascent through the lawyer's house with repeated guard chatter and slightly clunky NPC routes, are still getting there.


We also still have much to see – like the progression system through which you accumulate your abilities, based around collecting runes – and much to understand, like Corvo's link to the supernatural world and its role within Dunwall and the surrounding Pandyssian Continent.


But as first impressions go, this is a beguiling one, sumptuously potent. After so often being invited to use our imaginations but only up to a point, it's exciting to see a game that perhaps watched that Would You Kindly moment in Rapture once upon a time and thought: well then, we better let them do what they want from now on.


It's also quite amusing that the level we saw was called Eminent Domain, because part of me did sit there thinking "compulsory purchase".











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Yeah, I thought as much. Well, if anyone is bored enough and actually reads it, the game sounds pretty good. Like a cross between Bioshock and Hitman (with a strong HL2 vibe, thanks to the artist), set in a steampunk Victorian city... :lol:


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  • 7 months later...
Guest ObiChrisKenobi












Like Bioshock meets Assassin's Creed after having played Elder Scrolls for 18 years.

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The Cat House is a high class brothel, a dramatic white building sat far above the city of Dunwall's harbour. Your mark is a regular customer, and he's currently cavorting with a masked lady of the night in its lavish penthouse - you, meanwhile, are crouching unseen on a window sill, peering through ornamental glass. What next? Well, I guess you could stab him or shoot him. If you don't mind making a mess you could also pause time and hang five separate crossbow bolts in front of his face. That way once normal temporal service resumes he'll be very dead indeed.


Alternatively, you could get creative. Why not leap into control of his body and steer him towards the white marble balcony that overlooks harbour? Then simply jump backwards out of his body and, while he retches up his guts in panic and confusion, spend a little more magical Essence on a Windblast. As he ragdolls into the wild blue yonder it'll feel like the perfect crime, if it weren't for the dainty witness screaming behind you.


Dishonored is a game about systems, choices and unique pathways. The first time you see it in action your mind hurtles through a constant stream of comparisons. Deus Ex comes first, then Hitman, Thief, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, BioShock and even - at a point at which the hero occupies the body and soul of an ornamental fish - Disney's Sword in the Stone.

It's fine and dandy playing 'spot the JC Denton' in Dishonored; design lead Harvey Smith was after all the Lead Designer on the big DX. It's also inevitable that you'll see echoes of City 17 in the decrepit city of Dunwall - after all both these hellholes have a common artistic creator in Victor Antonov. Such an approach, however, does the game itself a massive disservice. Dishonored is its own game, and potentially a fantastic one at that.


You play as Corvo, formerly the bodyguard to the Empress and now falsely accused of her murder. After a spell languishing in prison the appearance of someone ominously known as The Outsider has broken up Corvo's routine, granting him magical powers, a scary mask and a tattoo of ownership burnt onto his arm. He's now out to wreak vengeance on the corrupt officials who framed him, but his mysterious benefactor clearly has his own intentions. After all, anyone who grants a complete stranger the ability to summon swarms of hungry plague rats can't be entirely trustworthy.


Outside, the city of Dunwall looks a triumph. Its stylistic roots are in the architecture of England and Scotland - indeed, in its earliest stages of development Dishonored was to be set in seventeenth century London. Arkane's research trips haven't just been on the spires, archways and high-vaulted ceilings of London and Edinburgh though. They've also been on their residents.


American accents may abound throughout the game, but Arkane has an anatomy expert on-staff to ensure that the morphology of the game's faces is that of the Great British. During the recent gameplay demonstration (before this fact had been revealed) I'd noted an NPC that I thought looked a lot like Trigger from Only Fools and Horses. Then, as the game continued, it became ever more apparent that the whorehouse guards all looked a bit like Millwall away supporters. Arkane's surreptitious photographs of London bouncers have not been in vain. Threaded through all this, of course, is that rich vein of steampunk: this is a world infected by magic and running on whale oil. Vehicles are genuinely horseless carriages - vast iron wheels coupled to Victoriana suspension clatter on rails, while respectable citizens leer out behind the jet-black arched windows. Over this scene loudspeakers bark out prerecorded curfew messages, and warn citizens to report any signs of plague that they see in their neighbours. The infected are known as Weepers, lost souls who cry blood and have a tendency to attack their fellow man.


Through all this chaos, then, Tallboys are required to keep the peace, as well as the poor in their place. You won't have seen anything on stilts that's quite so scary - they're heavily armoured officers on goliath walking frames with shields that open whenever they want to break out some law and order with a savage shot from their electro-bow. Behind them, meanwhile, Walls of Light separate districts - barriers which frazzle the bodies of those who aren't permitted to pass. In summary Dunwall will be nice to visit, but you sure as hell wouldn't want to live there.


Let's return, though, to the more civilized confines of the Golden Cat. Corvo's missions don't take place in open-world hubs, but instead more hand-crafted levels. Each has multiple entrances and pathways through it, and it's rare that they'll fall back on the Deus Ex (and Deus Ex: Human Revolution) fascination with unlikely air vents. As such, if you're taking the stealthy route then the Cat is full of rafters to creep along, windows to weave in and out of, sinks to skulk behind and elegantly decorated panels for you to use your 'blink' transport ability to zip yourself through. Brilliantly, meanwhile, you can blow out candles while you caper through your silk and satin surroundings, leaving a shroud of darkness wherever you go.


The activity within the house of ill repute, meanwhile, isn't a simple case of guards patrolling this way and that. If left undisturbed narratives will play out that make these locations feel real and vibrant. Take for example the arrival of the Pendletons - the pair of corrupt officials that you need to scrub from the record.


Backstage in their grubby changing rooms ladies get themselves ready and can be heard bemoaning the imminent arrival of these unsavoury customers, the nicest thing they say being that they're more or less 'clean'. Then they move out into the Cat's flowery main hall where the impatient Madam harries them, and another girl attempts to rouse a slumbering guard. Elsewhere in the building, meanwhile, the Pendletons - one rather lovesick- make their grand arrival.


These scenes and their realistic flow, whatever angle you enter proceedings from, are fascinating - and something of a joy to witness in a time when a game like Hitman: Absolution appears to be straying from its roots. You can always take the direct route with the Pendletons and their entourage - delivering crossbow bolts to the face and downward knife stabs from the rafters.

Alternatively, however, you can be creative with the scenery to make your actions look like accidents - one of them quite fancies a dabble in the steam room, for instance, so locating the right pressure wheel could result in a tragic fatal scalding. The bigger the blood trail you leave and the more innocents caught in the crossfire, the more your story will subtly change in tone as the world gets even darker, and the conversations of those with murdered loved ones come back to haunt you.


Dishonored, much like BioShock Infinite, is an elegant game for a more civilized age. It proudly stands out from the 2012 sequel conveyor belt, and if it fulfils its potential could be a defining game of this generation. That said, it comes from a publisher and a developer for whom troubled releases are hardly a stranger - and one would hope that all involved recognise the importance of keeping Dishonored in the development oven until it's good and ready. It appears that the old ways, the ways of Deus Ex, System Shock and Thief, are very much back in the mainstream. The only remaining question is why they ever went away in the first place.

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Guest ObiChrisKenobi

And you just bought Hitman as well? What the hell is going on, Mike?


:lol: I'm trying to work out a way to get both with the same 60.


Ah, good old Mikematics.

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