Dishonored is a linear first person stealth action game with sandbox missions with multiple solutions based on varying abilities and play-styles. Sound familiar? That’s how I’d describe Deus Ex, and Dishonored certainly seems to owe much of its design to the classic RPG. That’s not to say it has no tricks of its own. While Deus Ex takes a sci-fi approach to your abilities, grounding them at least on some level in reality, Dishonored goes all-out with magical Bioshock-like powers.
The game takes place in the fictional steampunk city of Dunwall. The city has a distinct Victorian steampunk style, and is powered by whale oil. The game opts for a slightly comic-like look, with an art style that looks cel-shaded. Despite this the game is stylistically dark, with Half-Life-esque Tall Boys patrolling the city, brothels, and brutal methods of killing. The combination of features makes for a game that looks and feels unique, in spite of owing much to past stealth games like Thief and Deus Ex.
While murder is the ultimate goal of every mission, it’s possible to play Dishonored without killing anyone but your target. Getting to your target can be done in a number of ways, depending on your available skills and how you choose to play. Your character has a number of basic control options, including sprinting, jumping, climbing, sliding and stealth. And boy are there a lot of powers. Players can blink to teleport a short distance, possess creatures and people by merging bodies, freeze time to let you sneak by or set up multiple shots, and use dark vision to see through walls.
In practice these abilities are essential to your success, but must be used carefully. You have a limited energy bar, similar to eve in Bioshock, and your target may be tough to find. Targets spawn randomly in a location, so they aren’t in the same place every time. Finding them will require exploration and eavesdropping, which is done in a clever way. Dishonored features a system of 3D audio propagation, muffling sound through doors and requiring you to listen at keyholes if you really want clear information. As you pick up information your objectives are automatically updated.
Reaching your targets will require a lot of platforming and patience in stealth. moving between high locations and carefully peering around cover are often important, though there are always multiple paths inside. In contrast, playing in an action-packed manner (killing everyone) will be more about reaction time and juggling abilities at the right moment. When you reach your target there are many ways to kill him. There are often environmental triggers that will kill him without a direct assault from the player. You could also simply stab him, or possess him and walk him to a ledge, or blast him off a cliff.
Keep in mind that how you play will change your ending as well. Violence and slaughter will lead to a darker ending, while seeking and killing only your target will lead to a lighter one. This stylistic action stealth game is among the most interesting at E3, and the creative and clever powers combine to make a unique game in one of my favorite genres. Arkane Studios says this is the game they always wanted to make, which is quite a coincidence because this is the game I’ve always wanted to play. Stealth and assassination fans can look forward to playing Dishonored when it launches on October 9th this year.