Dishonored E3 2012 Preview
Bethesda’s list of titles is usually huge coming into E3. This year the major game publisher and developer took the time to show off only two games, The Elder Scrolls Online, a massive new MMORPG, and Dishonored. The former is the culmination of nearly 20 years a single franchise coming into a single massive title, and the latter is a brand-new IP that takes place in an entirely new world that combines elements from several major AAA titles into an estranged steampunk and romantic world.
Dishonored starts with a bang as protagonist Corvo Atano is framed for the murder of the empress he served to protect. But Corvo is no fugitive, nor is he on the run from the all-powerful V For Vendetta-esque government; instead, he’s adjusted his skills of defense for attack, and is now after the Lord Regent who conspired against him and the crown. Corvo is able to do this thanks to the Outsider, who saves him from certain death and, strangely, imbues Corvo with magical powers.
Aside from the magic mumbo jumbo, Dishonored as a story is a classic revenge tale with all of the markings; Corvo is a master marksman and swordsman, has been trained by the best, is knowledgeable in stealth and infiltration, and has years of experience with all of those skills. Now he’s got magical powers, a purpose to kill, and justice to exact. It’s Kill Bill on steroids.
While that may seem good and dandy, gameplay is far different from what potential players might expect. Most specifically, as a first person shooter, Dishonored is slow, perhaps to a fault. Combat and gameplay are both slow because Dishonored is a tactical FPS, one where players are encouraged to think about what they are doing. In many respects the game looks like Bioshock, but it doesn’t feel like it; instead of having a physical weapon and some sort of power, Corvo carries a number of trusty guns, a knife, and has a few powers to his disposal, but again head-to-head fights aren’t the goal. Sure, you can play that way, but it makes Dishonored appear very narrow in scope.
Instead, developer Arkane Studios has built the game to support a number of unique tactical options for most any situation. Players can sneak by, attack enemies one at a time using stealth, go head-on, use distractions, or just assassinate targets. It’s all doable thanks to a wide assortment of tools at Corvo’s disposal, delivered in a similar Mass Effect item wheel pop-up that includes everything from poison arrows to a heavy-duty scattergun to the ability to teleport anywhere within a 15 foot radius. Or even summon rats to attack guards.
This sort of gameplay is uncommon in most FPS titles, not because it offers a smart way through combat, but because it almost forces players to do so. Corvo is by no means fast; from my time playing the game, he feels like a walking tank, which is no surprise considering how much equipment he has available at any given time.
The setting itself also lends to a more paced, slower game, one that’s clearly geared towards cool, collected gameplay. Pistols, muskets, knives, and plenty of single-shot weapons set a level of precision that isn’t about itchy trigger fingers and instant action. The weapons, combined with a generally dark environment of constant overcast or rain (welcome to London), highly stylistic buildings that are either extremely well kept and wealthy or broken down in the poor sector, creates the sort of atmosphere that doesn’t fit most shooters. After playing Dishonored, I can only consider it the opposite of Call of Duty; Dishonored favors realism and objectivity over running and gunning, to the point where some gamers may not appreciate the gameplay.
Dishonored feels torn between the calmness of Shadows of the Colossus and technique of Battlefield 3, with the potential for intelligent gameplay from Bioshock. Arkane has been very clear about using inspiration from other games, and from the get-go that’s clear. What makes Dishonored interesting is the combination of so many different elements in a completely unique world that’s more Machinarium than Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. I’m really looking forward to the romantic, noire take on this nether-London. When you take the best elements of the best games and put them together…apparently you get Dishonored.
Dishonored is set for release on October 9 for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC.