E3 2012 Preview: Dishonoured

June 12, 2012

Blink and you’ll miss it. That seems to be the mantra driving internet buzz (or lack thereof) for Dishonoured, the next major title from Arkane Studios (Dark Messiah, Arx Fatalis). And that’s a terrible shame, because if our E3 2012 showing of Dishonoured is anything to go by, it could be one of the most intriguing titles of 2012.

Dishonoured is a first person mission hub based action/stealth title that could be described with a whole host of buzzwords and genre titles, but that would take too long and sound convoluted. So instead we’re going to say this: Dishonoured is like a steampunk Thief, with a bigger focus on assassination. You star as Corvo, a powerful assassin in possession of supernatural powers, searching a mysterious steam-punk city (powered by whale oil, of all things) for key targets to dispatch. And how you dispatch those targets is entirely up to you.

Though not open world, each mission hub challenges players to use their tact and cunning to make the best of situations and find, hunt and kill their targets. Though armed with both a pistol and sword, Corvo will generally want to avoid too much combat, making use of abilities such as the short ranged teleporting ‘blink’ power to stay out of sight and lure tailing enemies into traps. Free-form movement around levels makes for dynamic mission structure, both for Corvo tracking the target and the targets themselves. Depending on events players witness and how they play the game, such as choosing to play the pacifist who avoids killing non-essential targets or the brutal murderer destroying everyone in their path, prime targets will actually move around mission hubs, demanding players adapt their skills and powers depending on target location.

One of Corvo’s most prominent abilities is that of possession. Taking control of living creatures, Corvo can explore otherwise inaccessible areas of levels (eg: swimming around as a fish), or harness aggressive enemies to take down enemies. Ever summoned a swarm of rats to devour enemies? Corvo can, and now so can you. At high levels, possession even allows Corvo to take control of other human beings, including intended targets. ‘Dark vision’, giving Corvo the ability to see through walls and observe NPC view cones, as well as slow motion and time stop abilities, add to Corvo’s arsenal of stealth focused powers.

Arkane Studios has described Dishonoured as the game they’ve always wanted to make. A blend of storytelling and stealth, wrapped around free-form mission structure that puts control and choice in the hands of the players. Fans of Theif and Deus Ex should keep their eyes on Dishonoured, which looks to deliver a similarly excellent experience later this year.