Monday, October 1, 2012

Preview: Dishonored

I have been very excited about Dishonored ever since I saw it showcased at this year's E3. Admittedly, that was only a few months ago, but this game captured my imagination in a way that few other games have managed. Not because it was pretty, mind you -- even though it conjures comparisons to the art direction of BioShock, a game I admittedly found gorgeous. Nor was it because of the powers that you could perform -- again, everything you can do in Dishonored seems to be very similar to the Plasmids from BioShock, a system I admittedly found very engaging.

It wasn't even because the game seems to showcase almost true freedom in-game -- games like GTAIV and Just Cause 2 allowed you to wander and approach a situation from any angle you wished, more or less to the same degree as what we've seen in Dishonored. No, what truly captured my imagination about Dishonored can be boiled down to two words.

Steampunk. Assassin.

That's right, my friends. Finally -- finally -- there is a game for the steampunkers out there. And it's going to be great.

Anything I Should Know First?

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure where this game came from. Usually when I get really excited about a game, I will have heard about it for months -- perhaps even a year or more -- leading up to its release. Yet I only heard about Dishonored at this year's E3, barely half a year before it was supposed to be released. So what's the deal with that?

Well, in retrospect, I remember hearing about a project from Bethesda that was being developed by a veritable dream team from the video game industry: Harvey Smith and Ricardo Bare, two men who had worked on the original Deus Ex, had been tapped as project leads, while Viktor Antonov, the artistic vision behind Half-Life 2's City 17, was hired to lead the art team. The game was to be called Dishonored and all of the journalists who wrote about it seemed to be very excited at the prospect of this game. This announcement came in the middle of 2011, a crazy time for me, and I didn't pay it much heed -- even despite the fact that I am a big fan of all of the work those men have given us.

That was very silly of me. I feel like I should've been following the development of Dishonored this whole time, watching any dev diaries and making myself part of the community! Instead, I'm left to catch up only a few weeks before the game is officially released to the public. You live and you learn, I suppose! Enough about me, though: let's talk about the game!

Anything Else?

Such a vantage point! Where do you want to go from here...?
In relatively short order, Dishonored has become one of the most anticipated titles in the video game industry: it was first shown at E3 2011 and won many awards, ranging from "Best of Show" to "Editor's Choice" to "Best Action Game" to "Most Original Game" and more. Dishonored also won a number of awards at the 2012 Gamescom trade fair, including "Best of Gamescom" and "Best Console Game". Heck, even a piece of artwork developed for the game was chosen to be one of sixteen pieces to be displayed in the 2012 Into the Pixel art exhibition. This level of respect from the industry as a whole speaks to something truly great; very seldom do we see the industry come together in such a way to place so many laurels on a single title.

Speaking of the artwork, the art team spent years in pre-production developing the world Dishonored was to take place in. Sebastien Mitton, an employee of Arkane Studios, contacted Viktor Antonov in May of 2009 to start developing the world, meaning that the art team has been working on this world for more than three full years. With that sort of time in the bank, expect the world of Dishonored to be truly and fully realized, to the point where you might start forgetting that it's a fictional universe.

What Do We Know?

Dishonored is set in the fictional city of Dunwall, a setting designed to be a contemporary version of London from the late 1800s, though the original inspiration was 17th century London. Dunwall has recently been assailed by a plague, much like London in the 1600s, and the architecture of the city seems to channel the post-Industrial Revolution era.

(This is largely to be expected: the art team took trips to both London and Edinburgh to research the architecture in an attempt to emulate the same feelings in-game. As I mentioned above, the pre-production for Dishonored lasted for years, so expect some great stuff.)

It's largely because of this art direction that the game seems to emulate a serious steampunk vibe. The technology showcased in the game -- things like steam-powered vehicles, hydraulic armoured suits, seriously upgraded Victorian-era weaponry -- seem to match everything found in steampunk culture, and the setting of a Victorian-era London-esque city doesn't do much to disperse the similarities. The art team has said on multiple occasions that they do not feel the steampunk comparison is apt but I don't think it's doing any harm; the game seems to mesh Victorian high culture with futuristic technology, the most basic explanation of steampunk, and it's only making people more excited!

The story is filled with intrigue and betrayal: you play Corvo Atano, a bodyguard to the Empress of Dunwall who is framed for her murder and forced to become an assassin to seek out and bestow vengeance on those who framed him. Corvo is approached by a force known only as the Outsider, a magical being who imbues Corvo with powerful abilities to complete his quest. You must track down these traitors to the crown and mete out justice as you see fit, all the while unravelling what is sure to be a twisted web of intrigue.

What has really gotten people talking about Dishonored, however, are the powers that are available for you to use -- and, more importantly, how you can combine these powers to complete your objectives any way you can imagine. Some of these powers include things like Blink (an instant teleportation power), Freeze Time, Possession, High Jump, and so on, and almost all of them can be used in tandem with other powers to perform any action you can think of.

For instance, one power combo the developers like to show off is the Freeze Time-Possession combo: basically, they allow an enemy to fire a pistol at them, freeze time as soon as the shot goes off, possess the enemy, walk the enemy in front of their own shot, release the enemy and unfreeze time. The shot hits the person who fired it and you are no worse for wear. (Or, if you'd rather, you could simply knock out the enemy. Every enemy in the game can be disposed non-lethally, something that reminds me of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, another amazing modern stealth-action game.)

Or how about the example in the video above: you have to find your way into a building. Do you simply attack the guards at the front door and charge inside? Or do you put your Blink power to use and teleport high above their heads, undetected? Or, being truly ingenious, do you possess a fish, swim into the building through the sewer, and make your way up from the basement? 

You can tell how truly excited the developers were at the prospect of player freedom when they tell stories about new and exciting ways players have used their powers to complete an objective. Not only that, the developers would continually go back and tweak each of their missions to allow newfound strategies to be utilized, just to ensure the players had as much freedom in-game as possible. That's true dedication to the craft!

Time to get creative... and pull out the big guns!
Beyond the truly amazing amount of freedom given to the player, I also want to take a moment to mention the outstanding acting talent Arkane Studios has managed to procure for Dishonored: somehow, they managed to hire some truly outstanding Hollywood talent to flesh out their characters. Susan Sarandon, Brad Dourif, Carrie Fisher (yes, that Carrie Fisher), Michael Madsen, Lena Headey and Chloë Grace Moretz are all amongst the cast for Dishonored, among others. The ensemble Arkane has managed to put together is incredibly impressive, to a level that rivals the usual Hollywood-blockbuster cast of each Call of Duty game. 

And let's not forget that the score has been composed by Daniel Licht, the composer behind a handful of horror movies, the HBO series Dexter as well as a number of Silent Hill titles. In an industry that is always placing more importance on the music of its titles, hiring such an accomplished composer is a real boon for Arkane.

And I Care Why?

Let's recap: Dishonored has won all of the important awards at all of the trade shows it has appeared at in the last two years. The setting has been developed for at least three full years, ensuring a fully realized world to be experienced. The gameplay offers endless possibilities  and combinations of powers in an effort to give players true freedom in-game, whether you want to be lethal or non-lethal. The cast and composer are a dream team of hand-picked Hollywood talent. Some are already projecting it as the game of the year -- and, yes, that is compared to stuff like Assassin's Creed III, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Mass Effect 3 and others.

This is a game you should care about.

Plus, y'know, you get to play as a steampunk assassin! What more do you want?

What Should I Do Now That I Know?

Dishonored is to be released on October 9th (yes, the same day as XCOM: Enemy Unknown), which is in about a week, so there's just enough time to run out and preorder it. There are a handful of preorder bonuses you can get from different retailers as well: Gamestop/EB Games is offering a 72-card deck of custom Tarot cards, which is pretty cool; Best Buy is offering a USB Whale Oil lamp, which is cooler. You can also order it digitally off Amazon or Steam, though you don't get any physical preorder bonuses for that.

Last Remarks?

I've mentioned this on Loading Checkpoint before (back before the relaunch) but a custom I have is to set my desktop wallpaper as the game I am most excited for in the foreseeable future. Dishonored has been my background since Max Payne 3 was released back in May; let that be a gauge of how excited I am for this game to be released.

It's funny, actually: I've gotten so excited for Dishonored, I have purposefully been avoiding seeing news about it in an effort to not further inflate my expectations. Hopefully it can live up to what I'm already expecting -- not that I'm worried. It looks like a truly amazing game and I am eager to step into Dunwall and seek vengeance for the Empress!

I'm planning on recording a Let's Play series when Dishonored is released, so keep an eye on Loading Checkpoint for that and many other entertaining articles from our team!


  1. Though I don’t set games I’m anticipating as my desktop background (that just sounds like a form of torture LOL), I’m pretty psyched for Dishonored too. I can’t help but be a bit skeptical though. I was beyond psyched for Deus Ex: Human Revolution; I pre-ordered it, and I ended up pretty disappointed. Unfortunately, Deus Ex is far from the first game that’s done that to me. So I followed the advice of one of my coworkers at DISH and I’ve sworn off buying any games until I’ve rented them first, which has of course, saved me from buying a number of games, and saved me a good deal of money. Dishonored is already in my Blockbuster @Home queue so I’ll get to play it soon; it won’t be on release day, but that’s okay, I’m still pretty busy with Borderlands 2 anyway. I'm truly hoping though, that Dishonored will live up to the considerable hype.

    1. Thanks for your comment! You're the first person to comment here since the relaunch, so you should feel very special! I wish I knew who you were to thank you properly!

      I totally get what you mean. I was extremely excited for Human Revolution as well, only to be left somewhat underwhelmed. The greater portion of the gameplay was very entertaining, but there were a handful of things that were simply let-downs. Hopefully Dishonored can live up to my expectations. I am going to stop and pick it up on the way home today, so hopefully I will get a chance to try it out tonight!

      Thanks again for the comment! We'll be doing a review of Dishonored after we've had some time playing it and, as mentioned above, I'm planning on doing a Let's Play of Dishonored, so keep an eye for that. Maybe you can live vicariously through me, if you find it too disappointing! Haha!


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