Maybe you've already seen Totilo's breakdown of 18 things you should know about Dishonored, the upcoming stealth-action game by Arkane Studios. And maybe you're still wondering why you should care.
I don't blame you: in an industry stuffed with marketing schemes and false promises, it's hard to get really excited about a video game until you see it in action. So while Dishonored has been on my radar for a while now, I was never really all that psyched to get my hands on it.
Then I played it. And now it's the game I want most this year.
You should really, truly, seriously care about Dishonored. Here's why.
- Even 20 minutes is enough to sell you on the game, which I played for the first time on a demo unit backstage at Bethesda's E3 booth last week. I jumped into a mission that tasked me with abducting and interrogating a physician named Anton Sokolov. To do this, I had to get through his mansion: a large, foreboding structure filled with nasty guards and one or two Tall Boys, those spindly legged robots that look straight out of War of the Worlds. I had to find him, tranquilise him, then carry him on my shoulders to a hidden meeting point to hop on a boat that would get me the hell out of there.
- You can solve every situation in a number of different ways, which is a promise that a lot of games make but not a lot keep. This is because the solutions in Dishonored seem to spring from your character rather than the environment. While a game like Deus Ex: Human Revolution might put multiple crawl vents or electric tunnels and let you decide which way you want to follow, Dishonored lets you use your abilities to figure out how to proceed. The mansion I explored had plenty of environmental decisions too, but the fun choices were all about me.
- There are a number of options for killing guards. Some are gruesome, like summoning a horde of plague-infested rats to devour your enemy's body and watching as they eat his clothes, then gnaw off his appendages one by one. (Just don't watch for too long, or the rats will go after you too.) Other options are more elegant: you can snipe down guards from afar with your crossbow, then use the Stop Time ability to slow down the world and slice people down, one by one. Or you could use your Possession spell to take over a guard, walk off a bridge, and zoom back to your own body to watch him kill himself. Poor guy.
- "People do break [Dishonored] all the time," Ricardo Bare, lead designer on the game, told me. "We ask, 'Is this break a legitimate creative decision?'" It usually is. So they usually keep it in the game. Breaking things is fun.
- The best ability in Dishonored is a skill called Blink that lets you teleport short distances. This is, quite literally, a game changer. You can zip across the map, zooming up rooftops and under tunnels. You can Blink to ceiling fans and jump down on unwitting guards to catch them by surprise. You can teleport to areas that seem inaccessible and find hidden passageways or bits of useless (and less useless) loot. It is ridiculously fun.
- Don't worry, it's not too easy. With abilities to possess people and stop time — as well as your very own crossbow and sword — you might seem a bit overpowered. But it's very, very easy to get overwhelmed by a gang of enemies and immediately killed. Once I had made my way to Sokolov, I took him out with a tranquilliser shot from my bow. I then had to lug him back through the mansion, a task made particularly difficult by the fact that enemies were just about everywhere. After dying roughly four billion times, I eventually just made a beeline for the exit, blinking through crowds and running as fast as I possibly could. I made it. But it took a while.
- The basic structure revolves around a single hub — a bar where you'll be able to talk to your allies, buy new equipment, craft recipes, and embark on missions to assassinate corrupt nobles and try to clear your name. (Remember, you're an ex-bodyguard named Corvo Atano. You were framed for the assassination of the Empress you once protected.)
- There are creative ways to take down each target and you don't have to kill anybody.
"I'll give you a good example," Bare told me. "There are these two really corrupt members of Parliament you're supposed to take out. [The Pendleton Twins.] Instead of killing them, what you can do is if you meet this crime boss... Slackjaw, if you do him some favour, he'll do something for you. The Pendleton Twins have this slave mine...
"So you do a favour for Slackjaw, and basically he kidnaps them and shaves their heads and erases their identity and puts them in their own slave mines."
- What about boss fights? I asked. Surely we must have to kill bosses, no? "We don't really have boss fights in the traditional sense," Bare told me. You won't go into any foreboding rooms where the doors suddenly seal and the music suddenly changes and all of a sudden the gameplay mechanics are drastically different. You're just bringing down corrupt noblemen one by one in an attempt to clear your character's name.
- It's out on October 9. For Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. So unlike all those other big games I'm psyched to play — BioShock Infinite, South Park: The Stick of Truth, etc — Dishonored will be out in just four months. I can't wait.