Choice is the theme at the core of Dishonored, an upcoming action game from Arkane Studios. Will you take the direct approach and brutally down anyone in your way? Or, will you stay out of sight, using quick timing and subterfuge to stealthily complete your missions? Both will be an option as you take on the role of Corvo Attano, a bodyguard-come-assassin who must clear his name. You’ll also have the choice to ignore how cliche that scenario sounds.
What isn’t cliche is the setting, which isn’t Earth. Don’t freak out, though – it’s not generic space fantasy, either. The game takes place in a city called Dunwall, which is heavily influenced by London circa 19th century. There’s also a bit of steampunk sprinkled in there for good measure, allowing for some unique gadget, costume and environment design. It’s fair to say you probably haven’t seen many games like it, though there is an air of familiarity that’s difficult to ignore.
As Corvo sets out to get revenge on those who have framed him, he’ll have to complete certain objectives. This is where the important choices come in, as the “how” in these missions is entirely up to you. Will you use blink, a teleportation ability that all players will receive, to take to the roofs and sneak through a balcony door? Or, you could use a combination of your crossbow, guns and time stopping ability to eliminate any enemies who might be blocking the front door. Heck, maybe you could try a combination of both, as the option is there. Even the weapons come in different flavors. That crossbow can do everything from putting people to sleep to setting them ablaze.
Of course, some options will be easier than others, because as you progress you’ll be able to unlock more powers. Which ones you unlock first is up to you, too, meaning you’ll be able to tailor your power selection to your own play style When I played, I stopped time for a few seconds, fired off arrows in the direction of several guards, causing all three to become impaled simultaneously when time returned to normal. Though when I played earlier, I bypassed combat completely by possessing a rat (being that close to the ground is freaking weird) and using its small stature to enter a vent that led to where I needed to go. I could also just as easily have used stealth to silently kill the guards with a knife, but I’m far too clumsy for that.
The biggest choice facing those interested in Dishonored is whether to buy it, but you’ll have to wait for our review of the full game to find that out. Based on my time with it, there’s some great, well-implemented ideas here that suggest Arkane might have a winner on its hands. Deus Ex and Bioshock had a baby at a steampunk convention and as it turns out, the baby is pretty rad.