You've never played anything like Dishonored before. It puts you in the shoes of a supernatural assassin on a quest for revenge in a Victorian-slash-steampunk world.
Not only is it radically different, it’s a wholly new thing, which is pretty huge. We live at a time when sequels rule the bestseller charts. Simply put, it’s easier for publishers to justify green-lighting a sequel to a popular game than to take a chance on something untested. (Never mind that those bestselling franchises were new IPs once, too.) But veteran publisher Bethesda saw the potential in Arkane Studios‘ first title, which is currently riding a wave of hype so strong that Dishonored could very well become the next BioShock.
I have to admit, when I heard some of the first details of Dishonored, I thought it sounded like somebody dreamed it up while they were on LSD. But the more I saw of it, the more I read about its fascinating world, the more gameplay videos I watched, it wasn’t long before I was hooked. Here’s why you should be too.
1. It’s more than a new game — it’s a new world.
Call it another dimension with an alternate history, or you could call it an entirely different world, like an industrial age version of Westeros or Middle Earth. It’s a world of incredible complexity, with its own society and history and religions and so much more. Dishonored is set in a city called Dunwall, the center of a human civilization that strongly resembles Victorian-era London, where instead of electricity, power is drawn from harvested whale oil. (I know it sounds weird. Just go with it.) There’s an Imperial government, under which are a full spectrum of upper and lower classes, conspiracies at every turn, a deadly plague ravaging the land and draining people of their humanity, select individuals with supernatural abilities, and a deadly cult with radically anti-mysticism intentions. It’s got a dense mythology and history all its own.
2. It boasts a riveting story.
Dunwall’s Empress Jessamin Caldwin, loved by the people, has been murdered. Her daughter, Lady Emily, has been kidnapped. And a power-hungry man named Hiram Burrows, once Royal Spymaster to the Empress, has assumed the throne. You are Corvo Attano, loyal bodyguard to the fallen monarch, wrongly accused of her death. Disgraced and condemned, Corvo is freed from jail by an ambiguous, seemingly all-powerful figure known only as the Outsider. The Outsider applies his “mark” to Corvo’s hand, which grants him incredible supernatural abilities (more on that in a minute) and thereby the means to clear his name, avenge the Empress’ death, and rescue her daughter. Corvo is also given a collection of steampunk gadgets and a unique mask by an inventor named Piero, enabling him to pay the bills by working as an anonymous assassin. Meanwhile, Burrows uses marshal law and dictatorial tactics to try and contain a mysterious plague that’s spreading through the city.
3. Corvo has access to supernatural powers that you’ve never seen in a game before.
After getting that mystical mark of The Outsider, Corvo finds himself in possession of some of the coolest supernatural powers that I’ve ever seen in a video game — many of which have never in a game before. There’s Blink, which you can use to teleport short distances. Possession lets you take control of any living being, including enemies, allies, and even animals like those plague-spreading rats. Time Bend allows you to stop time for a brief while. Devouring Swarm summons dozens of rats to eat an enemy alive (cool, but eww). There are also more conventional abilities like fire, ice, wind blasts, speed, healing, double-jumping, and more. Combining your abilities in creative ways generates surprising results that you can exploit as much as you want. An RPG-like progression system lets you upgrade Corvo’s abilities, so he grows stronger as the game progresses.
4. There’s a “Chaos System” that causes the world around you to change and react based on your behavior.
This goes way beyond gasping at rudeness. If you’re stealthy and avoid attracting attention to your assassinations, the citizens of Dunwall will be largely oblivious to your actions. But go into each mission in full-on Rambo mode, and everyone will become more guarded, edgy, and more likely to cause you problems. Even guards and other enemies will change according to your past actions, becoming more paranoid and violent in their reactions. They might even prevent you from exploring certain areas that could prove rewarding.
5. It’s got awesome design by the art director of Half-Life 2.
Visual designer Viktor Antonov, who created the unforgettable City 17 in Half-Life 2, has been a part of Dishonored‘s team since its inception. If you spent any time with that game at all, you’ll recognize Antonov’s distinctive style. Remember the Striders, the super-tall tripod creatures working for the Combine in HL2? They have a spiritual cousin in Dishonored in the form of “Tallboys,” armored soldiers with heavy artillery that walk on tall, mechanical legs. I can’t wait to see what else Antonov has up his sleeve for Dishonored.
6. A cast of intriguing characters is brought to life by a prestigious voice cast.
Instead of hiring big-name actors just to have those names attached to their game, the smart developers at Arkane Studios hired talented actors that will give life, nuance, and texture to the game’s characters. The cast includes Susan Sarandon, Chloe Grace Moretz, Brad Dourif, Michael Madsen, Carrie Fisher, Lena Headey, John Slattery, and more.
7. Your choices shape the game.
The game’s heart and soul rests in the astonishing amount of control it gives to you, the player. Be as moral or immoral as you choose — and deal with the consequences. Not only with the final outcome of the game depend on how you play, individual missions will change based on your choices as well. Plenty of games claim to give players “freedom of choice,” but there aren’t very many that follow through the way that Dishonored does.