Dishonored is an upcoming game developed by Arkane Studios (Dark Messiah of Might & Magic) and published by Bethesda. Technically described as a first-person stealth action game, but it's also fairly nicely summed up by the phrase "it's a bit weird". This is not yet another attempt at replicating reality; instead, it's a surreal take on an alternate universe in which technology and the supernatural are fused together to create something that's entirely unique.
We recently sat down with Bethesda and had a look at what the 2012 game has to offer - and we came away very, very impressed. Why? Let's take a look...
The game takes place in an alternate universe, with the level we saw probably best described as an alternate London. The technology and time is a mish-mash of different eras, with the predominant energy source in this bizarre universe the politically-incorrect Whale Oil (no, not the blogger).
There's an authoritarian regime in power and they rule with a Half-Life 2-like iron fist. The comparison to Valve's seminal epic doesn't end there, either, with the graphical treatment of many of the game's key elements very much inline with that game; thanks, in no small part we're sure, to the fact that Half-Life 2's Art Director Viktor Antonov worked on Dishonored too.
You play the part of a dissenter, again not entirely dissimilar to Half-Life 2, who has the ability to leverage various supernatural abilities when taking on his powerful enemies. You can use spells to posess other beings, summon a host of rats (which otherwise plague the city and pose a serious threat to humans), and even traverse the city by power-jumping or teleporting.
The combination of these special abilities gives you a lot of scope for how you approach each mission - for example, you could burst in and go nuts with up-front power or you could posess a rat (true story) and sneak in undetected. If you go the latter route, you need to be aware of new threats - a house keeper wielding a broom, for example, is suddenly someone you need to be very careful to avoid...
A big focus on the title - a theme we're seeing across a number of titles, including Bethesda's own Prey 2 - is perambulation. More specifically, the way you get around the world and the powers you have to explore it with are much more than your standard run and jump. Instead, skillful and observant players will find all sorts of ways to get around, from clambering Lara Croft-like to the magical - including the ability to combine moves like powerjump and teleport to cross large distances with ease.
That's not to say it's a pure action title, as hinted at in the gameplay description in the opening paragraph. There's a serious stealth element to the game, too, with a No One Lives Forever style ability to hide in shadows that adds yet another layer to the complex way in which you can interact with the game. While the missions are inherantly linear in flow from one to another (as far as we can tell), there's a huge amount of opportunity to tackle them anyway you see fit.
We only got to see a fairly small slice of what Arkane is cooking up at their French studio but we already really, really, like what we've seen. Bethesda's focused on games like Rage and Skyrim right now but, once they've got those in your hot little hands, expect them to start talking about this one in a big way. We can't wait.
The Good: Magical, innovative, inventive
The Bad: Being chased by a lady with a broom
The Ugly: Death by rat plague. It's not pretty