Corvo Blimey: A Dishonored Preview

Linear – the devil word. Scourge of freedom, the antithesis of PC gaming, the ancient enemy of anyone who’s ever roamed the Zone or steered a Dragonborn across the mountains. Or so the purist spirit often believes. Is, the question hangs so very heavily, Dishonored a linear game?

Yes. At least in the sense that it is not an open world. It is a series of missions in a linear order, most if not all of which require you to eliminate a specific target or targets. That’s okay, though, because my understanding of the game – having seen it in action – has morphed from something like ‘steampunk Deus Ex’ to ‘magic Hitman’. In what I’ve just been shown of the game, the same mission is tackled in two very different ways, with yet more described. And yes, I thought it looked amazing.

It’s not, I think, so much about creating a role that reflects your character, as it is organically puzzling out how to meet your objectives. Replay will be worthwhile not to see a different cutscene, but because the cause and effect of so many of your actions will vary wildly.

So, here’s what I saw.

The setup: The Golden Cat, a knocking shop for the wealthier denizens of the plague-stricken, authoritarian city of Dunwall. Ornate but seedy, what should seem like opulence feels sinister and imposing. That’s Dunwall all over – indulgent architecture designed to reflect imperial pride, but its harsh angles and looming structures are as oppressive as they are grand.

Inside this cathouse are two targets, the Pendleton Twins. They are members of parliament, they are apparently corrupt, and they stand with the Lord Regent – new ruler of Dunwall, who has framed you for the murder of the Empress.

You? You are Corvo Attano. They helped to kill your Empress. Prepare to die.

I watch both of the twins die, twice. The first time:

Stealth. Sliding, sprinting, climbing, leaning to approach via rooftops and through windows. Creeping unseen through the Golden Cat. Possessing rats to creep past guards. Hiding in the shadows, which enable you to be essentially invisible even if an unaware enemy has a direct line of sight. Waiting, watching, listening. Suddenly stabbing, and then teleporting to a high cranny while holding the body, so it’s hidden from other patrolling guards. Finding one of the targets, in the steam room with a courtesan. Deciding against confrontation. Finding a valve. Turning it. Boiling both occupants of the steam room. An accident, they’ll say. Though the posters and anxious conversations around Dunwall means suspicion will fall Corvo’s way nonetheless.

Upstairs. More creeping, more silent assassination, radar vision to ascertain where the guards are looking. And soon to the top floor. The other Pendleton, in conversation with another courtesan. She would see everything. Unless… high-level Possession. Taking control of Pendleton. ‘Hey, you don’t look so good. ‘ Walk him to the balcony. Exit him. Windblast over the railing before he realises you’re there. No witnesses. A terrible accident.

The second time:

Carnage. Drop assassinations with the knife out, an instant kill. A crossbow to loudly take out another foe, in two shots. Around five guards swarm in, wielding both sword and pistol, alert lines revealing their state of open aggression. The time power, upgraded to allow full-on freezetime, means they are all safely dispatched. Charging straight upstairs, again using Windblast on the Pendleton but at full force from the centre of the room, slamming him through a plate-glass window, out to the balcony, over the rail, onto the street many floors below. This time, everyone sees. An incendiary crossbow bolt whittles down numbers, a parrying-heavy swordfight with another guard results in his gruesome beheading. Then a spring razor, a mine loaded with razor wire which explodes in a bloody spiral. The next pack of guards that dare to intervene are set upon by a horde of summoned rats. Frenzy. One guard is possessed during the chaos. Walk coolly, unnoticed, to safety.

There are, we’re told eight or nine different broad methods of completing a level. These were but two, and both were fatal. Another would have been to look for side missions in the streets around the Golden Cat – which, despite being a multi-tier building filled with side rooms and cellars and surrounded by gardens, constitutes “less than half” of the level’s overall space. One side mission opens up the roof path that allowed a stealthier entrance to the cat, but another would have involved doing favours for a local gangster and thus persuading him to help Corvo’s cause. It’s not shown today, but done right this results in the gangster kidnapping the Pendletons and forcing them to work in their own slave mines.

They’re still alive, but they’re out of the picture, and Corvo has had his revenge. Dishonored’s confusing promise has always been you’re an assassin who doesn’t have to assassinate anyone, and that’s one way of making good on its non-fatal claims.

On top of the multiple paths are the powers. This won’t be Skyrim, so taking your abilities down one route – for instance upgrading Possession to the point that you can assume control of another human, including your target – will come at the cost of another, such as time-slowing becoming time-freezing. Your build will, apparently, be distinct and crafted, not an eventual everyman. . It’s restrictive, but it should encourage experimentation with the powers you choose. Arkane talk of an unplanned discovery in playtesting whereby a player jumped out of a high window, but instead of splattering fatally onto the pavement, they possessed another character waiting below just a split-second before impact – and walked away unharmed. It’s discovery-play like that which puts Dishonored squarely as my most anticipated game of the year.

Found Bone Charms add bonus effects, such as being able to possess white rats for twice as long as grey rats, but these are not specific pickups located in specific places. Instead, they are picked at random from a pool of around 40.

For a finale, we see Corvo face off against a small troop of Tallboys, the Strider-like silt-guards which patrol Dunwall’s outside locations, nominally to prevent the potentially plague-bearing riff-raff from coming into contact with the preening nobility. This is the Flooded District, inspired by the breaking of the Thames Barrier and steeped in dank, plague and even open flooding. Corvo can avoid the roaming Tallboys by simply staying out of the light, both environmental and from their lofty torches, but here we see a full-on FPS fight. Corvo leaps and teleports around to reach the vulnerable humans atop their armoured mounts, meleeing them at speed. Or, on the ground, he can use slow or freeze time to prevent their rockets reaching him, or even knock them back to their source.

And yes, you can possess a Tallboy. It’s not shown, but to prevent a terrible overpowered imbalance in Corvo’s assassinability, he won’t be able to control them for long. Here’s the possession breakdown, in fact:

Fish, infinitely.
Rats, a reasonable time.
Humans, not long.
Tallboy, only briefly.

It’s skewed according to the advantages the inhabited body would give you, which seems fair enough. Again though, you mightn’t even upgrade the possession ability, preferring to sink points into something more outright damaging. There’ll be a kept auto-save at the start of each level, by the way, so you can have a crack at solving it in a completely different way whenever you like. So, linear in progression but not in challenge.

Lazily, I’d call Dishonored an exceptionally comfortable and rather more stylish halfway house between BioShock and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, with more than a little Thief and Hitman seasoning the stew. And it’s the style that I’ll be talking about in my next post about the game, tomorrow.


  1. Brun says:

    Was somewhat bummed that it’s not a true open-world game, but I like that the levels are huge and have side missions. I get the same kind of warm-and-fuzzies that I get from open-world games from any game that gives me a reason to explore.

    • Vesuvius says:

      I feel kind of the opposite- this seems more and more like the sequel to Thief 2 that we never got. Very excited.

      • Brun says:

        Perhaps I should generalize that preference to refer to games that enable “discovery play” as Alec described it. Games can do that by having huge worlds and encouraging exploration, or they can have robust skill/ability systems that encourage experimentation, like Dishonored does.

      • Kynrael says:

        Oh, yes. <3

      • DigitalParadox says:

        Agreed, a true open world game (as Deadly Shadows showed in a way), leads to a less detail and intricacy in the levels. I love the style of linearity that Thief, Hitman, or Deus Ex give us in a series of missions with open explorable locations where everything works towards your main goal, but your choices of how to go about things is vast. Replay value becomes infinitely higher.

        • mckertis says:

          “a true open world game (as Deadly Shadows showed in a way)”

          In what way ?

      • Outright Villainy says:

        Precisely. I much prefer the level design of Hitman and Deus Ex to say Stalker. It’s easier to get the balance of having freedom to tackle your goals how you want, while still having an authored feel. Hitman in particular has some of the most fun levels I’ve ever played.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      Both styles are good. Both styles can offer a strong narrative (see GTA games).

      It’s all good IMO, not sure why gamers see a war between factions with this stuff.

    • povu says:

      Both styles are good, but not equally suitable for each game IMO. I think Skyrim in a Deus Ex-like restricted open world wouldn’t work well, and Deus Ex in a Skyrim-like full open world wouldn’t work well either.

      • kud13 says:

        Trying to make Deus Ex in an Elder-Scrolls-like open world and you get Boiling Point/White Gold/Precursors.

  2. Iconik says:

    I’m reminded of Bioshock for some reason. And if that’s the case, then bring it on.

    • Furius says:

      Could that be because Bioshock is mentioned in the article?

      • tmthesaurus says:

        No, that’s not it. I suspect it has something to do with the prostitutes.

        • TsunamiWombat says:

          The art design is somewhat reminiscent of Bioshock, the near human but not quite cartoon rotoscope look.

  3. Blackcompany says:

    Thanks for giving us a feel for the game play. I was once very enthused for this game. But the lack of game play footage has me nervous, especially as launch closes in. This article helps with that.

    Still looking forward to this, though. As far as the open world goes…I’ve plenty of free roaming and semi-open world games to play. Something with a little tighter design and narrative would, I believe, make for a nice change of pace.

  4. Zanchito says:

    Oh, boy, I’m loving this already!

  5. Emeraude says:

    I’d call Dishonored an exceptionally comfortable and rather more stylish halfway house between BioShock and Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

    Try to kill my enthusiasm as you may, I’m still eagerly waiting for this game.

  6. Stupoider says:

    “Half way house between Bioshock and Deus Ex: Human Revolution”.

    Yeesh, who in their right mind would draw inspiration from Bioshock?

    • Emeraude says:

      To be fair, Bioshock *had* some nice examples of level design.

      • MadTinkerer says:

        People need to stop bashing Bioshock just because some of it’s features weren’t designed to be the same as a different series that some of the team worked on earlier. Bioshock is a great game for what it is, and Bioshock 2 is an adequate, though not groundbreaking, sequel.

        Is Bioshock as bad a disappointment as Mass Effect 3? Diablo 3? Modern Warfare 3? Dungeon Siege 3? GTA4PC? Elemental? Fable 3? Dragon Age 2? Sonic the Hedgehog 4? Postal 3? DEUS EX 2!?!? No. No, it’s not. Let’s have some perspective.

        And Dishonored is not System Shock 3 either. It’s not even the same team. It’s not a Hitman or Thief or Deus Ex game. So when Dishonored turns out to be inferior in some way to an aspect of one of those games at some point because the ideal sequel to [stealth-action series] would totally do it differently… it’s just not reasonable to complain about it.

        System Shock 2 is not Ultima Underworld IV. I got over it and so should you.

        EDIT: Should have read a bit father down first before I replied. Thanks, Alec.

        • Emeraude says:

          Hum… but… I just took the game’ defense…

        • Emeraude says:

          Oh, and to address the point, though I’m not sure it’s me you were talking to… I don’t find Bioshock disappointing as a follow up. I find it overall disappointing on its own.

          The main thing I was looking for in it – after being talked into giving it a chance – was the relationship between narrative elements and gameplay, and as such I found it utterly failed to deliver (the game even managed to have both going at cross purpose – saving Little sisters is supposed to be a sacrifice, yet it eventually makes you more powerful than taking them, basically killing the whole delivery of that particular point).

          I understand that people more interested in other elements might have a different opinion. I still don’t see anything in it that makes the game great though. It’s a decently produced game, with some interesting examples of level design, good artistic direction, and polished graphics. That’s about all I see in it.

        • kud13 says:

          Bioshock is most frequently bashed for its sub-par combat, and not going far enough with Plasmid-based gameplay to make it unique (as in, plasmids were undoubtedly cool, but they were unnecessary and essentially a gimmick), whilst relying on its design, art style and story to cover up these flaws.

          and if you’d notice, the original poster wrote criticizing Bioshock’s “level design”. Which is a perfectly valid concern–Bioshock was a linear shooter without multi-pathing, so using it as a comparison for Dishonored, which is touted as being all about “the multiple ways you can complete the objectives, including those we (the devs) didn’t really consider” doesn’t mesh well.

        • MSJ says:

          The only thing disappointing about the Mass Effect 3 is the endings. The entire gameplay was greatly improved and the characters are as memorable as ever.

      • diebroken says:

        I just couldn’t help constantly thinking of Condemned: Criminal Origins (let alone System 2 obv.) when I played through BioShock…

  7. Alec Meer says:

    People making massively exaggerated complaints about Bioshock is *so* 2007.

    • Emeraude says:

      I’ll just *never* get what the fuss was about with this game, that’s all. Not to say it was bad – it wasn’t. But it wasn’t incredible either by any stretch.

      I anything, I’d say that hopefully it was the step back that precedes a leap forward.

      • tyrionlayton says:

        Overall, I thought Bioshock was a decent game. There’s a lot to like. The setting is fascinating and unconventional. The graphics, level design, music, and voice acting are all excellent, and create a haunting environment for you to explore. Problem is, I just didn’t enjoy playing it very much.

        Here’s my summary of 90% of the gameplay of Bioshock:
        You are instructed to go to location A, along the way kill a bunch of disfigured humans.
        You are instructed to go to location B, along the way kill a bunch of disfigured humans.
        You are instructed to go to location C, along the way kill a bunch of disfigured humans and a robot.
        You are instructed to go to location D, along the way kill a bunch of disfigured humans.
        etc. etc.

        This would be fine if the combat were inherently gratifying (or you just really hate disfigured humans), but I just found it to be a tedious slog. The remaining 10% of the game is just uninteresting minigames and inventory management.

        By comparison, I didn’t enjoy the combat in Half-Life 2 very much, but there was such a variety of enemies and challenges that I stayed interested till the end. On the other hand, I also enjoy mindless repetitive shooters like Serious Sam, but only because the combat is fast and exciting. Bioshock has the worst of both worlds: slow boring combat repeated ad nausem.

        Admittedly, I never finished Bioshock, so maybe the gameplay gets much more interesting at the end. I kept playing the game until the “twist”, then lost interest and gave up.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      Except people were praising it no end in 2007. It took a while for the hype to die down, and then people started to realise it was kind of shit.

      • f1x says:

        kind of shit? because of?
        I mean, your comment implies it was shitty because people praised it, so some elaboration would be nice

      • Grim_22 says:

        Wow, okay. Explain to me how it was shit without referencing some misplaced expectations based on System Shock 2 nostalgia. I’m of the opinion that it’s one of the greatest games ever made, so this should be interesting.

        • Stupoider says:

          Awful physics, a tendency to show speaking characters in silhouette to hide the lack of facial animation, a hammy story (courtesy of Ken Levine) that merely reiterates what everyone has been saying about Rand for MILLENIA, console port controls (incredibly clunky), the ‘illusion’ of a sandbox city (no reason to go backwards), story gets progressively worse (almost unimaginable considering how bad it gets soon after the “tutorial”) and not to mention the lightswitch morality.

        • diebroken says:

          I’m shocked KG hasn’t responded by now…

          > DEFENSE!

          Personally I didn’t like BioShock, but there are other reasons why…*

          (*P.S. these are opinions!)

        • Runs With Foxes says:

          It’s irredeemably boring. Boring combat, boring enemies, boring objectives, boring ~moral choices~, boring ‘twist’. They even managed to make the setting boring, despite how interesting it was at first glance. (And I’m far from alone on that; remember how many people, when Infinite was announced, said ‘I hope it’s not set in Rapture again’.)

          It’s not all bad though. I appreciate what they were trying to do. It still tries to be a game, rather than bombard us with cutscenes, so it’s one up on Human Revolution there. In fact it’s a far more worthy effort than Human Revolution full stop. But Bioshock was just severely overrated by reviewers who bought into the marketing and pretended at being smart by talking about Randian influences and whateverthefuck which had nothing whatsoever to do with the gameplay (which is boring).

          • f1x says:

            I still cannot see WHY its boring, it just feels like the game was not really for you, and no I dont remember that many people complaining about Rapture when Infinite was announced
            also the fact that you mention Deus EX : HR as also a “boring game”, and really… forget about reviewers, I mean I’m not gonna judge a game based on IGN’s score be it high or low

            on Bioshocks defense:
            The game had a lot of mechanics that were very interesting and “new” at the time, the play with guns + powers was pretty well executed and the level design was more than solid, plus very memorable “bosses” and encounters, and a good script for a shooter
            and to say the Art direction was boring, well, I dont think arguments are needed regarding that, the art direction was superb
            it also did something different when manshooters started to grow like mushrooms

            just dont tell me now that the best games ever are System Shock 2 and the first Deus Ex

          • Boffin says:

            You are literally the first person I’ve seen say that the twist was boring. Having that come out of nowhere really made me think about how protagonists in games act, at least for a while. So not only was it exciting in a more direct sense, it’s one of the few games that have made me think of something outside of it.

            Either way, calling the entire game boring seems pretty unfair when it tried to do something other than the “brown & bloom” shooter experience. Which was and still is a pretty great idea.

          • Grim_22 says:

            I can’t argue with this. Not because you’re right, but because you don’t bring any arguments to the discussion, just unmotivated opinions. I can respect that you don’t like Bioshock, but you can’t possibly claim that it’s a bad game. For example, I don’t like GTA. I’m terribly bored by them. At the same time though, I can see how brilliant they are, and why people shower them with praise.

            So yeah, there’s nothing wrong with disliking Bioshock. There is, however, something wrong with claiming it is ‘shit’.

          • Runs With Foxes says:

            The game had a lot of mechanics that were very interesting and “new” at the time

            Such as? I can’t think of anything that hadn’t been done before, despite Levine’s insistence that they were doing amazing new things. I don’t think a game must do totally new things, mind you. But Bioshock’s innovation, if anything, was merely bringing an immersive sim style game to a broader audience. And while that’s a noble goal, it also took a turn towards boring shooter in the process. And in terms of the basic shooter mechanics, Bioshock is seriously one of the worst mainstream shooters ever made. If you compare it to the shooter mechanics and the interaction with enemies in Half-Life 2 or the Stalker series, Bioshock is genuinely, hilariously awful.

            and to say the Art direction was boring

            I didn’t say that. My complaint was that the rest of game even made the setting boring (in the sense that I didn’t want to be there anymore), which is quite an achievement given that it genuinely is an interesting setting. But setting can’t carry a game.

            You are literally the first person I’ve seen say that the twist was boring. Having that come out of nowhere really made me think about how protagonists in games act, at least for a while.

            Ugh. The only way this twist would have been clever or interesting was if you did have a choice not to do what you were told. But you didn’t. That made the twist insulting. Haha, you were just blindly doing what we told you because you were brainwashed and not even thinking about it. Well no. I did whatever my objectives said because the only other option was to quit the game. Which I did, the first time I played, because I was so bored.

            Either way, calling the entire game boring seems pretty unfair when it tried to do something other than the “brown & bloom” shooter experience. Which was and still is a pretty great idea.

            Like I said, I appreciate what they were trying to do. Conceptually, I agree, Bioshock is a lot more interesting than most. But it’s a poor shooter with terrible combat, and since combat is what you spend most of your time doing, that’s a problem. The praise heaped on Bioshock is invariably based on the setting and story, both of which are interesting, but neither of which make it a great game.

          • Gormongous says:

            Ugh. The only way this twist would have been clever or interesting was if you did have a choice not to do what you were told. But you didn’t. That made the twist insulting. Haha, you were just blindly doing what we told you because you were brainwashed and not even thinking about it. Well no. I did whatever my objectives said because the only other option was to quit the game. Which I did, the first time I played, because I was so bored.

            So… you missed the point of the twist, then? The whole point of being mind-controlled was to serve as an analogy to the style of video game storytelling that deprives the player of whatever agency actually matters. Playing a linear FPS is just like being mind-controlled, so no ludonarrative dissonance in that respect. How would giving you a choice whether to kill Ryan even work in that context?

            Honestly, it sounds like the game didn’t click with you and you’ve decided that the game sucks because of that. It’s okay to not like things without calling them “shit”, you know.

        • Ruffian says:


      • BobsLawnService says:

        Bioshock was a beautifully realised world shoehorned into an utterly mediocre FPS.

        That was my take on it anyway.

      • MSJ says:

        And now we are past the stage of saying Bioshock is bad. Right now, Bioshock is an unfairly maligned game that is beautiful and fun.

      • kilo says:

        to explain why Bishock is disappointing, it is evitable to mention the system shock because Ken Levine said that Bioshock is a spiritual successor of SS2

        Bishock is not a bad game, but it can’t be a good model to game like Dishonored which like to provide the freedom of choice to player.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      Ah yes, the long, bitter rants by Dracko whenever the word Bioshock was mentioned. Those where the days, eh?

    • RagingLion says:

      I’m currently playing Bioshoch for the very first time. Enjoying it. I confess though that I probably very seldom take advantage of all the creative ways in which combination of skills can be combined or with the environment and I rather think the same may be true in Dishonored as well. Still sound awesome though and …

      Possessing fish?! … GOTY

      • Josh W says:

        Who needs infinite dragons when you have infinite fish possession?

  8. Grim_22 says:

    Great preview Alec, just one question.

    Do you consider Bioshock to have a linear world? I’m not in any way trying to correct you, but with the statement of it being somewhere between Bioshock and Human Revolution, I’m a bit confused as to how the levels are designed. Because even if Bioshock doesn’t have hubs like Deus Ex, I still consider it open in the sense that you can wander freely between areas that you’ve opened up. Is that possible here, or is it just one loaded area per mission, and then proceed to the next?

  9. Iconik says:

    Bioshock is love.

  10. Stevostin says:

    “This won’t be Skyrim, so taking your abilities down one route – for instance upgrading Possession to the point that you can assume control of another human, including your target – will come at the cost of another”

    Hem, it’s pretty hard in skyrim to get ONE full tree out of what, twenty ? Maybe two or three if you’re farming lvl up to 81. So it’s actually exactly like in Skyrim….

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      I could be misunderstanding this, but I take it to mean that in Dishonored you will lock one branch when you take another.

      • ResonanceCascade says:

        Yeah, sounds like the proposed 1999 mode for Bioshock Infinite. Permanance and all of that.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      Except that you can max out all your skills in Skyrim given enough time, and not a single element of the game (fighting, stealth, magic) is self-exclusive. Nothing in Skyrim prevents you from doing any particular thing else, and when you’ve maxed all your skills, the precise perks you have start to matter less and less.

      If you focus only on perks that give discrete new abilities that you wouldn’t have had otherwise (pick pocketing armour, bow zoom, sideways sweep with two hander, etc) and largely ignore ones that just blandly increase power (stage one of all the weapon, armour skills, etc) then I reckon there’s actually probably very little you’d be missing out on with a single character playthrough, and very little meaningful difference between that character and another who has maxed all their skills.

  11. Lambchops says:

    I tend to prefer more restricted and funneled but expansive game worlds to true open world sandboxes so this might just be right down my alley,

  12. Dr I am a Doctor says:

    There are no good non-linear games.

    • Brun says:

      Disagree categorically with this statement.

    • stahlwerk says:

      If the internet taught me one thing, it’s that there are no good games. Only boring, instantly classic, pretentious and visceral.

    • Davie says:

      Skyrim, Fallout New Vegas, Just Cause 2, Assassin’s Creed 2, and GTA IV despite its terrible port would all like a word with you.

      Or Morrowind and the original Fallouts, if you prefer, since they are generally the only games it’s acceptable for certain grumps to like.

      • kud13 says:

        System Shock 1 would like a word with you……

      • Gira says:

        I’ve just posted something similar elsewhere on this page, but yeah, openworld games like Skyrim are actually incredibly linear. The size of the hub world is irrelevant when the actual gameplay content is incredibly restrictive and permits very little agency. There’s no persistence, no room for any kind of ludonarrative, no real meaningful interaction to be done with that large play-space beyond, you know, starting another linear pointless quest. To suggest that something like Deus Ex (1) is more linear than Skyrim because its hub worlds are smaller is really missing the point.

        • Hidden_7 says:

          I think you might be confusing linearity/non-linearity with meaningful choice and consequence or a branching narrative.

          Skyrim’s quests may all have a strict begining-next thing-middle-end structure, but which order you tackle them in (for the most part) or whether you do them at all is entirely up to you. Also it’s a bit disingeous to suggest that a Skyrim like world has a large ‘hub world’ that is somehow distinct from its ‘gameplay content.’ The hub world IS part of the gameplay content. Wandering around the giant square shaped box of Skyrim’s wilderness is no less The Game than delving into one of its straight-as-a-post dungeons.

          That a game like Skyrim contains some linear elements (quests, most dungeon design) does not mean that the game as a whole is linear, just that there are parts to it that are. Just like the fact that Deus Ex features some hallways doesn’t mean it’s more linear (though it is a pretty linear game, it just has a lot of choice and consequence and branching elements).

          It is also I think, just straight wrong to say that Skyrim or Bethesda games don’t provide ludonarrative opportunities, when they are actually some of the best games on the market at such things. If ludonarrative is the story you tell about your experience (I did this, then I did this etc.) rather than the story told to you by the designer, then yeah Elder Scrolls games are amazing at that. They are the games where you wander off and do whatever, and then maybe get chased by a troll, and fall down a waterfall, and stumble on a dungeon and etc etc. To suggest otherwise seems like willful blindness toward a lot of people’s experience with these games.

          Granted, they are terrible at providing meaningful choice and consequence, almost every single quest usually plays out in one way, and hardly anything ever seals off access to anything else, but that’s a separate issue from non-linearity. Minecraft is one of the least linear games of all time, but it has basically zero choice and consequence or branching narrative etc.

    • lijenstina says:

      Script trigger explosion script trigger cutscene QTE spawn 12 enemies script trigger explosions script trigger dubstep script trigger end game freedom restored salute the flag.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I don’t think “linear” is inherently bad. There are awesome games that are mostly, or completely linear. So, I’m not in the least bit disappointed that Dishonored will not be open world. In fact, I like this even better!

    • f1x says:

      Indeed it dosn’t have to be bad, its not like every have has to be a sandbox,
      I think the problem is that lately we’ve had some very hiperbolically linear games, highly scripted and with poor level design

  14. Kynrael says:

    Oh, that stealth looks good…

  15. Runs With Foxes says:

    Interesting that you compare this with Human Revolution and not the original Deus Ex, given that 1) Harvey Smith actually designed the original, and 2) the original was a far superior game.

    • KenTWOu says:

      I see what you did there: Deus Ex > DXHR > Dishonored.

      • noobule says:

        Unless Harvey has had to sell out completely to the publisher (and then led a very misleading interview campaign) there is literally no way Dishonoured could be worse than DXHR. Harvey groks what made Deus Ex great, what made Thief great. The DXHR devs will tell you it was the art design

        • KenTWOu says:

          The DXHR devs will tell you it was the art design

          Yeah, that’s why Harvey hired Viktor Antonov! By the way, Spektor also groks what made Deus Ex great. Also your sarcasm detector doesn’t work properly : )

  16. byteCrunch says:

    Until I see raw gameplay footage, I remain only marginally interested, though the Hitman comparison actually makes me more interested than the previous Deus Ex comparison.

  17. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    “the game – having seen it in action – has morphed from something like ‘steampunk Deus Ex’ to ‘magic Hitman’.”

    That wooshing sound is my enthusiasm being flushed down the toilet.

  18. DevilSShadoW says:

    by the sounds of this article and the overall art style, this game and bioshock infinite are my must buy games of 2012. I am very excited for magic hitman!

  19. kastanok says:

    This sounds (potentially) inordinately enjoyable. Can’t wait.

    Alec, I found this preview very informative in style, experience and mechanics without seeming to spoil too much. Interested to see what you’ll have for us tomorrow.

  20. Pumice says:

    This is a title like something where you can add all the elements that you think will make the most interesting and immersive game. The only problem with that is that this can sometimes turn out to be a bit underwhelming. I’m not saying it is, it is the most interesting title this year in my eyes, but I still can see that it may not turn out totally amazing. (Like, teaming up Steven Wilson and Mikael Akerfeldt might not necessarily turn out to be the more intense project than either one individually…)

    • Stupoider says:

      Jack of all trades, master of none. Reminds me a lot of those “Oscar Winning Movie Trailer” spoofs on YouTube that borrows hallmark stuff from all the great games in the past years but is the worse for it.

      • Pumice says:

        I think it is possible if you really know what you’re doing. In this case I think it comes down to how engaging they can make the world and how motivating it will be, and if different approaches remain practicable throughout. I’m already convinced that the developers are capable of a good gameplay “feel” at least.

      • Emeraude says:

        I think it’s not so much a “master of none” problem really. All individuals elements in a game could be perfectly implemented taken on their own – but just detract from one another. Some things aren’t made to work together past a certain threshold.

        You don’t add the left-overs of Blue Cheese in a Blue lasagna when you have more than necessary, unless you want all other ingredients to lose their taste.

        • Pumice says:

          If it works, it can be seen roughly in the tradition of System Shock 2 and Deus Ex 1, only with some different gameplay elements and world design.

  21. Tom De Roeck says:

    I would not mind a Hitman and Thief bastard child. No sir.

  22. Nimic says:

    I was a little bit disappointed that it wasn’t “open world”, until I remembered that Hitman in no way is an open world, and that is one of my all time favourite games. And by the sound of it, some of these levels are comparable to the Hitman levels in scope and possibilities.

  23. SpinalJack says:

    can’t wait

  24. VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    Hiding in the shadows, which enable you to be essentially invisible even if an unaware enemy has a direct line of sight.


  25. Iconik says:

    The real question is, how long is this game? WIll it have enough content to keep my OCD completist condition sated? Is this going to be yet ANOTHER 6 hour romp or am I going to be able to actually invest some time and care into this game?

    • Alec Meer says:

      they didn’t say, but did observe that it takes about twice as long if you do explore vs rush’n’kill

  26. Robin says:

    Request to Alec / rest of RPS staff:

    Please, could you ask the developers if there’s going to be FOV adjustment option? It feels very cramped already from the screens. I can’t really play with a small FOV; I would be fine with just an editable parameter in an .ini (or equivalent) file.


  27. Boffin says:

    My god, if this is anywhere near as good as it sounds it’s definitely going to end up on the “play every few years” pile.

    And I love how he kills his target in the trailer. This dude’s already got his mind made up, he doesn’t have to listen to some bullshit speech.

  28. Tyrone Slothrop. says:

    Cannot wait, if it pulls off everything it promises, it will be a modern classic.

  29. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    Still hugely interested in this. To be honest I never really expected it to be be open world so the linearity thing doesn’t bother me.

    And I’m showing my age here, but that thing where you can possess other beings, but only for a time inversely proportional to their overall strength? That makes this sound like the first-persion Paradroid I’ve been wanting for over 20 years now.

  30. lowprices says:

    But are there spikes everywhere? Spikes you can kick people into?

    • MadTinkerer says:

      *Sniff.* Poor DMOMM. 85% of it was a really good game. A true shame the horrible outsourced parts were never re-done by the company, and it’s incompatibilities with Hammer meant the fans couldn’t fix it themselves.

      But yeah. You would think kicking baddies into spikes would get old at some point, but it never did.

    • Kollega says:

      I don’t think this game is going to have that – but in the department of “kicking enemies into spikes is useful AND entertaining!”, Bulletstorm is the game you’re looking for. It’s a true spiritual successor to the kicking-into-spikes-goodness of DMoMM.

      • lowprices says:

        Oh I know. Played Bulletstorm to death. Part of me hoped that this would be the next game to satisfy my depraved “kicking stuff into stuff” fetish. Alas, that does not seem to be the case.

        • Outright Villainy says:

          In Crysis 2 you could kick cars into people’s faces.

          This was by far the best part of that game.

  31. wodin says:

    Open World…means sparsely populated and repeat and rinse missions\quests i.e Skyrim.

    Give me a well crafted linear experience that has enough content for 20 hours or so play over open world endlessly repeating the same missions\quests and empty world.

    • Brun says:

      Open world (done properly) means that you can make your own “missions.”

  32. Ichi_1 says:

    Are the first person sequences using the in game engine or cut scenes?

    If the actual game plays that fluidly I might just orgasm

  33. Godwhacker says:

    Thane from Mass Effect seems to be writing parts of this article

    • Boffin says:

      Brilliant! Reading the description in his voice makes it so much better

  34. sonofsanta says:

    So I might have missed this in other articles or whatever, but I don’t understand the possession – if you possess a rat and walk down the corridor, then pop out of possession, you appear there in your full form? So your whole human body gets shrunken down inside this poor tiny rat while you’re in possession? Seems a bit odd.

    If it’s the normal possess-things-to-have-a-look-about-and-usually-just-to-trigger-a-switch-secreted-through-a-tiny-hole-in-a-lazy-puzzle-design then I can understand it, but the way it’s written about here, I don’t get that it is that.

    • Kollega says:

      Yes, from what i read, how you described it is exactly how it works. It is a little odd, but very, very useful for stealth. Don’t ask me just how the hell it works; a wizard did it.

      • Jackablade says:

        So when you pop back to full size, do you just kind of explode out of the rat? That would seem to be a useful way to freak out enemies and potentially cause heart attacks in targets saving me from getting my hands dirty… although I guess if they’re already covered in rat gizzards it might not make a lot of difference.

  35. Kollega says:

    So, you can possess fish in this game. And it’s about stealth and assassination. Does that mean that you will find yourself emerging out of a toilet at some point?

  36. Walsh says:

    Why do people keep fucking with magic assassins? You think they would learn..

  37. Shortwave says:

    Now that’s a trailer! I don’t care what anyone says, ha.
    Colour me impressed. It even got my girlfriend watching from across the room, haha.
    Well done.

  38. dogsolitude_uk says:

    “It is a series of missions in a linear order”

    So like Thief then? I honestly have no problems with this idea, providing the levels give me plenty of scope for doing it my way…

    I used to like the way that on Thief 1 and 2 I’d get stuck on a level and have to hammer away it it (so to speak) for ages until I got a perfect score :)

  39. kud13 says:

    Well, the Bioshock reference is a bit worrying (though i’m guessing it refers to the powers and the wide variety of things you could do with them).
    Personally, I found Bioshock quite bland. May have had something to do with the fact that I was playing it parallel with S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: SoC COMPLETE, which meant that Bioshock came off as a fairly mediocre shooter from the comparison. For me, the game went down hill right at the point of the last major open area where you had to make Jack look, sound, and smell like you-know-who.

    The plasmids and the assorted powers were a cool idea, but the game never really encouraged experimentation–it was there, but Irrational never really posed a challenge that couldn’t be solved with a gun instead. Also, crafting. If there was an inventory, it’d have worked much better, and been far more useful.
    I’t’d be too harsh to say the game was crap. but it wasn’t a super-innovative breakthrough, and in its heart, it was still a derivative of System Shock 2. I’m fairly curious about Infinite precisely because it appears to be finally severing that umbilical cord, and using original mechanics.

    I’m not dismayed by the “linear” announcement–that’s kinda what I expected, and I can’t say I really envision DX as an “open-world” game anyway. And I liked Hitman.

    This still remains just about the only game that I’m planning to pick up at full price in 2012.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Bioshock was bad/mediocre in its own right; it doesn’t need comparison for that quite frankly.

  40. Shooop says:

    Causing horrible fatal accidents to happen to horrible people never gets old. I know I’ll probably enjoy this game, but I’m still aching for gameplay footage.

    Also, what about the length? Going back and replaying the same missions different ways can get old after two or three times for me. Unless of course you get a wide variety of terrible accidents to happen to people who won’t be missed in each.

  41. ResonanceCascade says:

    I’m not prone to hyperbole, but I genuinely think this game might have the best art design…ever? Definitely up there, anyway.

  42. FunkyBadger3 says:

    1/ Turgid.

    2/ Shades of Perdito Street Station?

    • Hidden_7 says:

      I may be alone in this one, but the more China Miéville influences that make it into gaming, the better.

      I would pay $100 for a Bethesda style open world game, or a Demon’s Souls style dungeon crawler set in a Bas-Lagalike.

      • Jackablade says:

        I dare say there’s an interesting game to be set in Beszel/Ul Qoma too.

        • Hidden_7 says:

          That one would live or die on an inventive centrepiece mechanic, though.

          Not that I wouldn’t want to play it. I’m just not clever enough to imagine what it would be like.

  43. FunkyBadger3 says:

    Not looking forward to the level where your powers are taken away from you though…

  44. Meldreth says:

    Fantastic. Now I’d just like to know how good/fun sword-fighting is, and how different from Dark Messiah it feels. Not too much I hope, but enough for it to be even greater. We’ll see.

  45. drewski says:

    zomg new IP

  46. Hidden_7 says:

    Here’s my worry with that write up. If it’s easy enough to do that second thing with all the carnage and the flinging magic everywhere and the combat and action, then why would you do the first scenario.

    This is a problem with a lot of games that have stealth ‘options.’ If the stealth doesn’t actually provide you any benefits over going in guns blazing, then it just seems like a waste of time. Literally, because playing stealth takes longer. It’s just a much less efficient way to go about things. So it stops feeling like a sensible mechanistic tradeoff, and more like intentionally handcuffing yourself for a special homebrew playstyle. Like ghosting in Thief; it’s a fun enough alternate way to play it, but it’s not really part of the game.

    Further, if stealth is one option in among all sorts of over the top action choices, then failure in stealth starts to lose its meaning. If you mess up in sneaking, then you’re just in an open fight, which is a perfectly valid option, so no problem.

    I’m not sure how Dishono(u)red will handle things, or if there’s more nuance to it, but based on games that have come before, to make stealth viable and worthwhile, you sort of have to make not-stealth less viable and worthwhile. Considering that stealth is harder, and takes longer, there ought to be some mechanistic ‘reward’ to taking that trade off; a reason why avoiding stealth isn’t always the most efficient choice.

    • Angel Dust says:

      You might be interested in this excerpt from the Eurogamer preview:

      “The bigger the blood trail you leave and the more innocents caught in the crossfire, the more your story will subtly change in tone as the world gets even darker, and the conversations of those with murdered loved ones come back to haunt you.”

      Personally I play as stealthily & non-murderously as possible because it’s more fun – as long as the stealth is well executed that is.

      • Hidden_7 says:

        I enjoy stealth too, but it annoys me in games where it feels like I’m almost playing my own mini-side game to use stealth. If you can sneak effectively past the five guards to get at the treasure, it’s fun, but it’s a lot less fun when I know that I could just as easily, or with actually less effort, fought the five guards in a quarter of the time it would take me to sneak past them, with no repercussions. Or if being discovered results in a nothing fight because they can’t have a single guard be a huge problem if people are going to be running and gunning their way through.

        It sounds cool if they are planning to have your playstyle make an impact on the game, but I wonder how much of that will be largely aesthetic? What I’d like to see is the difference show up in the mechanics, rather than the narrative. Have areas of levels or things get blocked off if you go in assault because maybe an alarm is raised so areas are locked down. Have certain areas too dangerous to fight your way through, necessitating going around them, which would take longer than a direct, but stealthy approach.

        Basically something to avoid the Skyrim-like situation where stealth is viable, but the only result of stealthing through a dungeon is that you took far longer than if you had just run in swinging your sword and launching fireballs.

        • RegisteredUser says:

          I suffer from the same issue as you.

          But much like having both a sniper rifle and a shotgun in shooters, it is actually being able to just choose what you want to do right then and there because it FEELS better/more enjoyable to you that is crucial, rather than, say, limiting you to only two weapon slots, because, sure, why not, let’s just piss off the player and eradicate choice and flexibility.

          Basically having the choice, even if one is inferior, is likely better than not having any choice at all to begin with. I know, I am torn as well, because sometimes how the choices are presented make you feel about even bothering with one of them, but in the light of “could be a lot worse” it becomes a boon.

          • Hidden_7 says:

            The shotgun sniper-rifle choice is a perfect example, because in that situation sometimes you want to use the shotgun, sometimes the sniper rifle. They both have strengths and weaknesses, and are better or worse in different contexts.

            My issue is when you provide choice, but regardless of the situation one choice is always superior. Like if you were given a sniper rifle, but the entire game was real close corridors. Sure, you COULD snipe, but it’s always the inferior option, and doing so becomes a sort of game you play with yourself where you are willfully making it harder on yourself because you find it amusing.

            I’m not against those kind of meta-games you play with the game, per se, but I do like most of the mechanics in the game to be a part of the game itself, rather than only used in homebrew alternate playstyles.

            The problem I have with stealth implemented as an option in a lot of games is that it feels like you’ve given me a sniper rifle in a really tight corridor shooter. It might be a very nice and satisfying and functional sniper rifle, but I can’t help but feel handicapped when using it.

  47. Gira says:

    Getting really tired of seeing this “non-linearity = openworld” thing bandied about, especially by journalists who really should know better. Openworld games are often incredibly linear; they’re just a series of linear sub-quests connected by a big hub world. It doesn’t matter how big that hub world is – if you have no actual agency in any gameplay context, it’s just a bit waiting room.

    • Jackablade says:

      I’d suggest Dishonored is still pretty non linear too, just on a smaller sale than something like the Elder Scrolls.

  48. Armante says:

    “Arkane talk of an unplanned discovery in playtesting whereby a player jumped out of a high window, but instead of splattering fatally onto the pavement, they possessed another character waiting below just a split-second before impact – and walked away unharmed.”

    Brilliant. I love emergent game play. High hopes for this game

  49. ScottHarrigan says:

    I am now officially looking forward to this game. I was keeping an eye on it, but with this new information and the trailer, it is shaping up to be an awesome gaming experience. The linear nature of the game can provide for an incredibly told story as with many recent open world game, the narrative suffers. Even the Fallout series which are good games generally have weak narratives and unresponsive worlds.

    link to

    Dishonored seems like it will be a strong experience all around.

  50. RegisteredUser says:

    Ach. You games.
    Always putting me in whorehouses and dens of iniquity – but then not letting me have visible, excellently animated and actually erotic (read: good enough to fap to) sex with anything or anyone.

    I find this _incredibly_ annoying, personally, and wish this would stop.

    Either don’t tease me, or do, but also please me.

    Same goes for you women!