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|Engine||Unreal Engine 3|
|Release date(s)||NA October 9, 2012|
AU October 11, 2012
JP October 11, 2012
EU October 12, 2012
|Media/distribution||Optical disc, download|
|Engine||Unreal Engine 3|
|Release date(s)||NA October 9, 2012|
AU October 11, 2012
JP October 11, 2012
EU October 12, 2012
|Media/distribution||Optical disc, download|
Dishonored is a 2012 first-person stealth action adventure video game developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. It was released worldwide in October 2012 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, beginning in North America on October 9.
Set in the fictional industrial city of Dunwall, modeled after Victorian London, Dishonored follows Corvo Attano, a legendary bodyguard to the Empress who is framed for her murder and forced to become an assassin to seek revenge on those who conspired against him. Attano is aided in his quest by the Outsider, a powerful being who imbues him with magical abilities. Several actors provide voice work for the game, including Susan Sarandon, Brad Dourif, Carrie Fisher, and Chloë Grace Moretz.
The game is played from a first-person perspective and allows the player to tackle a series of assassination missions in a variety of ways, with an emphasis on player choice. Missions can be tackled by stealth, combat or a combination of both. Exploring levels opens new paths and alternatives for accomplishing mission goals, and it is possible to complete all missions and eliminate all of Attano's targets in a non-lethal manner. The story and missions are modified based on violent actions, or lack thereof, committed by the player. Magical abilities and equipment are designed to be combined to create new and varied effects.
Dishonored is played in first-person, with an emphasis placed on stealth action and the use of gadgets and the environment to eliminate opposing forces. The game world is a series of self-contained, mission-focused sandboxes designed to allow for multiple avenues of exploration in terms of in-game movement and powers. Between missions the player is taken to a central hub in a pub. In the pub Corvo can meet with his allies, receive mission briefings, alternate objectives, and convert recovered loot into new equipment and upgrades. In-game areas include loading docks, royal estates, poverty stricken streets, and a bathhouse. The game features the ability for the player to save anywhere and also includes a checkpoint save system, with both disabled during combat. There are four difficulty levels which affect the effectiveness of health and mana potions, and enemy awareness, damage delivered, and responsiveness. The easy difficulty also enables health regeneration.
Dishonored also features role-playing game elements such as the ability to upgrade powers and moral choices with focus on non-linear consequences. The game is designed to allow the player to complete it without killing any NPC, including boss characters and mission targets. An example of a non-lethal situation given by co-creative designer Harvey Smith involved the player completing a side mission for a character which in turn was rewarded with the mission targets being kidnapped and enslaved in a mine. Each mission contains multiple avenues of exploration and reaching targets, with traversal and exploration of levels designed to support the array of abilities at the player's disposal, rather than having a specific "hacking path" and "sneaking path". Specific elements of missions are also randomised such as altering the color of a target's clothing and mask in one mission, requiring the player to explore the game area to locate the intended target each time the mission is played.
Actions committed by the player are not judged to be of a good or evil morality, but instead are tracked by a "chaos" system that records how much collateral damage, violent actions and deaths are caused by the player. The game world is modified by how little or much damage is caused, affecting story decisions with an emphasis on not punishing the player or forcing them to choose one style of play over another. For example, a non-player character (NPC) who disapproves of violent methods may not support the player and may even betray them. The game reacts to the chaos caused in both scripted ways, such as dialog, and dynamic ways, such as increasing rats, plagued citizens and adding new scenes, and can affect the current mission and future ones. The system also influences the two game endings obtainable, with variations based on which characters live or die. Playing violently can allow missions to be completed in less time than a stealth approach, but will consume more resources such as health and mana potions, which are required more often in direct combat.
The game features six active powers, four passive powers, or enhancements, and forty bone charms, which grant the player supernatural perks such as increasing the duration of rat possession. Initially, only three bone charms can be active at any time. Smith and Colantonio stated that it is impossible for a player to accrue all of the powers and abilities in a single playthrough. Mana is necessary to use the abilities and only partially regenerates after use, enough to allow the use of powers like "Blink" and "Dark Vision", but mana potions are required to recover larger amounts of mana, restricting the use of higher cost abilities like "Possession" and "Bend Time". Magic and ranged weapons are assigned to the player character's left hand and a sword to the right hand.
The main supernatural powers are unlocked and purchased using runes, and each can be upgraded. Announced powers include: "Dark Vision", which allows the player to see enemies through walls, their field of view and an abstract representation of sound made by the player; "Blink", a short-distance teleportation ability; "Possession", that allows the player to inhabit and possess other characters from rats and fish to humans temporarily; "Devouring Swarm", which summons a swarm of deadly rats; "Bend Time", that slows or freezes time; "Wind Blast", a gust of wind; and "Shadow Kill" that turns dead enemies to ash preventing their discovery. The player also has access to weaponry including a sword, grenades and pistols. Coins must be collected to upgrade weapons and gadgets.
Stealth is based on occlusion, hiding behind objects and architecture and avoiding the enemies' cone of vision, with lighting also a factor in player visibility. When hiding behind an object, the player can lean around the sides to view the immediate area and eavesdrop, and as long as Corvo's body remains hidden, enemies will not see him. The player can also look through keyholes to gain insight into closed rooms. Enemy AI will respond to sound and can be distracted by the player creating a sound in one place to lure a guard away from their position.
Guards have several states of alertness ranging from normal, to suspicious, aware of the players presence and then actively searching for the player. Remaining concealed from guards eventually reduces the alertness to aware, but it will not return to normal in that particular mission. Enemies communicate their alertness state to their allies, in turn increasing their alertness level.
Dishonored takes place in the industrial city of Dunwall, which is modeled after late 1800s-early 1900s London and Edinburgh and ruled by an oppressive regime that came to power following the assassination of the city's empress and the kidnapping of her daughter. In the city, technology and otherworldly forces coexist. Dunwall is a center for fishing and whaling, with whale oil a valuable resource necessary for powering the city. Following philosopher Esmond Roseburrow's discovery of whale oil's use as a fuel—known in the city as trans—the government used it to develop powerful weaponry which in turn bred government corruption. The city is stricken with a plague spread by rats and dogs that is killing the poor and isolating the rich. The infected, known as "Weepers", cry blood and can become violent against others. The government uses the plague as an excuse to take or purge citizens as they wish. Order is maintained by the Tallboys, heavily armored officers on tall, mechanical legs, and districts are separated by Walls of Light, barriers made of energy that disintegrate those that attempt to cross them. A covert group of activists, the Loyalists, plot to overthrow the government and install the Empress' daughter as the city's leader.
The main character of Dishonored is Corvo Attano, the legendary former bodyguard to Dunwall's Empress Jessamine Kaldwin (April Stewart), turned infamous assassin after he is framed for her murder. Corvo is skilled in stealth and combat, armed with unusual gadgets, and possesses great supernatural powers. The game designers chose not to have Corvo speak so that the player can project themselves onto the character. Characters also include: Admiral Havelock (John Slattery), the Loyalist leader and ally to Corvo; Piero Joplin (Brad Dourif), an inventor who builds Corvo's mask and supplies him with gadgets; Callista Curnow (Lena Headey) the caretaker for the Empress' daughter Young Lady Emily (Chloë Grace Moretz); Granny Rags (Susan Sarandon), a former aristocrat now blind and deranged after years of living on the streets; Daud (Michael Madsen), an assassin; Treavor Pendleton (Derek Phillips), a member of parliament; Samuel (Ryan Cutrano), a commoner who ferries Corvo to and from his missions; Overseer Teague Martin (Joel Johnstone); and Slackjaw (Al Rodrigo), a gang leader. Carrie Fisher provides the voice of the loudspeakers found throughout the city relaying government propaganda.
Corvo is offered aid in his quest by The Outsider (Billy Lush), described as a mixture of God and the Devil, who imprints his mark on Corvo, imbuing him with magical abilities, and provides him with a mechanically altered human heart (April Stewart) that tells Corvo secrets. The Outsider also grants his mark to other characters, granting each different abilities. Smith described the character as an amoral figure who grants abilities, but leaves the choice of how to use them up to the recipient.
Corvo's targets include: the Lord Regent Hiram Burrows (Kristoffer Tobori), who masterminded the Empress' death and framed Corvo, and now controls Dunwall; his lover Lady Boyle (Anna Graves), an aristocrat funding the military; the Pendleton Twins, Lords Custis and Morgan (Zach Hanks), members of parliament; High Overseer Campbell (Daniel Hogen), leader of the cities religious order; and Anton Sokolov (Roger Jackson), a genius inventor responsible for the creation of many advanced technologies including the Wall of Light.
After returning from a foreign voyage to seek aid with the deadly plague ravaging the city, Corvo Attano travels to the tower of Dunwall and meets with the Empress. After delivering the message, they are attacked by teleporting assassins who magically restrain Corvo, kill the Empress, and kidnap her daughter Emily. The Empress' Spymaster arrives and has Corvo imprisoned for her murder and Emily's abduction. Six months later, the Spymaster has seized control of Dunwall as Lord Regent. He tells Corvo that he masterminded the assassination and has framed Corvo. Corvo is to be executed the following day. In his cell, Corvo is smuggled a letter from Empire Loyalists and given the means to escape. Following his escape he is ferried to the Hound Pits pub by Samuel to meet the Loyalists, led by Admiral Havelock.
While resting at the pub, Corvo is taken to a dream world where he meets The Outsider and is branded with his mark. Corvo is sent to eliminate the conspirators behind the Lord Regent's plot and is given the option of killing or otherwise neutralizing them. His first target is High Overseer Campbell. During the mission, he meets Granny Rags, and a gang leader Slackjaw. Corvo removes the High Overseer and discovers Emily's location in the Golden Cat, a brothel, under the care of Custis and Morgan Pendleton. Corvo rescues Emily and neutralizes the brothers. After returning to the pub, Emily is taken into the care of Callista to prepare her for becoming Empress, while Corvo is sent to abduct the genius scientist Sokolov, responsible for the Lord Regent's powerful technologies. Sokolov is returned to the pub for interrogation, under which he divulges the identity of the Lord Regent's financier, Lady Boyle. Corvo infiltrates Boyle's masquerade ball and, after deducing which of the three sisters is the Lord Regent's mistress, neutralizes her.
After returning to the pub, Havelock confirms they have done enough damage to move on the Lord Regent himself. Corvo infiltrates the tower of Dunwall and removes the Lord Regent from power and, in the process, learns that the Lord Regent had intentionally imported the plague to decimate the lower classes of society, though things quickly got out of hand. Corvo returns to the Hound Pits pub where the Loyalists celebrate their success. After sharing a drink, Corvo goes to his room and collapses. He wakes to learn Havelock and his Loyalist allies Treavor Pendleton and Teague Martin, had Samuel poison Corvo's drink to prevent him interfering in their plan to install Emily as Empress and rule through her. Samuel, however, remains loyal to Corvo and gives him a lowered dose of poison, allowing Corvo to survive. Samuel sets Corvo adrift on the river before fleeing himself. Corvo awakes as the prisoner of the assassin Daud and his men, the people who carried out the Empress' assassination, and have captured Corvo to claim the bounty put on his head by the now Lord Regent Havelock.
Corvo neutralizes the threat from Daud and his assassins, before travels through his territory and into the sewers. There he finds Granny Rags attempting to cook Slackjaw. Corvo can eliminate either Slackjaw or Granny Rags, who is revealed to be an immortal witch. Corvo finally returns to the pub to find it overrun with guards and many of the Loyalists dead at Havelock's hand. He discovers where Havelock has taken Emily, and can save Piero, Sokolov and Calista. Corvo signals to Samuel who ferries him to the former Lord Regent's lighthouse. He infiltrates the lighthouse and, based on the level of chaos his previous actions have brought about, either neutralizes Pendleton and Martin or finds that Havelock, to ensure the Loyalists' actions are never known, has already killed them. Once finished with Havelock, Corvo may or may not rescue Emily. Reading Havelock's journal reveals the Lord Regent's suspicion that Emily is, in fact, Corvo's daughter; an idea supported by Emily's gift to Corvo previously.
The ending is dictated by the level of chaos the player caused throughout the game. If Corvo manages to save Emily, she takes her place on the throne as Empress, with Corvo at her side. If the chaos is low, a golden age dawns as the plague is finally overcome. After many decades, Corvo dies of natural causes and is buried beside Empress Jessamine, by Empress Emily Kaldwin I the Wise. If chaos is high, the city remains in turmoil and overrun with the plague. If Corvo does not manage to save Emily, he flees from the Empire by ship.
The game was first announced on July 7, 2011, by Bethesda Softworks as a first-person stealth action adventure game for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Dishonored is the first Arkane Studios game to be published by Bethesda following its purchase by Bethesda parent ZeniMax Media in August 2010. Arkane Studios founder Raphaël Colantonio and Deus Ex developer Harvey Smith act as the game's creative directors, and Deus Ex designer Ricardo Bare acts as Lead Designer. Half Life 2's City 17 designer, visual design director Viktor Antonov and art director Sebastien Mitton lead the art team. Smith, Colantonio, Antonov and Mitton spent three years in pre-production. Bethesda first approached Arkane and asked them to develop a new game and develop a new intellectual property. The team already had ideas in place for a similar type of game, but specifics did not form until Bethesda approached the studio. Mitton contacted Antonov in May 2009, asking for his help in establishing an artistic identity for a new intellectual property. The full Arkane team including their officers in Lyon, France, and Austin, Texas worked on the game.
The development was influenced by methods that the team discovered to exploit each player ability or tool, such as combining a high jump with a teleport ability to travel greater distances than either ability allowed independently. Instead of restricting these exploits, the team tried to design levels to accommodate them. However, not all of the power ideas were considered suitable for the game, including a power that would turn the player into a 2-dimensional shadow that could move along walls. Dishonored's stealth system was originally based on the Thief series and its use of level lighting and shadows to determine how an enemy can detect the player. However, it was decided that it was unrealistic that an enemy could stand directly in front of a player hiding in shadows and not detect them. It was also considered that making certain areas dark hid the efforts placed into the level designs and ultimately contrasted poorly with well-lit areas.
The game supports a separate interface for Microsoft Windows users compared to console versions and the use of Xbox 360 controllers for PC. Smith described the team philosophy of allowing those passionate about a particular release platform to develop towards it, so those passionate about PC work on the interface, while Xbox 360 fans are allowed to develop the Achievements for that platform. Dishonored officially went gold on September 28, 2012.
The art team continued to get requests throughout development, requiring them to extend pre-production until the end of the development cycle. Each design was hand drawn instead of procedurally reproduced. The city of Dunwall, designed to be a "contemporary and cool" "period piece", is inspired by late 1800-early 1900s London and Edinburgh, and in its earliest stages of development the game was set to take place in seventeenth century London. Describing why London had been an initial setting and remained a significant inspiration, Smith explained:
Because it was the last year of the plague, and the year of the great fire of London, which of course ended the plague by burning the slums down... In this kind of game you’re always looking for a way to up the tension and frankly make the world a little more perilous, and justify why there aren’t giant crowds of people at the market. Then people had the idea for swarms of rats, and we were talking independently about possession, and we wondered if you should be able to possess rats and if they could clean up corpses so you don’t have to hide them. All these pieces just worked together.
Antonov described his inspiration from London as "a big metropolis, it's messy, it's chaotic and intense...and it's both exotic and familiar to Americans and to Europeans". Antonov highlighted the importance of that familiarity to different cultures because "you want to communicate to a lot of people when you make a new piece of fiction". He explained that Edinburgh alternatively provided a sense of containment and variety of architectural designs. These historical designs were then combined with a futuristic vision which Antonov clarified was not comparable to the brass, rivets and steam of steampunk design. Some elements of the world design are derived from the fictional alternate industrial revolution in the game, and others are deliberately impressionistic. Antonov and Mitton traveled to London and Edinburgh as part of their research, taking photos of people, places and objects. The pair chose to avoid the busier streets and focus on side streets and alleyways to better suit the gameworld. Mitton stated: "We were trying to design the game from a rat's viewpoint...if we have a small city, from a constrained viewpoint, what are all the different angles that we can explore?". The world map was designed in as a single piece of art and then sectioned so that the designers were clear on where each mission took place.
The missions were designed based on an initial interesting idea which was then populated with interesting things for the player to do. Paths are defined to access the target areas and ideal paths developed and then expanded. The area was then populated with NPCs which are assigned to patrol routes and functions. The designers would then observe how players interacted with the level using their abilities and powers to test if the area provided a challenge or a suitable challenge for the available powers, and then redesigned the level as needed. The levels initially featured little directional information to emphasize the player's ability to move through the level as they choose, but testing showed that players would become lost or obey NPC commands to not enter an area, leaving them unable to proceed. This resulted in the introduction of more visual cues and verbal hints to direct players.
In-game characters were stylized in a manner inspired by illustrations from old adventure and pirate stories such as Captain Blood (1922), but maintaining a sense of realism and political incorrectness. An anatomy expert helped ensure the morphology of character faces represented Great Britain. Antonov and Mitton employed a textile carpet designer in Russia to design and paint some of the in-game art.
Balancing the effectiveness of the player's powers was considered difficult, with Colantonio stating "we wanted to give [the player] very strong powers, to make [the player] really a badass, but at the same time we didn't want the game to be too easy." Each power is given a duration, mana cost, and other tunable properties that allowed the team to effectively scale even the most destructive of abilities by making it too costly to frequently use or limiting how long it remains active.
Dishonored was released on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 platforms beginning in North America on October 9, 2012, followed on October 11 in Spain and Australia, and October 12 in Europe and the United Kingdom. Celebrating the North American launch, Smith, Colantonio and other members of Arkane Studios' Austin, Texas office signed copies of the game at a GameStop.
A variety of pre-order incentives were announced for the game including a Dishonored themed 72-card deck of Tarot cards, a USB Whale oil lamp, and a smartphone decal. Downloadable content (DLC) incentives offered in-game packs for the player character, including the "Arcane Assassin", "Shadow Rat", "Backstreet Butcher", and "Acrobatic Killer" packs that offer enhancements for the player character's abilities, money, and a statue of one of the game's creatures. A spin-off iOS game, Dishonored: Rat Assassin, was developed by Bethesda Softworks and released on August 30, 2012 for free. The game requires players to use a knife and crossbow to kill rats while avoiding bombs. A set of three animated videos, titled Tales from Dunwall, serving as a prequel to the game story were released in September 2012. The videos show the discovery of whale oil fuel, the Outsider granting his mark to a small boy in search of revenge, and Piero creating Corvo's mask. All three videos were created by Psyop and Rokkan, narrated by Chloë Grace Moretz and scored by Daniel Licht. In the same month, the game was used as inspiration for prosthetic make up effects on the reality show Face Off.
Dishonored was on display for the general video game audience at the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), and received four nominations from the Game Critics Awards for Best Action/Adventure Game, Best Console Game, Best Original Game, and the overall Best of Show award. The event also saw the game recognized for: "Game of Show" by GameSpy, and Joystiq Editor-in-Chief Ludwig Keitzmann, and was nominated by Destructoid and EGM; "Best Action Game" by GameSpy, and EGM, and nominated by Destructoid; "Best of E3 2012 Editors' Choice Award" by GameSpot; "Most Original Game" by G4TV; "Best of Show" by Digital Trends; "Best of E3 Selection" by Yahoo Games and Game Revolution; "The Best Game at E3" by Cinema Blend; "Top 10 Game of E3" by Paste magazine; and the "Blink" ability was listed as one of the "Top 27 Game Ideas" by Kotaku. Additionally, "Regent", a piece of artwork for the game by Mitton and artist Sergey Kolesov was selected by jurors from the Entertainment Software Association and the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences to be one of 16 works for the 2012 Into the Pixel art exhibition. At the 2012 Gamescom trade fair in August 2012, the game won the award for "Best of Gamescom" and "Best Console Game" for both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. For the same event, Eurogamer named Dishonored as their "Game of the Show". Attendees of the 2012 Eurogamer Expo named it the number 1 game of the show.
Dishonored received critical acclaim. Aggregating review website GameRankings provides an average rating of 90.62% based on 8 reviews for the Microsoft Windows version, 89.79% based on 21 reviews for the Playstation version, and 89.18% based on 30 reviews for the Xbox 360 version. Metacritic provides a score of 91 out of 100 from 20 critics for the Microsoft Windows version, 89 out of 100 from 21 critics for the PlayStation 3 version, and 89 out of 100 from 46 critics for the Xbox 360 version.
Shacknews's John Keefer said that the game is "role-playing at its story-driven finest and Arkane has created an RPG formula worth emulating". Keefer particularly praised the story which he considered to be emotionally immersive, and appreciated that game mechanics such as powers were not essential and did not detract from the story. However, he felt that some missions were lacking in guidance leaving the player lost, and that certain plot points required more explanation. The Verge's Arthur Gies criticised the game for making "late narrative missteps", but praised it for its "unifying vision" and "design that stands apart from its contemporaries as something different". IGN's Cam Shea also called it "a shame that Dishonored's story isn't greater than the sum of its decidedly memorable parts", but insisted "Dishonored is a game you'll talk with your friends about, and that you'll want to play multiple times".
G4's Jake Gaskill said that "Dishonored delivers on almost every admirably/crazily ambitious promise made by its creators". Eurogamer's Dan Whitehead labeled it as one of 2012's best games. Whitehead said that the unique, inventive and distinctive missions allowed for memorable gameplay that subverted the overarching story, but considered that the later game presented more generic missions and an abrupt conclusion. Whitehead was critical of unresponsive contextual controls and inconsistent enemy AI. Giant Bomb's Patrick Klepek said that the combat "feels good" and praised the "revelatory" magical abilities that allow for a variety of mission solutions. Klepek also criticized the quality of the overall plot and repetitive ambient dialog and the game ending.
Kotaku's Jason Schreier praised the freedom of gameplay, saying "Playing Dishonored feels like entering a designer's playpen. You're given a set of tools and encouraged to experiment with them, to break them..." Game Informer's Joe Juba criticized the inconsistent enemy detection that lead to unpredictable stealth mechanics. Juba commented that the game punished violent players with harder gameplay and a perceived less satisfying ending, encouraging stealth over alternative playing styles. However, Juba praised the art design. Computer and Video Games' Alex Dale called the game "one of the greatest games of this generation", and considered that Dishonored excelled by drawing on older games and allowing the player to figure out solutions without advice. Dale said that it is the first true stealth game "for a long while", calling it the closest comparison to the Thief series in the current generation of games. Dale praised the variety and replayability of the game saying "Dishonored doesn't demand you see everything it has to offer, although it is compulsive enough to ensure you will".
The Telegraph's Tom Hoggins compared the game to "thinking man's games, [from] the turn of the century which cherished player choice and control" like Deus Ex and Thief, contrasting it to contemporary "noisy, brash thrill-rides obsessed with military ooh-rah and barely interactive set-pieces." Hoggins was critical of the inability to replay completed missions with later unlocked abilities, and the abrupt ending. News.com.au's William Colvin described the game as "a triumph for the medium" and said that it "sets the benchmark for visuals, story, and character performance, and the only shortcoming it could really be accused of is giving you too many options." He also said it was "easily the best looking game you'll play this year."  Joystiq's Alexander Sliwinski felt that the game story did not explore much of the developed world of Dunwall, but said that the controls worked well and praised the game mechanics made possible by the setting. GameSpot's Chris Watters criticized issues with enemy intelligence, but praised the replayability. Watters said "it's a rare game that feels so compulsively replayable... the compelling abilities, the bold artistic design, the colorful characters, and above all, the freedom of choice-these are the things that mark Dishonored as one of the truly remarkable games of this year. The Escapist's Susan Arendt liked the well paced story. Arendt said that the depth of flexibility was also a shortcoming, with certain play styles favoring certain abilities that when fully upgraded, preclude the desire for level exploration for further enhancements and resources.
In the week prior to its release (September 30-October 6), the game was the third best selling game on Steam, based on pre-orders. During the first week of sales in the United Kingdom, Dishonored became the number 2 selling game on all available formats behind FIFA 13 (in its third week), the number 1 selling PC game, and the biggest launch of an original game in 2012, replacing Sleeping Dogs.