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Dishonored - Definitive Edition - now 60fps on Xbox Series


The Sarge
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Bethesda’s next game is a first-person stealth/action adventure, and we’ve got the first look at it in our upcoming August issue. There are dozens of reasons why you should care about this weird-looking game you've never heard of. A few of the most important ones are after the jump.

Arkane Studios and founder Raf Colantonio have made memorable games in the past (Arx Fatalis, Dark Messiah of Might & Magic) that ultimately suffered from a lack of publisher support. Bethesda Softworks believes in their vision and is giving them all the time, money, and development help (regular meetings with guys like The Elder Scrolls' Todd Howard don't make your game worse) they need. Harvey Smith, one of the main minds behind the first two Deus Ex games and a legendary veteran of game development, shares the vision and is on board as Dishonored's co-creative director along with Colantonio. Viktor Antonov designed Half-Life 2's iconic City 17 and is lending his talents to Dishonored's world. This is a perfect storm for creating a game that shatters the mold that first-person action games have built for themselves in the mainstream.

We've seen the game running, and now we share Colantonio and Smith's vision too. Dishonored is the antithesis of a edge-of-your-seat roller-coaster ride. It's a game about assassination where you don't have to kill anyone. It's a game about infiltration where you can set up traps and slaughter the entire garrison of an aristocrat's mansion rather than sneak in. It's a game about brutal violence where you can slip in and out of a fortified barracks with nobody ever knowing you were there. It's a game about morality and player choice where the world you create is based on your actions, not navigating conversation trees.

Dishonored is a game we can't wait to tell you more about.

On top of a world-exclusive look at a brand-new franchise, August is our E3 issue. We stormed the concrete crucible of the Los Angeles Convention Center and returned with previews of our top 50 games of the show, plus analysis of the major press conferences and new hardware.

As always, we have a solid month of exclusive online content lined up to complement the extensive feature in our print magazine. Come on back on Monday for your first taste of what it means to be Dishonored.

Will post scans when they go up.

:)

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Loved Arx, Messiah was ok. They do seem to suffer from not having enough dev time with their games. I am happy to know they're up to something interesting though, just with having bethesda behind them does that mean more bugs than normal.

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Viktor Antonov conceptualised the city for the now shitcanned The Crossing for Arkane too, seems ZeniMax are really quite serious about cornering the AAA market, wonder when they will reveal the last Shinji Mikami and ex-Starbreeze Studios founders games.

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I have to say, those soundbites about the game sound amazing - and I'm an absolute sucker for first-person games with options beyond shooting, and for freeform stealth games in general, so this sounds just perfect to me. That Harvey Smith is working on it is just icing on the cake. And considering that the HL2 link is to a guy behind one of the few things I actually liked about that game, I'm very excited. Good stuff.

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Getting to know Dishonored,

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Who are you?

Players take on the role of Corvo, the Empress’ legendary bodyguard. As the game starts, Corvo is falsely imprisoned for her murder. What the corrupt Lord Regent behind the coup didn’t realize is that Corvo is legendary for a reason. He’s not only a skilled combatant accomplished in the art of not being seen, but Corvo has a suite of supernatural powers that combine with his natural talents and unusual gadgets to make him one of the most lethal men in the known world.

Why should you care?

Even if you haven’t played them, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Thief and Deus Ex. One of the main minds behind those two games, Harvey Smith, is the co-creative director of Dishonored along with Raf Colantonio, the founder of developer Arkane Studios. The two share a vision of a game that gives players the power to be creative with their skills and tactics, and invites them to come up with interesting solutions to the obstacles in front of them. Arkane is known for its immersive first-person gaming (Arx Fatalis, Dark Messiah of Might & Magic), and the power of a talent-driven publisher in Bethesda (The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Fallout 3) behind the team is promising.

How are they going to do that?

Dishonored has several major elements that combine to create its unique gameplay: mobility, powers & gadgets, environment, and AI. The trick is that a single power doesn’t just do damage or heal you. You can combine them organically to create interesting effects. Stop time and knock a bunch of stuff off a table in one direction then book it in another, so the guards search for you in the wrong place. Summon a swarm of rats to attack one guard, but possess one of the rats and escape in the chaos. Every problem has as many solutions as you want it to.

What’s the catch?

It’s an assassination game that reacts to how violent you are. An unusual “chaos” system tracks how much collateral damage you cause, and the game world changes as a result of your actions. Unlike a light/dark side meter, though, it’s a behind-the-scenes element that affects story decisions without punishing the player or pushing them to play one way or another.

When can I learn more?

Soon! You can get ten pages worth of details in the print magazine, and we’ll be dropping new online content, from video interviews to an interactive map of Dishonored’s world, throughout the month. We asked a lot of questions, and Smith and Colantonio had a lot to say. For starters, on Wednesday we’ll share a video that breaks down why you should be interested in the team at Arkane even if you haven’t played any of their previous games.

http://www.gameinformer.com/games/dishonored/b/xbox360/archive/2011/07/11/getting-to-know-dishonored.aspx

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More gameplay details courtesy of a guy on GAF:

- The Outsider: "This supernatural being is the source of all magic in Dishonored's world, including the many powers at the player's disposal." It's described as being "part devil, part angel, and entirely ambiguous." They mention that you will meet the Outsider at some point.

- The Heart: "The so-called heart is a mystical object that beats faster as you face your objectives, giving the player some basic guidance to keep them on track in Dishonored's large levels. More disturbingly, it whispers directly into your mind, pulling secrets from the consciousness of others and sensing interesting things within the world that lie beyond mortal senses." They note that you can learn something about every named character in the game with it and that using it may come with consequences.

- The powers that you do have won't include stuff like fireballs. One of the powers gives you the ability to summon a swarm of AI controlled rats that react realistically in the world. They'll clean the bones of downed enemies which will make it easier for you to hide them. They point out that the swarm could cause trouble for the player if an NPC freaks out since that could cause more guards to come to the area. The rats can also attack the player if there isn't a more appealing target. You can also possess one of them in order to escape through tunnels

- You'll be able to possess animals or humans. Humans will have to be unaware of your presence in order to possess them

- Other powers will include Bend Time, Windblast ect.

- Powers can be upgraded with runes. They note that you won't find enough runes on a single playthrough to upgrade everything.

- Gadgets will include spring razor traps, sticky grenades, and different types of ammunition like sleep darts.

- You'll be able to collect whalebone charms that will give you certain buffs like mana refill or a health boost. You'll only be able to find "12 or so" of the 40 whalebone's in a single playthrough. They'll be selected randomly from a master list.

- They refer to the AI as "analog AI". They'll have a number of characteristics that are modified on the fly instead of having a simple alert or neutral as you find in most games. One example is that two guards talking to each other will have narrower "vision cones" and their hearing will be duller in comparison to a guard patrolling on his own. Light, mental state, ambient noise ect. will all impact how the AI reacts.

- They're trying to avoid having the player feel like the AI is cheating. One way they're doing that is by rarely spawning new enemies, and when they do it'll only be because an alarm went off. When they do spawn they'll try to make it realistic such as having reinforments come through the backdoor of a mansion instead of just magically having them pop up near the player.

- They talk about different ways to disable a watchtower. One is a traditional way of avoiding the spotlight and enemies while moving slowly. "In Dishonored, however, you could alternatively climb a building and use a combination of celerity (supernatural speed), your natural double-jump, and blink (a short-range teleport) to cover a surprising distance in the air and land on the top of the tower itself."

- Their lead level designer wanted them to remove celerity-double jump-blink combo once he saw it being used because of a fear that people would use it to get out of the map

- They note that the levels are designed to encourage a lot of vertical experimentation

- On the type of experience that they want to deliver "Games can either be described as rollercoasters - which is all crafted and very high-drama - or that time when you were 16 and you and your friend broke into an abandoned house and you had the most intense moments waiting for the door to open, and then there were moments where, 'Ah, I expected something grand to happen but nothing happened; it was just an empty room.'" He (Harvey Smith) said that they want the latter.

- Listening to random conversations going on in the world may give you hints on how to complete objectives differently

- At one point in their demo they were shown a thug going after a woman in an alley. If the player just went right in they'd be ambushed by the thugs friends. You have multiple ways to rescue her, one of which is to find and take out the ambushers before rescuing the woman

- You can go around causing a lot of bloodshed or you can go with a much more clean/stealthy route. Causing lots of bloodshed will cause chaos in the world. "You'll be notified when your actions have raised or lowered the level of chaos, but it's an under-the-hood story mechanics rather than an explicit light/dark or paragon/renegade score with gameplay effects."

- "Whatever the specifics may be, the fate of this grim world is determined over a linear series of levels that largely revolve around eliminating one target or another within the Lord Regent's corrupt regime. This isn't an Elder Scrolls game that turns you loose to explore the world at your leisure, though everyone's experience will be different as they choose their path and affect the simulation in radically different ways based on their gameplay choices."

- There are only a few dialogue choices in the game and they only come up when you need to make a real choice. Most of the cutscenes are handeled while you stay in first person.

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Couple more pics,

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Preview

It turns out the rats in Arkane's Dishonored serve a much larger purpose than you might initially expect. When the appropriate powers are acquired it's possible to spawn rats into a fight to distract and even strip the skin from aggressors. You can possess them as well, taking the form of a rat to slip through small sewer grates and around enemies to reach a destination in safety.

If the idea of utilizing rats as a method of attack and exploration is entirely unpalatable, it seems you can ignore it entirely in Dishonored. It's a stealth action game that blends the multi-path exploration elements of Deus Ex with the combat variety of BioShock, all set in a fictional world designed by Viktor Antonov of Half-Life 2 fame. The mission-based excursions are isolated – this isn't an open world game – but within each space it's apparent there's plenty to do aside from the main quest. You can explore to find items, coins and more to power up your character and select skills, get side quests from NPCs and pick up blueprints to more skillfully interact with pieces of technology. All your actions of senseless violence or deadly precision are fed into a chaos system that will eventually affect how the game progresses. Arkane stresses this isn't a system of good or evil – the game isn't morally judging you for what you do – but the chaos rating will stick with you throughout the play experience and potentially alter the path of the story.

You play as a bodyguard, Corvo, wrongfully accused of murdering the Empress he was supposed to protect. Eventually Dishonored shifts to years after the accusation, and though many story details aren't yet available, it's clear things haven't exactly gone well. The city in which you operate, an industrial fishing town filled with tightly packed corridors of peeling apartment complexes and stretches of murky water, is suffering from the effects of a plague. There's a wealth gap along with a health gap, as the upper classes and their guards tend to hoard the elixirs that stave off the illnesses' effects.

The world is a mix of old-fashioned and futuristic elements. A simple pistol, for instance, bears an antiquated, matchlock look, but a band of blue energy ripples along the barrel. City streets bear similarities to a London of a past age, but streets are separated with gates of rippling energy and security turrets that sweep areas of importance with floodlights. To bypass these obstacles it's possible to fight your way through, or you can sneak through patches of darkness, teleport short distances and climb up to rooftops or take advantage of your technical knowledge. By discovering blue prints scattered around the world it's possible to flip the charge on energy doors so you can pass safely but hostiles are fried. Or you can remove the whale oil batteries and disable the doors entirely.

At times Dishonored's gameplay has a Thief-like feel. With a knife in hand you can slink by in the shadows, observing enemies from afar and listening to their conversations to pick up additional bits of story. They'll have patrol routes around streets and through interiors, though sometimes the exact routes aren't entirely predictable. Enemies may stop to observe a piece of art in a hallway, or warm their hands on a fire, which can potentially ruin your plans to sneak up behind and pluck a key from their belt or to choke them into submission without creating any noise.

When entering new rooms it's possible to peek through keyholes to observe the interior. If it's a full of enemies and you're tired of stealth, you can ditch the quiet routine entirely and use a magic wind blast to shatter the door. Then a time-stop can be initiated that freezes all onscreen but you, letting you dart between enemies and slice them up with your knife before they even have a chance to react.

The mission shown in the demo was broken into two parts. Infiltration was first, winding through city streets and across rooftops. Then, once the target was taken down – an aristocrat smoking a long cigarette in an opulent apartment complex – alarms buzzed on all sides and guards, turrets and streamed to the scene. This included mechanical bipedal walkers numerous meters high capable of firing explosive bolts. Though their attack power was significant, their turning speed wasn't fast, meaning a circle-strafe was an effective way to create an opening to take a few shots. Again using the time-stop ability lets you stop the explosive projectiles in midair, and it's even possible to bat them back at the walkers.

Though the area wasn't shown, between all missions you'll have access to a wide variety of upgrades in a central hub world. You can acquire new weapons, like one-handed crossbows, along with new skills. It's up to you whether you want to save up for a high-level skill early on, or use resources more freely to acquire a number of lower level abilities. This factors into how Arkane wants to reward exploration. If you look in every corner you'll bring back more resources that can lead to unlocking a much more versatile set of powers and weapons. Or you can blaze through, ignore many of the alternate paths, and concentrate on brute force and main quest goals. Choosing this path can have violent results, as special slow-motion knife kills can be initiated to decapitate foes and dispatch them in several other gruesome ways.

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Eurogamer Preview:

"Choice and consequence" may be the action-adventure cliché du jour, but being able to define your own combat style through a suite of overlapping toys is definitely up there too. Pretty much ever since BioShock invited us to paralyse splicers with electricity and then whack 'em with a wrench, everyone's been at it. Typically though, with great power comes great limitation, and in order to keep worlds like Rapture from descending into anarchy mechanically as well as narratively, designers have become jailors, building environments around you like gilded cages that lock you away from too much imagination.

So it's pretty interesting to sit down and watch Arkane Studios' Harvey Smith and Raf Colantonio play around with the tools you get in Dishonored, their first-person stealth game about an assassin with magical powers, because they insist they've taken the opposite approach. Whenever they introduce a new power or tool during development, within hours someone on the team invents an exploit that kind of breaks the game, like coupling the high-jumping ability with a partial-teleport to travel vast distances and meddle around in the rafters of the world. Rather than shut that option down again, they then think about how they can design levels that benefit from it.

Dishonored is set in a retro-future industrial world where human civilisation is crowded onto four islands in a large and turbulent ocean, and this adventure takes place in the whaling city of Dunwall, ruled over by an oppressive regime against whom your character, a voiceless blank slate called Corvo, has a grudge to bear. Corvo's been wrongly accused of murdering his employer, the Empress, and the game is about his quest to visit revenge on the people who framed him. In the demo we're seeing at QuakeCon, Corvo is on the tail of a dodgy lawyer who is rinsing the local population for their homes and possessions, but it's up to you how you prosecute your agenda.

Armed with various powers in your left hand and a short, cutlass-like blade in your right, you can hack and slash your way through melee combat, but you can also do things like bending time – pausing enemies and queuing up bullets a couple of inches from their faces, then unpausing – or blasting them out of windows on bursts of concentrated air. You can also possess people and animals – like rats – and use them to travel around, scurrying through ducts into servants' quarters and then resuming Corvo's original shape once you're inside. Again, it's pregnant with game-breaking potential, but Arkane doesn't seem to mind.

Smith and Colantonio answer most questions with examples of combinations people have come up with. For example, strapping a mine to a rat, possessing the rat and walking it into a crowd of enemies, then possessing something else and getting out of there before the mine explodes. Another one they rather like is pausing time just after an enemy has fired his gun, possessing him and walking him in front of his own bullet, then getting out of there and letting him suicide himself.

Dunwall is an interesting place to do all these things. Arkane's art director is Viktor Antonov, the guy who imagined Half-Life 2's City 17, and his touch is evident right from the first frame of our demo, staring at the reflection of a bleak, overcast sky in a glassy ocean that stretches as far as the horizon. There's a whaling ship coming in – its blubbery mass suspended above the deck by a huge H-frame crane. There's no electricity in Dunwall – although this is not Earth, the architecture and period dress is decidedly Victorian – but the volatile whale oil has recently been harnessed into various echoes of Nikolai Tesla, like Wall of Light barricades that zap anything that passes through them into mists of blood.

Dunwall is also in the grip of a plague, spread by the swarms of rats that clog the streets. They approach the player or dead bodies and feast on them in daylight, munching loudly amidst the scarlet haze of disintegrating flesh. The local government is using the plague as a good excuse to harvest and purge whatever takes their fancy. Everything's in some way corrupt.

As well as the central objective, you can also explore the world around you to try to find hard evidence of the lawyer's corruption, or other tools that you can benefit from – like blueprints that allow you to hack the Walls of Light so they let you through but aren't so kind to pursuing guards.

Every significant action you perform has a potential ripple effect on events later on – especially negative actions like killing civilians or guards, which feed into the game's Chaos system. The more of this chaos you set in motion over time, the more your options change. A character who discourages your violence may choose not to support you – or even betray you – further down the line if you ignore his advice, for instance. Or areas of the world may be more hostile to your presence.

You can always choose not to kill. Dishonored – as perhaps befits a game designed by the men who made Deus Ex and Arx Fatalis – is an assassin game where you don't have to assassinate anyone. Silence, shadow, occlusion and distance protect you from discovery as you stalk side streets and rooftops, and by exploring all your options you can even find ways to eliminate your target without actually killing them. The developers estimate only one per cent of players will want to take this path, but they evidently care about that one per cent, allowing them to save anywhere – even on console – so they can try to preserve that invisibility by recalling earlier states.

Arkane clearly wants you to experiment, too, allowing for partial failure all over the place. In our demo, Corvo sneaks into the lawyer's home and makes it to his office – lurking in shadows, peering through keyholes and waiting for guards to pause in front of paintings or warm their hands by fireplaces to sneak past on the way – and eventually confronts and kills him in a blaze of magical abilities. But if you do alert the lawyer, you can continue – he'll cower somewhere, or run away, and that will change the way the mission unfolds but won't stop you from succeeding in it.

Games like Dishonored often have a sort of purity problem here, where being discovered feels like a shoddier outcome, and it remains to be seen how that will pan out, but there seems to be enough interesting content around every corner to distract you from that notion, like a final battle with Tall Boys – tough, shielded enemies on stilts who fire rockets at you.

Dishonored looks rough around the edges at the moment. Some scenes, like the arrival of the whaling ship, closely followed by a quick eavesdrop on a pair of guards dumping plague corpses in the sea, are polished and compelling. Others, like the ascent through the lawyer's house with repeated guard chatter and slightly clunky NPC routes, are still getting there.

We also still have much to see – like the progression system through which you accumulate your abilities, based around collecting runes – and much to understand, like Corvo's link to the supernatural world and its role within Dunwall and the surrounding Pandyssian Continent. But as first impressions go, this is a beguiling one, sumptuously potent. After so often being invited to use our imaginations but only up to a point, it's exciting to see a game that perhaps watched that Would You Kindly moment in Rapture once upon a time and thought: well then, we better let them do what they want from now on.

It's also quite amusing that the level we saw was called Eminent Domain, because part of me did sit there thinking "compulsory purchase".

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  • 2 weeks later...

Not really news, but Alec Meer's report from Gamescom included this little bit at the end:

Well, game of the show for me so far is Arkane’s immersive sim Dishonored. I’ll be explaining why at far greater length at some point very soon, but the crux is that it appears to offer some of the finest elements of Thief, Hitman, Bioshock, Deus Ex and Half-Life 2 all rolled into a tantalising package that’s very much its own distinct entity.

His personal game of the show, a combination of some of the finest elements of Thief, Hitman, Bioshock, Deus Ex and Half-Life 2? Tasty :wub:

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