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Dishonored: A closer look with Arkane Studios Harvey Smith

Recently, we were lucky enough to get a peek at Arkane Studios’ latest game, Dishonored, in London. Whilst there we got the chance to check out the gameplay and talk to a few of the team, including lead designer Harvey Smith, about the dark world of Dunwall and just how fun it is to be a supernatural assassin.

Dishonored features Corvo, an elite guard of the Empress who is out for revenge after being framed for the assassination by Lord Regent. Corvo is seen laying in a prison when he is visited by someone known as “The Outsider” who grants him a second chance at revenge, brands him with his mark and sets him free.

Corvo is determined to clear his name, so armed with his wits, supernatural powers like teleportation and possession and brutal weapons such as crossbows, guns and swords, off he goes to do just that. This mixture of power and arms helps dictate the gameplay to come, so whether you decide to complete missions by running in all guns blazing and destroying everyone in your path or sneak through without killing anyone, even the bosses, will be entirely up to you.

Talking us through the gameplay was lead designer Harvey Smith who has worked on games such as Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. He certainly wasn’t shy about letting us know how excited he was about the game and who can blame him when you have a game which looks this good.

“This game has come a long way so far and we are really happy and excited to finally show it to people,” he explained as he began to show us the trailer. This particular footage featured Corvo fighting his way through a group of armed guards, and it’s something which sparked Smith into talking about what makes Dishonored so special – how replayable the story is.

“There is tons of replayability with Dishonored, I mean you can play the entire game killing everyone you see and getting into fights with NPCs, using all the abilities you have and then replay the game and sneak through each level.” Harvey tells us. “There’s loads of different ways to get to each target like going through the front door or sneaking on the roof, so you can play it and get a completely different experience on the second playthrough.”

Watching this theory being put into action was amazing. We saw Corvo slicing and shooting his way through waves of guards and watched his supernatural powers came into play. As Corvo has the mark of The Outsider, he is able to wield otherworldly powers, one of which is the ability to freeze time. In one scene, Corvo is confronted by some alerted guards who begin to open fire. Using the freeze time power he casually shoots at each enemy, steps out of the way and watches as time is restored and their bullets hit the wall whilst Corvo’s hit their faces. As Corvo gets to the main target, he bursts through the door and is engaged in a fight with the enemy, only to end with a bit of swordplay followed by an airblast attack which blows the enemy through a window and sends him plummeting to his death. After watching this brutal display of action, we are shown the exact same mission only played completely differently. Those guards he encountered and killed are now silently taken down and placed in the shadows so no one will be alerted. In order to sneak past one of the guards he simply possesses him and just casually walks through. It’s as if we are watching a completely different game. Then, unexpectedly, we see him jump off a ledge. Harvey then turns round and says “Oh guys check this out!” as we look Corvo is plummeting to his death. All of a sudden, in mid-air, Corvo possesses the guard standing under the ledge, stopping him from crashing to the floor in a mess, Harvey then turns back and says, “By the way we only found out you could do that recently, there are still things you can do in this game that we don’t even know about.”

The supernatural powers are all very impressive but there are a lot to use and it seems to be very overwhelming to be using so many powers at one time. After the presentation I asked Harvey if all the powers are available at a certain point in the game, he replied “oh no, in order to get the powers you have to collect runes. They unlock them but you can only have a few of the powers and get them powerful enough to be effective, you have to pick certain ones.” This adds an amazing amount of replayability.

As for Dunwall itself, it’s a very Gothic looking town which is riddled with plague victims who are shunned by society. This theme is shown throughout the game. It is a very dark town with a 19th century styled culture which is based visually on London. The industrial town is claustrophobic and many of the residents are sick with plague, leaving the healthy to dispose of them by sectioning off parts of town or killing them with their specially designed man operated towers of death, known as “Tall Boys” . Viktor Antonov – Visual design director – told me why he decided to base it in old London:

“When I first started to design for Dishonored, I decided not to look into other video games to avoid cliché, we took a lot of pictures around London to research what defines British architecture. I liked the idea of the old 19th century horse and carriages and how the suspension system looked ,so I wanted to incorporate that style to the overall theme of Dunwall.”

Lately, games have not had much replayability other than completing them on harder difficulties, Dishonored looks like it’s going to change that. This game has surprised us with its diversity and detailed looking level design. It is an extraordinary game with an extraordinary theme and breathtaking visual effects and gameplay. Hopefully Dishonored will be a stand out game this year and won’t be overlooked by the fierce competition of amazing games on the horizon.

Edited On 26 Apr, 2012

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