Bethesda's Dishonored: New details in the wild

Spells, gadgets and "analog AI" in first-person stealth/adventure

New details on Bethesda's freshly-announced Dishonored have emerged, as US retailer mag Game Informer arrives in the hands of subscribers.


Developed by Arkane Studios (Arx Fatalis, Dark Messiah of Might & Magic), due out in 2012 and first rumoured earlier this month, Dishonored is described as "a game about assassination where you don't have to kill anyone."

The most exciting thing about the steampunk-enthused title, however, is the talent behind it; Arkane founder Raf Colantonio teams with Deus Ex lead designer Harvey Smith as co-creative director, while Viktor Antonov, the man who designed Half-Life 2's iconic City 17, is lending his talents to Dishonored's world.

According to GI, the game has you playing as Corvo, the bodyguard of an Empress who's falsely imprisoned for her murder by the corrupt Lord Regent.

But Corvo has a set of interesting supernatural powers, which players can combine to create interesting effects such as pausing time, summoning allied beasts or possessing an animal.

Here are the GI details stripped bare, care of the chaps on NeoGAF:

  • 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.