When Bethesda first announced Dishonored, a first person stealth/action game with a steam punk aesthetic, it was hard to figure out. Developer Arkane Studios, who previously helped with the development of BioShock 2, was a relatively unproven developer working for a publisher with a prestigious track record.

The game itself seemed like a riff on the BioShock formula, a combination of melee and weapon combat in one hand and magic-based abilities in the other, and the verdict was out. And then, when first trailers for the game were released, gamers began to warm up to the idea of the game.

Now, having experienced the game in preview form, we are happy to report that the game is very much a product independent of Bethesda, but also completely deserved of being included on their slate of upcoming titles. Read on for our full impressions of the game.

Arkane Studios main goal with the development of Dishonored was to create a first person action game that exists in the stealth genre, but isn’t bound by any of those qualifications. Even beyond that, though, they simply wanted to create a compelling gameplay experience in a rich and detailed world.

Dishonored Gameplay Preview - Dunwall

That world is called Dunwall, has a very unique aesthetic, and is extremely focused on whale oil. Players inhabit the role of Corvo, a master assassin who is out for revenge. Story specifics save for a broad overview of the world were hard to come by, but all gamers need to know is their main goal, mission to mission, is to assassinate a target or set of targets.

Assassinating targets, especially recently, has oversaturated the market, but the way in which Arkane presents the player with options is totally unique. Sure, the idea of multiple ways in which to complete an objective has been introduced in a wide variety of games, but this really is an experience unique to the player’s sensibilities.

To better illustrate that point Arkane showed a mission from the game that sees Corvo trying to eliminate two brothers hidden within a hotel known as the Golden Cat, and played through it twice, in two different ways. The first way was a more stealth oriented play through, that focused mainly on the traversal-based abilities in the game, while the other, as the devs put it, was going to feature them killing every body.

Dishonored Gameplay Preview - Melee Combat

In the stealth-focused play through, Corvo would use his teleport ability (called Blink) to warp across small gaps and remain hidden from enemies. It felt a little bit like a cheat, being able to instantly warp across chasms and gaps, but the power is controlled by line of sight and ability to orient the blink marker correctly.

Along with the Blink ability the stealth play through focused heavily on the possession ability, which allows the player to transport their essence into animals and humans, traverse through a secret passageway, and then transport out. It’s unclear how the ability works per say — why can the player transport into a fish and then back into a human — but it is extremely useful.

Using those two abilities, and a whole handful of backstabs and throat slits, Corvo dispatched of his two targets, and made a swift exit. The stealth oriented completion of the objectives, while less focused on combat, was still extremely action-oriented, and featured a few clever options like dispatching of the first target by overfilling their sauna with steam.

Dishonored Gameplay Preview - Wind Blast

On the other side of the coin was the more action-oriented play through, which featured more dagger-on-sword combat and some more offensive abilities. The goal was still the same, get to the two brothers and eliminate them, but rather than concern themselves with guards, the devs went on assault mode.

While the left hand is always equipped with a pretty handy dagger, the left hand, along with being the vessel from which the abilities come, also can play host to handguns, crossbows, and grenades. The gunplay wasn’t all that unique, but coupled with an ability that lets the player stop time it was definitely exciting.

Rather than a traditional time-stopping mechanic, though, this ability keeps every object not touching the player bound to the rules of time, meaning that bullets fired won’t hit their targets until time progress resumes. This nifty trick results in a room full of enemies going from standing on their feet unsuspecting of anything to lying on the floor dead.

The Blink ability and the possession ability were still being utilized during this second play through, as were the wind blast power featured in the pre-E3 trailer. Arkane might say that they wanted to create a stealth-oriented action game, but an offensive approach works just as well.

Dishonored Gameplay Preview - Assassination

Going into E3 2012, Dishonored ranked fairly high on our list of must-see games, and it definitely did not disappoint. Hands-on experience with the game, and more details about the game, post-demo, highlighted a deep stealth-based experience that allows the player’s preferences to dictate their approach.

While Dishonored didn’t appear as polished as Irrational Games‘ E3 2011 Game of Show it certainly scratches a very similar itch. The varied combat and traversal options make this a title deserved of living under Bethesda’s banner and the intriguing premise should entice gamers that are typically turned off by the publisher’s more fantastical fare. Dishonored is a title worth keeping an eye on, and once gamers get a hand on it they will certainly be surprised.

Make sure to follow all of our E3 2012 coverage, including more details on Dishonored.

What do you think of Dishonored? Does it look like a unique take on the stealth and action genre?

Dishonored releases October 9, 2012 for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.

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