Revenge is probably one of the most universal stories we tell. It's in practically everything from Star Trek, to Moby Dick, to God of War. Now we have Dishonored.
The main character, Corvo Atano, is a former member of the Empress' court who has been framed for her assassination. Naturally, he seeks to clear his name and right the wrongs. Skilled in swordplay, sorcery, stealth, and sharpshooting, Altano will explore a litany of non-linear levels, employing all of his skills.
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Dishonored takes place a genuinely steampunk, neo-Victorian setting (not unlike Bioshock: Infinite). For example, "electronics" are powered by steam and whale oil, though precisely how is some crazy form of demon magic. It's a great setting, but at this point there isn't anything unique about it. Still, the execution is great from what I've seen and played.
The demo opens in a dark corner with an objective to capture a target; there were some guards nearby, and several means to dispatch them, allowing the player to choose their own weapon à la Skyrim.
If there were a continuum between first-person shooters and role-playing games, then Dishonored would lean quite a bit more towards the RPG side. You collect experience, level up, and develop your personal take on Atano.
Choosing the non-violent route, thinking it would at least be a bit more fun, I equipped a crossbow with some sleeping darts and started picking dudes off, sneaking forward, and dragging their bodies into the same dark corner from whence I spawned. I then proceeded to loot their bodies and move along my way. This standard stealth process felt very smooth, but I never really felt like I was cloaked by the shadows, somewhat like sneaking in Deus Ex: Human Revolution as opposed to a heavily modded Skyrim.
Moving through a dark alley, I was presented with several branches, people to interact with and different ways to approach the objective. Here, the non-linear level design begins to present itself. You can help, hurt, avoid, sneak, stab, or "hack" your way through. It allows and even encourages multiple ways to play and explore. This is all very reminiscent of earlier FPS/RPGs like Deus Ex, System Shock, and even Thief, to a degree. It's well done and subtly implemented such that the mechanics aren't immediately obvious, rewarding those players who do more than just mindlessly pursue an objective.
After knocking the target unconscious, I carried him back to the extraction point after dodging several more enemies and something that seemed like a Strider from Half-life 2, disabling or sneaking past each of them on my way to an awaiting ship. I managed the entire level without killing a single person. Which is rare in games, and I can honestly say is the only time I got to do that all E3.
I'm really excited for Dishonored's potential as a slightly different take on the neo-Victorian setting, and I can't wait for the chance to play the entirety of it this October 9.