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The DNA of Dishonored

Five games/series that reflect the heritage and influences of Dishonored


To not list the Thief games here would be an almost criminal disservice to those who have followed Dishonored’s development. From day one, co-creators Harvey Smith and Raphael Colontonio have pointed to Thief first and foremost as an overarching influence on Dishonored, and to fans of the Thief franchise, such as myself, its influences have been obvious. Subtle things, like the way an unconscious or dead body looks when picked up by the player are clear callbacks to a franchise the design team apparently knows and loves. Smith himself worked on Thief: Deadly Shadows as a designer, and has openly stated that he enjoyed Thief II’s “Life of the Party” mission, and modeled aspects of Dishonored after it.

Dishonored frequently encourages its players to keep to the shadows and remain undetected using back alleys, waterways, sewers, and rooftops (which Thief referred to as “The Thief’s Highway.”) Should the player engage in a confrontation with an NPC, it’s usually best to do so as quickly and quietly as possible. In Thief, Garrett (the character the player inhabits) wears no armor and has limited abilities when it comes to swordplay, making open confrontation a deadly proposition. In Dishonored, while your character seems more durable and is an accomplished fighter, the designers, as well as those who have had hands on time with the title have stated the rogue’s approach is the more rewarding experience. It allows you to explore more freely, netting more loot, and it also keeps the universal chaos level (we’ll get to that later) under control.


Dishonored casts the player as an outcast, much like Garrett, who finds himself short of funds and resources. This leaves the character no choice but to loot and steal to survive and accomplish his goals. Other commonalities include the first person perspective, which Smith believes increases anxiety in tense situations, and the look and feel of Dunwall, the primary location for Dishonored, which has a lot in common with “The City” where Thief takes place.

Both Garrett and Corvo (the protagonist of Dishonored) have a collection of toys and gadgets that could make even Batman jealous. In thief, Garrett had, among other things, special arrows that could accomplish unique tasks, such as extinguishing candles and torches, dropping ropes from their point of contact, and even deploy carpet of moss across a noisy tile floor. Corvo will have access to smoke bombs, spring razor traps, sleeping darts, and exploding crossbow bolts and bullets.

Dishonored Shadows

Further ties have to do with the religious elements present in the games' respective stories. The Thief games spent a lot of time expanding on The Keepers, Hammerites, Mechanists, and Pagans, which comprise the religious orders and sub-orders of their world. Garrett also spent time dealing with supernatural creatures, both as allies and enemies. Dishonored has its own network of religious and political types. The main religion in Dunwall is The Abbey of the Everyman, headed by the High Overseer. While details are scarce, it seems that this religion has a lot to do with the rat plague, and is devoted to standing against a being known as The Outsider (the individual that empowers the protagonist early in the game). Judging by the nature of the story we’ve seen so far, it’s reasonable to assume the supernatural will play as major a role in Dishonored as it did in Thief.

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Julian Titus Senior Editor

08/17/2012 at 06:10 PM

Angelo, you're speaking my language. I haven't played Thief but I always wanted to. This could end up being a dark horse for game of the year consideration.


08/17/2012 at 06:58 PM


a=M117, b= dishonored, c= happy times

This was a pleasure to read Angelo. Every game on the list is amazing. I'm happy simply seeing games like Dark Souls and Bioshock get talked about, but the greatest thing is that they all lead to Dishonored in the end and influence the designers. Dishonored is the greatest surprise to show up in a long time. During E3 and post E3 I was oblivious to this game's existence. When you and Mike started turning me onto the game and telling me about it, I was shocked at how this under-the-radar game just snuck out of nowhere and immediatly got me to fall in love with the ideas its selling.

I haven't been this excited for a new IP since I started getting hyped for the release of Mass Effect 1 back in 07'. Bioshock was unforgettable and it was the greatest out-of-nowhere surprise to show up that year for me, but this time around I'm far more excited about Dishonored than I was for Bioshock. The actual gameplay in Bioshock never did it for me. Rapture was great, the narrative twist was great, but Bioshock and the Rapture setting are honestly just a one-time flash in the pan experience that won't work anymore for me. I don't want to go back to Rapture ever again, and I don't want the same Bioshock gameplay at all. It's absurd how much I love that game and how much of an impact it had on me, yet I can't stand playing it anymore.

In Dishonored, not only does the environment and narrative seem like it should be really interesting to explore (like Bioshock), but the gameplay seems like it will be a blast. I'm very excited for the gameplay, I think it will be the best part of the game. In terms of combat and exploration, I believe that the sneaking, spying, and hunting will be incredible in Dishonored. It's adding flavor from so many of my favorite experiences and games, but it seems like as a total package it will be more fun than those individual influences. This probably isn't fair to say since Bioshock Infinite is looking to be very different than Bioshock 1, but my hype over Infinite has faded a lot since I got interested in Dishonored. For some reason I feel like Dishonored is scratching my Bioshock itch and doing it better than Bioshock ever could. I don't know what "itch" it is that I'm talking about and why it makes me less interested in Bioshock, but I noticed that Dishonored just seems like it's giving me exactly what I want from a first person adventure/shooter.

I study a lot of my games, and I'm always playing in a game saying things like, "I wish they would've done this other thing. I wish they would've added these other features. I wish this level would've been designed with..." Well when I look at the gameplay videos for Dishonored I don't find myself wishing for revisions and redesigns, I just get excited to use all the tools they already have. It's not very often that I shut the fuck up while playing a game and just bask in it. I'm always complaining and trying to find ways to make games more fun. Dishonored looks so well made and fun that I just want to enjoy it and see what they did.

Our Take

Nick DiMola Director

09/06/2012 at 10:36 AM

I've been meaning to reply to this since before it was even posted, but life has not made that easy. That being said, Dishonored reminds me so strongly of Geist it's not even funny. The possession mechanics in first person, possession of a variety of creatures, etc, it's all very Geist-like.

I know that almost nobody has played the game, but it was a great concept that was a bit stunted by its execution. Regardless, Dishonored looks to get it right, which is making me EXTREMELY excited for the game. Combine that vibe with all of the titles Angelo listed here and Dishonored is looking like it might have some GOTY potential.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

09/06/2012 at 12:20 PM

I remember being really impressed with Geist at my first E3, and then my second E3, and then I never got around to playing it when it finally came out. Always wanted to though.

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