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The DNA of Dishonored

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

Dark Souls

In a recent interview, Smith and Colontonio were asked if all the abilities Corvo would be given would break the game. Their response? “That’s the point!” Given this, it could seem strange to compare Dishonored to the harshly difficult and demanding Souls games, but looking at the two a little more carefully, while it’s never credited as a direct influence, it’s clear the games have some common ground.

Dark Souls and Demons Souls both require the player to design and execute a plan. Charging into battle while swinging your sword around aimlessly may work in Dynasty Warriors, but trying that in the Souls games is a really quick way to get yourself killed. In order to succeed, a player must know their abilities, develop their character accordingly, and use their skills and the lay of the land to their advantage.


Corvo may be more durable than Thief’s Garrett, but he’s a far cry from the bullet sponge characters in Gears of War. Should a player not properly use the abilities he’s given, they will no doubt meet a quick end. Sure, you could attempt to gain entry into a building by running face first into the pile of guards patrolling the entrance, hoping to overtake them on firepower and muscle alone, but looking around and studying your surroundings will pay off greater dividends. Why not blink (teleport) around the rooftops? What about possessing a fish and swimming through the sewers? How about using a swarm of rats to create a diversion? Focusing on this element of gameplay, it's easy to see how just as in Dark Souls, tactical planning and knowledge of the landscape gives you a distinct advantage.

There’s also a certain feel the games hold in common, especially when it comes to environment. While it’s true all the games on this list so far have dark, foreboding environments, Dark Souls takes this to a relentless level. Characters are surrounded by ruin, vermin, plague, and death at all times, generating an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness as a result. In order to keep this from completely swallowing up the player and making the experience too oppressing, the designers went through great lengths to create some truly beautiful and fantastic environments for the player to visit. To further emphasize this point, one of the limited ‘tags’ a player can write in the environment is the phrase “gorgeous view!”

 Dark Beauty

Likewise, while most of the gameplay we’ve seen from Dishonored so far has been of a mission in the Golden Cat, the design team has stated that the environment in the brothel was created to counterbalance the bleak ruin of the outside world, which has been described as desolate and unforgiving. Swarms of aggressive rats move around the streets, along with plague-infected “weepers,” so named because the disease causes blood to hemorrhage from their eyes. Ruined homes dot the landscape, sometimes with bold red Xs painted on them to indicate the presence of plague. Walls of light, which reduce those who trespass their boundaries to ash, segregate quarantined sections of the cities, and corpses wrapped in linen line the streets awaiting pick up and disposal, so long as the rats don’t nibble them to bones first.

As a final, quick parallel, Dark Souls puts high emphasis on RPG elements, despite being an action game. Dishonored does not rely quite as heavily on the numbers game as Dark Souls, but there will be in-game mystical equipment called bone charms. These don’t change the game quite the same way armor and shields do in your typical RPG, but they can be used to enhance player abilities.

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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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