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I put a spell, a sword, and a gun on you.
Don't mess with Corvo. I'm not sure why supervillains think that pissing people off who can kill them—and then not finishing them off—is a good idea. I can understand this from superheroes, but being soft and careless does not a breathing supervillian make. Corvo will make sure of that.
Framed for the assassination of The Empress by the Lord Regent, Corvo immediately loses his position as the royal bodyguard when she is spotted dead in his arms. It's not certain what happens to him thereafter, but he eventually escapes to spend the rest of the game exacting his vengeance. To that end, he encounters a mystical figure called "The Outsider", an ambiguous godlike entity who controls the magic of the game's Neo-Victorian, steampunk world and who offers Corvo a surge of supernatural powers.
The Outsider has been described as "part angel and part devil", which plays perfectly into how Corvo can evoke the power of traditionally dark magic, like possession, wind blasts, and plague animal summoning (death by rats does not sound fun), in his search for truth and justice. Similar to Subject Delta in BioShock 2, also co-developed by Arkane Studios, he can spend blue essence to cast a combination of deadly spells, upgraded by uncovering runes and Bone Charms, as a complement to his legendary prowess with guns and melee weapons. One particularly wicked sequence that the developers were keen to share has Corvo stop time right after a patrol guard fires a bullet, possess the guard, walk him in front of the bullet, release possession and time, and gleefully watch the guard choke on his own blood. If karma is a bitch, then Corvo owns her.
The flexibility of his powers extends to the combat, which if you so choose, can be ignored entirely. Every boss can be handled non-lethally, and every guard can be spared. It's more challenging and much less sadistically fun having to sneak around and search for alternate paths, but there is a certain pleasure finding crafty ways to take out a target. Sometimes that means teleporting behind cover, possessing a fish that can swim through the building pipes, or pulling some strings with the religious Abbey of the Everyman. How many lives you spare or kill will be reflected in the environment in some manner, like more rats if you're more ruthless, and will determine the ending you receive. Some story-based decisions will also have an effect, but your gameplay choices are as, if not more, important.
If the screenshots don't already speak to its intriguingly unusual art style, Dishonored has a deliberately bleak but intense aesthetic—a severe elegance—tailored uniforms, smoothly cut masonry, geometric landscaping. It merges the regal qualities of London and steampunk without including the usually overhanded use of pipes and clockwork to create a distorted reality that doesn't point to the past, present, or future, but all three simultaneously. The intentional lack of green in the color palette suggests the unnatural undertones of the detailed, cel-shaded parallel world. It's washed out, weathered, flushed, like an antique doll face.
Innovation is scarce, even among new IPs, and everyone knows that people may clamor for innovation but they're not easily impressed. Dishonored won't have that problem. It is now one of this editor's most anticipated games for E3 and for when it releases some time later this year.