Dishonored must have been a tough game to pitch, because it truly defies categorization in this modern gaming industry. It encourages exploration, but it's not an open-world game. There are skills and equipment to level up and collect, but it's not an RPG. You'll hold a pistol and a crossbow in your left hand, but it's not a shooter. And though you can play the entire game without killing a soul, it's not a stealth game in the sense that Thief was. Getting spotted or breaking cover isn't an automatic death sentence; it simply means switching gears.
Developer: Arkane Studios
Release date: Oct. 9
It's set in Dunwall, a "retro-futuristic" steampunk city more than a little reminiscent of a fantastical and dark Victorian-era London. A plague borne by packs of hyper-aggressive rats has devastated the population, leaving the survivors sequestered in their homes guzzling snake-oil elixirs. Corvo, the Empress's right hand (and more, if the rumors are true), has just returned from a months-long sojourn in Dunwall's neighboring nations, his petitions for aid rejected, when the Empress is murdered in front of his eyes by assassins with otherworldly abilities. Naturally, Corvo gets blamed for it and thrown in a cell to await his execution.
Some months later he makes his escape, determined to rescue the Empress's kidnapped daughter by cooperating with a group of underground "Loyalists." He'll accomplish that mainly by eliminating, one-by-one, every treasonous perpetrator of the plot to murder the Empress.
Despite how awesome that sounds, the plot is rather color-by-numbers for the first half, though a second act full of twists and betrayals more than makes up for the slow start. Likewise, the city of Dunwall is drab and sad on top, but colorful and dangerous underneath. On the whole, the plot and setting certainly deserve major points for originality. But it's the emergent, dynamic gameplay, and the endless number of choices it presents you with, that'll keep you engaged throughout.