DESIGN

If you can say one thing about Dishonored, it is that this game is beautiful. The game world looks like an oil painting; every brick wall is full of brush strokes that make it an absolute joy to look at. When I view some of the screenshots I've taken it's actually difficult to tell that I'm looking at an in-game scene, and not concept art. The design of the city of Dunwall is equally captivating. Dishonored's universe is filled with anachronisms that give it a unique touch: the building architecture looks like 18th century, the pistol and sword you carry are reminiscent of 16th century warfare, and yet modern industry, electricity and even a futuristic looking tram system can be found in Dunwall.

2012 10 14 00002 Dishonored PC Game Review

Looks like a painting, doesn't it? Note the whaling ship in the background. I'll speak about that in a bit.

The character design is also unique and artsy. Every NPC you encounter is a caricature: aristocrats have puffed chests and beady eyes; soldiers have smaller heads to go with bigger bodies and hands… It works very well, in contrast to many other games that attempt this: the oil painting palette ensures that you never try to look at the characters as real people, and they completely avoid the uncanny valley.

It's notable that many city watch designs, including vehicles, structures and the Tallboys, look very familiar. Even a causal glance will make you think of the combine from Half-Life 2, and this is very likely due to the visual design director also having worked on HL2. It fits rather seamlessly into the world though.

I didn't actually think I was going to like this art style – I'm more for the realistic approach, but Dishonored pulls it off so well! Somehow, it's both exotic and strange, yet familiar enough that it immerses you and makes the world believable.

The Dishonored universe, if we talk about the lore itself, is just as interesting. The world is built around the concept of whale oil being extremely high in energy, and is thus the primary energy source for pretty much any electrical device in the world. I don't know where they got the idea from, but it's very exotic and they've really baked it into the world; everything in Dunwall seems to revolve around the whaling industry. Indeed, if you stand around watching the river for long enough, you'll see a gigantic ship drifting by with a massive whale hoisted up into a large scaffolding to be slaughtered and drained of oil when the ship docks. It's an impressive sight and gives the whole game an alien and almost eerie vibe …needless to say, I think Dunwall is going to have an energy problem if they keep doing that for very long; they're going to run out of whales.