Too bad you can’t
dual-wield with Alpo.
quickly. There is no legacy here, this is
not a sequel. It was scary, but a real
opportunity to be creative.”
Decisions had to be made about
accessibility and originality—bal-
ancing subtlety, familiarity, and crazy
mystical stuff. Antonov is co-directing
the art with Sebastian Mitton. “It is
based on the plague in London,” says
Mitton, “but we are not being histor-
ical. We want to avoid the clichés.”
Best of British
I’m shown the first round of concept
art sketches I mentioned earlier.
“London is too quickly associated with
steampunk and Jack the Ripper, so we
wanted to get a different aspect.” What
followed were research trips, photo-
graphs, and a distillation of what
makes up British architecture.
“The renaissance in England didn’t
come through France,” says Antonov.
“It was a weird renaissance that went
through Italy, Austria, and Germany.”
He describes this as “really nerdy
stuff” in one breath, but in the very
next sentence he’s saying “we had a lot
of fun with a lot of architectural work,
finding out which bricks were British.”
There’s no need to apologize for that
kind of nerdiness—the benefits we’re
getting from that research and exper-
tise is apparent in every screenshot.
In making the world unique, liber-ties have been taken. The walls of the
Tower of London have been redesigned to fit the more claustrophobic,
authoritarian Kingdom. Road barriers
are a forbidding black with aggressive
teeth, reminiscent of occupied countries in World War II. “Tall Boy”
guards stride around on nine-foot-high mechanical stilts to keep them
safe from rat swarms, while other,
spider-like structures hold guards high
on their spindly supports.
If inordinate care has been taken over
the architecture, then there’s just as
much love poured into the character
designs. The guards and the thugs
share a uniformed feel in their period
garb, but because I’m mainly shown
combat, I don’t get to see the characters whose portraits line the wall of
the room I’m in. The Aristocrats look
imperious but besieged. The lower
classes look weather-beaten and resolute. Like everything in the world,
detail levels are kept stylistically low—
but every line carries meaning.
One character I see being designed is
labeled “Granny Rags.” Her role in the
game isn’t explained—Arkane isn’t
This is the first time the team at
Arkane has built their own world
from the ground up.
ready for that yet. A female artist is
putting the finishing touches on her
3D model. She’s taken a month to
create, and she’s one of the most compelling characters I’ve ever seen. Part
brutal nursemaid, part Nosferatu, her
bouffant has seen some savage backcombing, and the blood that’s made it
to the surface of her lips looks like it
had a hard time getting there. She’s
defiant, proud, and it says something
about the personality of a model when
a dozen hateful conversations with her
spring instantly to mind.
For all the talent at Arkane, this is
the first time the team has built their
own world from the ground up.
BioShock 2 had the strong stylings of
Rapture to conform to. Dark Messiah
had the Might & Magic universe. Even
Arx Fatalis, while technically original,
was conceived as an Ultima game.
Dishonored looks genuinely novel, fresh
and outstanding, and if the systems of
the Kingdom, the combat, the factions
and the Chaos all mesh together with
the story, characters and architecture,
this could be amazing.