Revenge solves everything
Dunwall is a city whose wealth was built upon whaling, yet its foundations are being eaten away by something far smaller. In Dishonored on PlayStation 3, a plague borne by an influx of rats is killing Dunwall's citizens and turning the survivors against each other. Nowhere is that infighting bloodier than in the corridors of power.
As Corvo Attano, you find this out in jolting fashion. Arriving home after a long voyage overseas to drum up help for your stricken city, you walk straight into a trap designed to overthrow the port's empress and frame you, her loyal bodyguard, for murder.
Fallen from grace and slung into Dunwall's notorious prison, you must begin the long road to redemption. Yet each step is tougher than the last thanks to the rapidly spreading plague and an oppressive government armed with terrifying new technology.
The reality behind your betrayal is murkier than the fetid waters surrounding this gateway to the sea. However, a curious mark branded upon you by a figure known as the Outsider gives you untold powers. Use them to carve a bloody path to the truth, or flit in and out of the shadows. The choice is yours – but one thing is for sure: the life you knew has gone.
Whale of a time
Taking its inspiration from the gothic grandeur of Edinburgh and the tightly packed, often bewildering streets of London, the world of Dishonored is a heady mix of charm and disorder.
Bleak, chaotic yet strangely beautiful, the industrial city of Dunwall might have been dreamt up on one of Charles Dickens' darker days. A distinctive, higgledy-piggledy skyline of blackened chimneys and spidery towers sits underneath skies of permanent charcoal. Everywhere you look are the details that make you feel as though you're right there, standing on the city's slimy cobbles.
Walls are covered with scrawled slogans that hint at the sort of reception you can expect when you run into their authors, while in the distance great whaling ships slip into the harbour to deposit their hauls. If you watch closely you can even see the fishermen buzzing around their catches.
Looming over all of this are the Overseers, the oppressive agents of the militant faction, the Abbey of the Everyman. If their electrified Walls of Light, ominous watchtowers and lethal, mechanical Tallboys remind you of Half-Life 2's City 17, it's because art director Viktor Antonov worked on that game. His vision for Dishonored is even more striking.
Stalking through the streets of Dunwall in pursuit of the key villains behind your wrongful imprisonment, you'll be struck by how many choices are open to you. Every decision you make has an impact on your immediate situation as well as the destiny of the disease-ridden port.
The Outsider grants the powers that let you manipulate the environment to your own devious ends. Will you possess a City Watch guard to infiltrate defences or use the Blink ability to instantly teleport across rooftops? Bend time to slip through a crowd unnoticed or use Devouring Swarm to summon a plague of rats?
Upgrade your skills by seeking out hidden runes using a special mechanical heart; while you're at it, keep an eye out for bone charms that grant additional powers such as throwing rats off your scent. Your weapons and equipment can also be enhanced by spending coins found throughout Dunwall at your ally Pietro's workshop.
You must weigh up whether to cause as much or as little disturbance as possible. Leave a trail of dead bodies behind you and they'll attract more rats, plunging Dunwall even deeper into chaos. On the other hand, merely knocking enemies out and carefully stowing them far from harm's way will slow the plague's advance. Finish the game to discover Dunwall's fate – and then play the game all over again in an entirely new way to be rewarded with an alternative finale.