Dishonored has been heralded as a new step in the right direction; a step back towards letting players actually play games. A sandbox game that allows for a variety of choices and solutions, Dishonored combines stealth, action and strategy into a single game that will appeal simultaneously to a wide variety of different players and styles.
Players step into the boots of Corvo Attano, the personal bodyguard to the Empress of a strange, Dystopian world. In the gritty port city of Dunwall, Corvo fails in his charge and the Empress is assassinated under his watch. Rather than sit and stew though, Corvo seeks the identity of the assassin and vengeance for what he did. However, just how Corvo goes about that vengeance is entirely up to the player.
Dishonored is, primarily, a game that allows players the choice to accomplish the mission however they see fit. For instance, Corvo can go in with bared steel, cackling like a madman and leaving a sea of blood in his wake. For players that don't want to play the game that way though, it isn't the only option (just the easiest more often than not). Players also have the option of manipulating other NPCs into doing the dirty work for them, or moving so stealthily that they can reach the objective without having to kill anyone. There are even non-lethal combat options, which are more difficult to make effective, but which keep the body count at an absolute minimum. For the truly skilled player it is entirely possible to finish Dishonored without getting any blood on Corvo's hands.
Which path a player chooses to take also has an effect on the world. Dunwall is currently dealing with plague, and the more bodies that Corvo leaves behind, the worse the plague is going to get because of all the additional death and food for the rats. However, the more guards Corvo kills, the more guards will be posted at later missions. This will just amp up the difficulty, so being sneaky might be challenging, but it will result in fewer guards being posted in future missions, which definitely sounds like a major advantage.
Beyond the creativity that went into designing a game with multiple ways to win, Dishonored also offers players a unique control system that helps them get the job done. With stealth and combat often so closely related, Dishonored takes a few hints from Assassin's Creed and makes sure that players have as little downtime between moving quietly in the shadows and pulling steel. After all, sometimes all it takes is a second of hesitation for Corvo to be stretched out dead in an alley somewhere, and the player left cursing and grinding his or her teeth. Of course, as with any game, practice makes perfect. Once players are more familiar with the controls and the world, it's just a matter of time until Corvo can slip through the shadows and bring vengeance on the person responsible for the Empress's murder.