There are no boss battles in Dishonored, no massive, drawn-out fights where the doors suddenly close and you have to take down a really tough enemy to get to the next level. There are some difficult encounters—like the Tallboys, pictured above—but there are no bosses.
So while chatting with Dishonored designer Harvey Smith yesterday, I asked why he and his team at Arkane Studios chose not to include any sort of boss battles. Here's his answer, in full:
We also, we faced some of that on Deus Ex I think. The thing is, we're very conscious of tropes in video games that are kind of lazy, frankly. Or dogmatic is the better word perhaps. You know: here's a boss, he reveals his weak spot, you gotta hit it three times and then three times again, whatever.
In the same way that we did not call the game steampunk initially, we called it sort of retro future. We're working with this world class industrial designer Viktor Antonov (Half-Life 2). Our art director [Sebastien Mitton (BioShock 2)], we call him a world class video game art director. Those guys are not just regurgitating steampunk elements seen elsewhere, they are designing things, right? And so Viktor did his thing and Sebastien did his thing, and only then people online started using the term steampunk.
And internally one of our tenets was no cliche steampunk elements. So no brass and rivets and guys in tin helmets or whatever the fuck. And it's fine if people see it as a very innovative take on steampunk, that's great, we don't mind that, it's just that one of our tenets was avoid this overly familiar—because god, if you're gonna spend X dollars on something and X years of your life, you don't have to do exactly what everybody else has done or what you've seen. You don't have to draw your inspirations from what else is on the shelf.
So roundabout way of answering, I guess, is that we never really felt the need for boss monsters. And it seems like a dogmatic feature. And sometimes it's brilliant, right? One of my favorite games of all time was Shadow of the Colossus. If you count those as boss monsters, then wow—way to take that whole feature and make it your whole game and do something utterly brilliant. And it's one of the best 100 games of all time in my opinion.
But in our case it wasn't the focus, and we are kind of careful about avoiding those kind of dogmatic tropes that video games are built on.
Dishonored comes out Tuesday for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3. You can expect our full review late Sunday night, and we'll have more from Smith next week.