The Art of Dishonored: The Environments - Get2Gaming


With Dishonored reaching its tenth anniversary this year – and Noclip releasing footage of Arkane’s scrapped Ravenholm game – I thought I could look at the art across the Dishonored games. Because no one has ever done that before. Nonetheless, despite its lack of originality, this article will focus on the first Dishonored game’s environments.

Released in 2012, Dishonored is widely known and beloved for its distinctive art style. In both its environment and character design, the game features a stylised, exaggerated aesthetic.


The game takes place in the fictional city of Dunwall. The city is ravaged with a plague and is under oppressive rule. This feeling of danger, disease and oppression is reflected throughout the city’s design. Viktor Antonov, who was the game’s Visual Design Director, spoke of being inspired by the Victorian era and Lovecraftian literature. Antonov made it clear he wanted the game to feel like a painting or novel, rather than a traditional video game environment.

Edinburgh inspired Dishonored
Note how the architecture of Edinburgh is so similar to Dunwall

The city of Dunwall is based on London. Initially, with the idea of the plague, the game was to be set during the Great Plague in 1666. However, the game was moved to its own time and place – drawing inspiration from medieval and modern periods alike. Eventually, they settled on what Sebastian Mitton – the Art Director at Arkane – called a Neo-Victorian style. The developers visited London and Edinburgh to study the architecture and get a feel for the cities. They also studied a number of paintings and photographs from the Victorian and Edwardian eras to get a sense of style.

The Visual Language of Dunwall
Dishonored city
The city of Dunwall has Gothic elements

The style of Dunwall makes great use of shape in its design. The city is filled with sharp edges and blocky shapes. The use of sharp edges in Dunwall helps to create this Gothic style, with its use of sharp points and repeated triangles in the city’s landscapes. However, the blocky shapes repeated throughout the architecture create an industrial style, echoed throughout the game. Mitton spoke of how the developers noticed the verticality of London and this is reflected in Dishonored’s architecture. The imposing, stylised buildings shoot straight up and then come to a sharp point at the rooves.

Dishonored city
But also Industrial aspects too

Overall, this design helps to evoke the tone of the story. The crowded, tall buildings overwhelm and oppress the player. The blocky edges and straight lines reflect the industrial age of Dunwell. The sharp edges echo that sense of danger and violence in the city. The Gothic style and murky atmospheres help reflect this feeling of horror and tension that the plague evokes. The exaggerated style and crowded environment helps create this sense that everything is off-kilter – again reflected in Dishonored storyline.

In the next article we’ll be looking at how this visual language is continued in Dishonored’s character design.

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