We got a brief peek at Dishonored at E3, but earlier this week we got the chance to sit down and be taken through an hour of the game with executive producer Julien Roby.
Siobhan Keogh | Tuesday, September 11 2012
Product type: Stealth/action game
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Test Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: Arkane Studios; Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Dishonored emphasises three things - stealth, smarts, and player choice.
When I first played Dishonored at the E3 expo in June, I was in a rush. I'd been given ten minutes with the game and thrown well and truly in the deep end - all of the abilities had already been unlocked, it was an action-based game sequence, I was exhausted, and I couldn't hear a thing over the tremendous noise of the show. Still, I enjoyed it well enough and was looking forward to seeing more.
So when, in September, I was offered the chance to get taken through an hour of the game by executive producer Julien Roby, I jumped at it. And during that hour, Dishonored teleported, sneaked and sliced its way right into my 'five most anticipated games of 2012' list.
Dishonored is about an ex-bodyguard, Corvo Altano, who was working for the Empress until she was murdered. Altano was framed for her murder, and is on a quest to find out who really killed her. The story plays out in a Steampunk world full of gadgets and 'tallboys', a security team that roam the city in weaponised body armour that resembles a steel frog standing on really long hind legs.
In the preview code I played, Altano was on the hunt for a target by the name of Lady Boyle - but there are three women named Lady Boyle, and he has to figure out which is the right one.
First, however, Altano has to make his way into a masquerade party. It's nighttime, and there's a curfew in the city of Dunwall, so you'll have to use your abilities to work your way around the security guards stationed nearby. This is where things get interesting.
While Dishonored is a linear game, with one mission following another, the missions are "arranged in a very non-linear way", Roby said at the preview. And he was right - there were multiple ways you can guide Altano into the Boyle mansion. I avoided the security guards around the city by teleporting ('blinking') when their backs were turned and snagged an invitation to the party off of an unfortunate guest. However, as an alternate method, I could have possessed a fish - yes, a fish - and swum in via the sewers, or snuck in the back entrance by going in a different direction.
In addition to having multiple paths to the party, you also have multiple ways of disposing of your target. You can take the head-on approach and kill everything that moves, or you can put away your knives and try to blend in. I took the latter approach, and made my way around the party talking to the various guests in the hopes that one of them would know which Lady Boyle I was after. Once you've acquired your target, you don't necessarily have to kill them - in some cases there's more than one way of getting rid of somebody.
You use a mix of powers and weaponry to get around and take out enemies. You can teleport and possess creatures and people, but also use 'dark vision', which is similar to the detective mode in Batman: Arkham Asylum and its sequel. It allows you to see enemies through walls so you can avoid them - or quietly give them the knife - and points out objects that can be interacted with. This'll come in handy if you find yourself stuck, as you can use it to find a key to unlock a door or figure out how to open a trapdoor.
As you make your world through the world, you can find new items, called 'runes' and 'bone charms' that will grant you extra abilities. When you get close, a message comes up on screen and - in the Xbox version, at least - your controller begins to vibrate. If you switch to the 'heart' gadget, you'll be able to detect exactly where the rune is so you can find and grab it.
While making my way through the couple of quests I had assigned to me, I discovered something rather unexpected - Dishonored wasn't nearly as serious as I'd anticipated. In fact, it's quite funny. Most of the humour comes in the form of overheard conversations, but you'll also become embroiled in the odd ridiculous sidequest, too. You know, the kind that makes you ask, "What have I gotten myself into?"
Dishonored is as much a puzzle game as it is a stealth game, and as much a stealth game as it is an action game. Often gameswith elements of so many genres can feel a bit disjointed, but this isn't the case here. The different game mechanics all work together in a way that's surprisingly cohesive, once you get the hang of it.
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