gamescom 2012: Dishonored Preview
After spending a good few hours getting hands-on with Arkane Studio’s latest blockbuster, Dishonored, I have found myself in that horrible position of writing an un-biased preview that sums up the game’s general plot beats, whilst simultaneously explaining the feel, graphics and general information. To be short, this new found fan-boy boner is getting in the way of my typing and if I was allowed I would simply create a post that says ‘TOTES AMAZINGYO!’, draw a smiley face and then leave it at that.
Sadly you scamps tend to like information rather than my preferred faithful blind obedience, thus I will now have to do that annoying writing thing. Dishonored is a first-person stealth-based action game that takes place in the steam punk inspired yet mysteriously rat infested city of Dunwall. You play as assassin Corvo Atano, a fabled bodyguard to the game’s Empress, who has been framed for her murder. Guided by the mysterious Outsider – who just so happens to have granted our protagonist some magical powers – Corvo has taken it upon himself to gain revenge on the people who wronged him.
The level on show at Gamescom revolved around Corvo finding a way to infiltrate a wealthy masquerade ball, locating a target and then killing them. Sounds relatively simple(ish) in but Dishonored has been created in a way that relays every minor action into a multitude of diverse options: Want to kill a guard? Well you could try knocking him out with a sleeping dart and dumping the body off a ledge, or you could just freeze time and stab the guy in the neck. Hell, if you are feeling adventurous why not just magic up a rabid swarm of rats to devour him alive while you sit laughing in the shadows.
The possibilities of combat within the game seem truly only limited by the player’s imagination. In a broad sense this can be said about many games, yet it’s some of Dishonored’s mission objectives and free range to complete them that excited me. Upon shitting my pants at the first sighting of an in-game Big Daddy-esque tank enemy named the ‘Tall Boy’ (Google for rad images of it) I scampered into the entrance of the invite-only masked ball. After milling around for a moment, messing around with Corvo’s ‘mind control’ ability to find a way in, I noticed that a patron had dropped their invite, thus I scooped it up and entered the venue. Once inside I found one of the level’s many optional side quests of challenging someone to a duel. Thankfully it wasn’t one of those standardised bare-fisted brawls that are in most games, but an actual gentlemanly open a box of two pistols, walk ten paces, count to three, turn and shoot with no hard feelings kind of thing. Obviously, given the freedom of gameplay you can just bludgeon the guy to death if you so wish but this would likely raise alarm and result in some much unwanted attention.
After disposing of the side quest enemy in a fair and gentlemanly manner I entered the ball to find that my objective was to kill one of three family members, all of which had dressed in the same outfit but in varying colours. My task was to snoop around the party, identify my target and ascertain the best way to dispose of them. The game opened up multiple options of acquiring knowledge that would lead me to the end result; this included things like using various powers to sneak upstairs and rummage through peoples draws, peaking through keyholes to watch for various character traits or guard patrols, con a flirty lady into giving you information about the target by offering her a drink and finally speaking to some scarecrow masked head-case who – in exchange for the target’s identity – wanted me to kidnap the objective and bring her to a boat downstairs in the cellar so he could whisk her away forever… in a freaky and sadistic kind of way.
One of the beautiful things about the whole set up is that I never truly felt as if my hand is being held too tightly during the level; it was all extremely organic and enjoyable. The mansion also showed me some of the title’s brilliant art nuances that were littered around the environment. The party goers all wear eerily detailed masks, the rooms are decorated in lavish and bizarre sculptures and you could even sign the event’s guest book with Corvo’s name to add that cheeky charismatic stealth flair to your mission. The berth of freedom Dishonored gives you to find your own way, whist simultaneously being given the feeling of power, is something I think the developers of this game really pushed.
After convincing my target to follow me downstairs and unceremoniously knocking her out to uneasily give her to scarecrow head I had to flee the scene in order to finish the mission; this involved a whole bunch of shadow to shadow running and silent kills, as well as doing my very best to dodge the dreaded ‘Tall Boys’ and rat plague infected town folk, now named ‘Weepers’. Once again you can just run through this section trying to fight everyone, or you could move from building to building taking out lights or even use some of Corvo’s magic abilities and create some havoc… I chose the latter – using a mixture of flesh eating rats, time freezing and mind control to work my way to the final check point.
I think most people can be forgiven for thinking the game draws a huge amount of influence from games like Bioshock, Thief and Deus Ex because it unashamedly does, but in the same breath it is important to say that this isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. Dishonored is still abundantly engrossing, smart, gorgeously stylised and being honest, what game doesn’t take influence from others – just check out how good Singularity was.