OXCGN’s Dishonored Preview
A Delightfully Different Outing
by Nicholas Laborde
©2012 Nicholas Laborde
It’s safe to say that Dishonored is one of the most unique titles releasing in 2012.
The best way of describing it would be the atmosphere, mood and tone of Thief, combined with everything that made the Deus Ex franchise great: a plethora of gameplay styles, and multiple approaches to every situation.
After unfortunately not having time to play it at E3, I had an opportunity to sit down with the PC version of the game for an entire hour at QuakeCon 2012, with the exceptional opportunity to interview Harvey Smith, co-creative director on the title, immediately after.
For now, we’ll focus on what I saw in my demo.
It’s a dark night in what could be 17th century London.
I’m traveling upriver in a boat, and have come to a stop. Angry guards patrol on giant stilts, destroying any intruders who wish to cross the bridge that connects the two banks of the river.
That’s all that my demo of Dishonored let on before throwing me to the wolves and hoping I don’t mess up.
My objective was simple: get in to a party for one Lady Boyle, take her out, and return to the boat. The way I would go about it? Completely up to me.
I began by awkwardly jumping in to the water whilst attempting to figure out the controls, and nearly got killed by a fish in the process (I imagine the Arkane guys walking around were very disappointed in me). Once I got my bearings – and on land – I began the hunt.
The years of having a naturally stealthy play style immediately pay off in Dishonored: the second the guards near me had turned their heads and the stilt patrol was going the other way, I zipped across the bridge without a problem.
And then I realized that I didn’t know the key for powers, which led to me being noticed and subsequently attacked.
In a frantic near-mashing of the entire keyboard, I ended up over a gate and in my destination area, a Neutral Zone. In these areas, you won’t be attacked unless you keep your weapon out for long periods or start attacking someone.
This is where Dishonored showed its true roots of Deus Ex-tier gameplay versatility. When I started exploring the area, a few party guests were standing outside of the door to a mansion where the event was being held.
Taking this easy chance to sneak inside literally in broad daylight, I grab the invitation (an optional objective), present it to the guard, and he opens the door for me.
By just paying attention to the little details, Dishonored rewards the player; I never got to see other ways in to the party, but I can only imagine blasting my way in.
Once I was in, it was all too perfect: a masked party. Since our protagonist is masked, I blended right in.
I began by exploring the surprisingly spacious grounds area between the gate and the actual house, which led to me giving a note to a guard and getting in a duel with him (which I did fail the first time because he drew early!).
Little things like that show that while Dishonored isn’t an open world game, it does paint a damn good illusion of being in one.
After the guard’s friends nonchalantly walked away from the scene of a complete stranger murdering their superior, I went to my kill zone: the party.
Upon entering the mansion, I was given the objective of discovering who Lady Boyle was. A giant device that I can only call an electric barrier guarded the stairs to the second floor of the mansion, preventing any unwanted guests from snooping around.
I talked to every party-goer around, which led to the tidbit of information that a clue would lie upstairs.
Using my possession ability, I took control of a nearby guard, walked up the stairs, and slipped out of him to resume my stalking. I eventually end up in a room with a key and more information, which reveals that Lady Boyle is in a certain type of dress.
Once again, I used my possession ability to return downstairs, correctly identify Boyle, and start talking to her in Fallout-style conversation. I convince her (based on the information I found) that she needs to meet someone in the basement, well away from the party.
She agrees in a bit of a hissy fit, and I slowly stay behind her as she began her journey, possessing guards along the way and ensuring that I wasn’t caught. Finally, she was in a completely empty room, and I used a non-lethal tranquilizer dart on my crossbow to complete my objective.
I then snuck out of the party, returned to the boat, and completed my mission.
While what I described above was a very surreptitious playthrough of my demo, it only took about thirty minutes. With my remaining half hour of play time remaining, I decided to get a little creative.
I again snuck in to the gate with the invitation, but then decided to go crazy with all of the powers and abilities that were unlocked for use.
Entering the party, I experimented with mines, an ability that summons rats, and much more. When I was alerted in this area, though, I was confronted by an enemy that cranks a strange machine which disables your magic, causing the player to rely on wit and firearms.
I discovered that when his anti-magic machine is cranking he doesn’t tend to move much, and if you move around strategically, you can trick enemies into firing directly at him, which of course kills him and restores your plethora of powers.
Everything in Dishonored feels perfectly fine tuned, and the amount of polish I experienced was breathtaking.
The art style, described as a moving painting, stands out in a world of brown shooters and you’ll have no problem getting sucked in to main character Corvo’s quest.
A defining feature of this type of game for me comes in the form of atmosphere, and Dishonored nails it. Guards patrol. Stilt guards stalk the streets.
The entire package is looking beyond excellent.
An honorable feat
It caters to whatever gameplay style you could possibly have.
The story immediately draws you in with its mystery and intrigue.
You get to experience an interpretation of the Plague, for crying out loud!
Dishonored will have absolutely no problem standing out from the crowd come October.