Preview: Dishonored is shaping up to be the mother of all gaming cocktails... and a heady mix it is!
What happens when you combine the steampunk look and feel of BioShock with the free-roaming movement principles of Mirror’s Edge, merge that with the tactical possibilities of Deus Ex and then throw in some Thief-like stealth and semi-supernatural stuff on top? You get Dishonored. I went into the behind-closed-doors presentation knowing absolutely nothing about this upcoming Bethesda title and exited wanting to know a whole lot more.
We were warned that we were seeing alpha software and to expect the potential for bugs and glitches. Further, we were impressively told that the presenters were getting a bit bored of doing the demo the same way, so were stepping outside of the confines of an overlord-dictated level run through and were going to be trying something different. As it became abundantly clear from a couple of minutes into the presentation, Dishonored is another prime example of an RPG spliced FPS that wants to empower players with choice.
The art aesthetic was the first noticeable feature to solidify a rather large tick in the ‘pros’ column, for me. It wasn’t quite cel-shaded, but there was a cartoony stylised look to the world that absolutely brought the whole steampunk component to life. But our presenter wasn’t so much interested with the aesthetic as much as he was emphasising player choice out of the gate. And, by gate, I mean the exit to the sewer, complete with man-eating rats (more on this later) that led into a shady looking docks area.
The first in-game conflict took place at the top of the steps when Corvo—the protagonist who is a rogue assassin out for revenge—came across a group of guardsmen. There were options straight away. Corvo could rush in flintlocks blazing, for one, putting Errol Flynn to shame in terms of brash swashbuckling. Alternatively, he could avoid the fight entirely, free running his way up a group of boxes and avoiding the area entirely. There was a third option: combat-stealth. Running up the boxes, Corvo perched over the unsuspecting group, tactically assessing the situation.
A short-length sword appeared in his right hand and he pounced, dispatching the first foe with a single blow before the others could turn around. What followed was a well-handled first-person sword fight, the kind which is usually marred by the difficulty of judging point blank distance in such a perspective. Corvo dispatched the final guard with a brutal takedown, before moving forward to show off some more.
It’s worth noting that there is some kind of two-handed fighting system at play here. We only saw a sword in one hand and a flintlock pistol in the other, but I see no reason why it couldn’t be dual swords or dual pistols in the final version. Still, the shown combination made for tactical and classy brouhahas that allowed players to cross swords with honour one moment and take out a foe with a single shot the next.
The proceeding section involved some straightforward puzzling. A trippy electrified gate stood in the way of where Corvo had to go, and walking through it meant he’d be riding the lightning. The local guards, however, had no such trouble getting through, as it deactivated on their approach. Corvo could have found a way around it or use the guard to bypass the trap, but decided to take more of an engineering approach, hacking the not-so-well concealed controls to deactivate the electricity.