June 13, 2012 by Vinnie Leduc
Said to combine elements of BioShock, Assassin’s Creed, and Deus Ex, Arkane Studios’ upcoming game, Dishonored, has been described as a neo-Victorian/steampunk stealth action FPS. Personally, I see “FPS” and am automatically down to play it. Publisher Bethesda graciously let us get our hands on a campaign level at E3, and we’re proud to report that although Dishonored might be an FPS, its advanced ability system and plethora of ways you can take on each mission make it a hybrid of different genres worthy on many playthroughs and a potential classic you won’t want to sleep on.
In Dishonored you play as Corvo Otano, a bodyguard for the Empress of a unique steampunk city until she’s assassinated and you’re the one blamed for the crime. Like the tagline in the spectactular debut trailer released months ago and ads plastered on the walls everywhere here at E3, revenge is the theme, because as the trailer explains, it solves everything, and it’s also a great excuse to unleash some hell.
Players familiar with BioShock, Skyrim, and Mass Effect will be able to adjust to the controls rather quickly. Your right hand wields a sword, which you can use to block incoming attacks and chop some dudes up, of course. Although Dishonored definitely needs some polish before its release this fall, Arkane is undoubtedly going for an M rating because some of the sword-triggered animations were pretty violent, allowing for slow-motion final hits that result in limbs and heads flying. But wait until you see what the other hand has in store.
Your left hand can hold traditional weapons like a pistol or crossbow, or it can hold nothing at all. In the latter case, that probably means you’ll be primed to summon something magically bad-ass. For example, by toggling a wheel that equips different toys (proxy mines and sticky ‘nades), ammo (such as incendiary bolts or sleep darts), and powers for your left hand, you can call a “devouring swarm” of rats to feast upon a poor guy until barely his bones are left. Or as long as you have enough mana, you can use a vast array of supernatural abilities that include “dark vision” to see through walls, “blink” to teleport yourself short distances, the Jedi-like “windblast” to push foes back, or “bend time” to freeze them in their tracks. Oh, but that’s not all.
My favorite had to be “possession.” You can possess an enemy and subsequently make him open a locked door for you before walking him off a balcony. You can even possess a rat to squeeze under a gate to grab some loot or sneak by somebody. Not only can you assume control of a person or creature, but you can teleport yourself to the possessee’s position afterwards. This is what I did while messing around early in the demo and ended up skipping half of the level. The mission was to abduct and extract a key scientist whose lab was at the top of a heavily guarded building. Instead of sneaking or fighting my way up through every floor, I possessed an enemy I saw on an upper floor outside and teleported myself to where he was walking, just a few steps outside the scientist’s lab. Sure, I’d have to later fight my way down with the scientist, who I shot a sleeping dart into, slumped across my right shoulder, but this epitomizes the beauty of Dishonored.
Like Hitman, the ways to complete your objective are endless, making the replay value not only high, but lots of fun. Word on the street is you can get through the entire game of Dishonored without killing anybody, even bosses. But if you please, you can find some of the most clever ways to send enemies to their doom. Along the way, you’ll have minor puzzles to solve (or avoid), keyholes that you can peek into and eavesdrop, plenty of practical and collectible pickups to grab, and various enhancements to unlock, such as “shadow kill” (turns fallen enemies into ash), “blood thirsty” (increased adrenaline), agility, and vitality.
Also like Hitman and other stealth-based games that involve the stalking of enemies like prey, it’s even more enjoyable to just sit back and watch the trained professionals put on a show during a live gameplay demo. In our time with Dishonored, we also got a chance to watch Arkane’s developers play through another part of the game, which featured Ortano being tasked with the objective to assassinate two targets in a burlesque parlor named The Golden Cat however the player wanted.
During Arkane’s presentation we were shown two completely different ways that the level could be taken on. The first involving a pure stealth approach: Ortano teleported past all the guards, possessed the body of a fish swimming in the water surrounding the parlor in order to infiltrate it through a vent, pickpocketed the parlor’s madame for her master key, and then proceeded to find his first target who was talking to one of the dancers in the basement. There were still many options the player could choose once finding the mark, but Arkane decided to get into the basement’s parallel control room and release scorching hot steam from a vent into the target’s room, cooking him and his girl, but still managing to make the hit look like a tragic accident.
After blinking past other guards and using catwalks to progress back to the penthouse of the building, we were able to see his next target, who was also with a woman. Ortano was able to possess the male target while he was talking to her, leading her to notice something was slightly different with him and question if he was all right. Not replying back, Arkane walked out onto the balcony of the building as the target, just to leave his body and hit him with a blast of wind from behind, pushing him off and making it all look like another tragic accident.
After showcasing the more stealthy approach, we were then shown how just going in guns-blazing would work differently and how different characters’ reactions would be. It felt like watching two completely different levels in the game and almost like watching two completely different games. The idea of giving a player so much freedom and so many different options is obviously becoming a popular trend with games like The Last of Us and Watch Dogs stealing the show earlier with trailers for their games that allow for such a great degree of free will amongst players in massive environments, but the way it all comes together in Dishonored is just as impressive and an experience that gamers will be able to get their hands on a lot sooner when it’s released on October 9, 2012, for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.