I wasn’t really expecting much from Dishonored considering it had been tacked onto the end of Bethesda’s Prey 2 presentation, which made it seem like a bit of a last minute addition to their line-up, the dunce of the class if you will, almost as if they’d been looking around the office, spotted it in the corner and then thought, ‘Oh yeah, this is new too, lets throw it in with the rest of our upcoming games!’ However, having seen the game in action I can’t understand why they decided to seemingly undersell it because it looks like it’ll be really good fun. Luckily, it quickly became apparent that Bethesda are actually incredibly enthusiastic about this one too as they guided us around one of the levels.
So what exactly is Dishonored all about? Well, you’re thrown into the shoes of an assassin who has a couple of supernatural powers up his sleeve, which mixes up the gameplay a little bit, and it’s set in a world that’s just had an industrial revolution and all the current technology is now powered by whale oil. To get it out of the way now, you’re not on Earth, which I’m guessing is something that may work its way into the plot to some varying degree. A deadly plague has also recently broken out and surprise, surprise, it’s been spread by rats, who the locals are less than pleased to see scurrying about. Basically, it’s an immersive first person action game with environments that feel like 19th century London; I personally felt like it was a combination of Steampunk, Assassins Creed, and Bioshock, with a tiny bit of The Darkness thrown in for good measure. Those of you with keen eyes might pick up on its similarity to Half Life 2, which has come about because the art director is the same. It should also be noted that the developers didn’t want to create a canyon of fake building, so you’ll be able to enter the majority of the building that are present in the game.
Players are provided with a number of mobility modes to really make it feel like you’re in the main character’s body, and the combat is vicious and fast paced. Sadly, I initially thought the blood flow from your enemies in certain parts of the game was a little bit poor, in fact it reminded me of zombies feasting on corpses in Resident Evil 2 if I’m honest, but that was quickly washed away later in the demo when we got to see a pack of rats stripping the flesh from two guards bones in a matter of seconds, in a similar fashion to a shoal of piranha.
Leaving bodies out in the open isn’t a great tactic for any assassin, especially in this game as rats will be drawn to them, which makes them a big glowing target for any live guards, who’ll rush over and quickly sound an alarm. The solution is simple though, hoist the recently deceased over your shoulder and then cast them into a nearby dumpster!
When you’re not using the weapons at your disposal, you’ll more than likely be casting spells to aid you on your journey, some of which are directly linked to the rats in the game, which you can summon or posses depending on whether you need to get rid of some enemies, or sneak into a building. Be careful when you’re gathering intel in the body of a rat though, because if you’re spotted by somebody they’ll run over to the furry critter and stamp it to death without hesitation! If you’re finding it hard to reach certain areas, or you need to avoid a hail of bullets, then you can activate blink, which is a short-range teleport that should confuse your enemies as you suddenly disappear out of sight! Time is also your plaything and you can slow it down when you need a more of it to line up a perfect shot. Finally, if you’ve run out of ammo, or you just want to show that you’re a badass, then you can knock people off their feet using wind blast. You can improve your characters attributes by picking up and selling ruins, which are scattered about the environment, plus there are about 40 bone charms in the game that’ll augment your abilities when you find them.
Now lets talk about the enemies you’ll be facing! Most of them are simple guards, who amble about and can be taken out with relative ease. Then you’ve got your targets, who are usually locked away in reinforced strongholds and’ll put up a fight to remain alive when you come knocking on their door with the Grim Reaper stood over your shoulder. We also got a brief glimpse of giant walker style machines that are piloted by guards and can pose a bit of a challenge to bring down if you’ve not got any grenades handy to take out their legs! The majority of characters go on patrol routes though, which you’ll have to carefully observe before taking any action, and they’re dynamic, so it’s perfectly possible that on one occasion somebody’ll stop to take a look at a painting, whereas on another play through they might pass right by it. Guards also carry items that are useful to you, such as keys, and obtaining them is a simple case of sneaking up behind the brain dead hostiles and picking their pockets. I was a tad disappointed by the guards’ speech though because it’s very repetitive, in fact one guard walked past and said something, then about thirty seconds later another guard walked past saying exactly the same thing!
There are structures that are designed to hinder your progress too, such as watchtowers and walls of light. Watchtowers are the same as you’d see in any game, so it’s best to stay out of sight of the guards who are casting their beady little eyes over the surrounding area. The walls of light however are a little bit more interesting; they block your path and are more than capable of stopping you dead in your tracks with a powerful electric shock. However, they can be turned to your advantage by hacking them, which allows you to pass through them and turns them against your enemies, which is handy when you’re making a quick getaway and there are loads of guards on your tail.
That’s about all I can tell you for now! The game looks pretty good and it’s certainly grabbed my interest, but only time will tell if it turns out to be a great game, rather than a mediocre one that you just keep in your collection for a bit of variety and some quick fun when you can’t be bothered to sit down for a longer session.
Dishonored is out in 2012.
First published on Dealspwn (31 August 2011)