Dishonored preview

By Alan Tsang, Apr 26, 2012 7:00am PDT

Dunwall is a Rat Plague-infested Victorian city, ruled over an oppressive regime led by the villainous Lord Reagent. Framed for the murder of the Empress Jessamine Kaldwin, you step into the shoes of Corvo Attano, a former bodyguard turned assassin. But you are no mere mortal--you have been granted supernatural powers by a mysterious deity named the Outsider. Thus sets the events of Dishonored, Bethesda's upcoming first-person action/stealth game developed by Arkane Studios.

"Revenge Solves Everything." That is the game's bold tagline. But how will you enact your revenge? A great emphasis will be placed on the actions you take during each mission. Will you terminate every last person you meet? Or will you show restraint--perhaps even going for a lucrative no-kill playthrough?

While choice plays a crucial role in Dishonored, it will not be a sandbox game. "It won't be open-ended; it will be a series of hand-crafted missions," Harvey Smith, Dishonored's co-creative director, explained to Shacknews during a demo in New York last week.

To demonstrate the varied ways of approaching gameplay, Bethesda showed off two different playthroughs of the same mission, one being stealth-focused and the other action-focused. The objective was to sneak into an opulent bathhouse called the Golden Cat and dispatch two corrupt members of Parliament named the Pendleton Twins. Filled with beautiful women in an extravagant setting, the brothel Golden Cat is a stark contrast to the desolate and dreary streets where you began your mission.

Smith calls the game's stealth "fast-paced," and I am inclined to agree. Hiding in the shadows, Corvo efficiently takes out one guard at a time with his arsenal of magic, weapons and unique whale oil-powered contraptions. He kills one by choking him behind, then hiding the body. Another is sniped from above with a crossbow.  The next guard has his legs sliced off by the "Spring Razor," a painful-looking barb-wire trap. Our protagonist gets around undetected by possessing animals, teleporting, and scouting out the area with magical radar called Dark Vision. Keys are looted quietly and conversations are overheard as Corvo uncovers clues to the exact whereabouts of each of the main targets.

Neutralizing the Pendleton Twins demanded even more creativity. The possession power demonstrated before can be used on any living being, including your marks. Corvo enters the body of one of the twins, walks him over to the balcony, then proceeds to use a magic spell to summon a gust of wind to push him to his demise. The other remaining brother is eliminated by trapping him and a female "employee" in a steam room. All this has been accomplished without ever being seen by a single living person.

Not surprisingly, the action-focused run of the same mission showcased the combat aspects of Dishonored. This time, Corvo leaps right into the Golden Cat with reckless abandon. He stabs guards in the neck and summons rats with magic to gruesomely consume them alive. The sword is used as a means of defense by blocking attacks that come your way and guns finally make their debut as our assassin switches to a pistol as a secondary weapon. The most riveting sequence of the bunch is when time itself is frozen using magic, allowing Corvo to dodge attacks from an impressive number of enemies while giving him a chance to finish them off with a sticky grenade. Finally, a separate and final area called the Flooded District was briefly shown. Unlike the luxurious setting of the previous area, Rat Plague victims are forcibly kept in this derelict area by the corrupt government. Just like in the trailer, guards on long robotic legs aptly named Tallboys patrol the area and will be more than happy to shoot streams of fire onto you if you dare challenge them.

The two very different playthroughs of this level did an effective job of demonstrating Dishonored's potential. There is a lot of creativity on display, and the reinterpreted steampunk setting only adds to its charm. And taking cues and gameplay elements from titles like Deus Ex and Assassin’s Creed certainly can't hurt its chances. Dishonored will be available on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 later this year.

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