I was lucky enough to be invited to Bethesda’s UK office to get a hands-on session with their and Arkane Studios’ upcoming Steampunk-esque first person stealth/action/adventure game, Dishonoured.
For those that haven’t heard of Dishonoured, it’s a first-person assassination game set in a steampunk setting. You play betrayed palace guard, Corvo Atano on a mission of vengeance. The game allows multiple reactions to different situations and each will build up in to its own consequence-based ending. Using a combination of supernatural abilities, gadgets, stealth or brute force, players can lead Corvo through the game in the manner of their choosing.
There are multiple cinematic and gameplay trailers available online and I will detail these at the end of the article.
I was given a quick run-down of the controls and abilities as well as some critical advice. ‘Make sure you look up and down as well as left and right as many solutions are out of the normal frame of view.’ More on this later.
The mission I started on was called Kaldwin’s Bridge and it takes place after the Golden Cat mission detailed in a previous gameplay walkthrough. All abilities and gadgets were open to me, which is more than would normally be available through a normal play-through at this stage of the game. This was done to allow me a full view of the options available for Dishonoured.
I’m a veteran first person shooter/action roleplaying game player and I went at this level of Dishonoured as I prefer to play most games. Slowly, silently and killing when needed. I began in an alleyway and was told I had to abduct Sokolov, the royal physician.
Using Corvo’s short range teleport ability ‘Blink’, I teleported on to the rooftops for a better view of the building I’m was going to infiltrate. Two guards were engaged in a conversation on a platform above a river at the front door of the building. Using an ability I’ve seen many times on the gameplay trailer, I blinked near to the guards and quickly selected ‘Windblast’ from the power wheel. The guards turn to look at me in surprise and I blast them over the railings and into the water. Not a sound is made and I sneak in through the front door unseen.
Inside the house is a different story and to get up the three floors I have to sneak around guards and execute them from behind, put maids to sleep with sleep darts and find items to reverse the settings on Wall’s of Light, which are shielded doors that only allow guards to pass. I quickly found Sokolov with minimal fuss and blinked my way to the extraction point.
Afterwards I was shown the many other ways I could have infiltrated the complex, I could have ‘possessed’ a rat or fish and gained entrance through the sewers or waterways. Once inside I could have possessed a maid in order to walk through the wall of light or simply blinked on to some of the external plumbing and climbed up the inside of the building.
I also missed out a multitude of hidden areas and puzzles that would have allowed me to gain coins to buy further gadgets and upgrade Corvo’s arsenal. I finished the playthrough by taking the guards head on. While Corvo can parry and hold his own one-on-one with a guard, without using his supernatural powers against multiple opponents, combat is very sided against him. My personal preference with dealing with multiple guards quickly became ‘Time bend’, which momentarily freezes time and allows you to shoot several crossbow bolts, set up mines, or rush opponents to slit their throats before time resumes.
It would have been possible to complete the mission without killing once, or letting a single enemy become aware of your presence and while that may appeal to some, just blasted through the level, killing everyone, innocent or not will appeal to others. Both will have their own consequences.
The game itself plays very well. The controls feel natural and you soon get the hang of double jumping and sneaking around. The abilities wheel, accessed using the left bumper button on the Xbox 360’s controller and then selected with the left stick, is easy to use and allows quick access to all of Corvo’s abilities, some of which can be quick-mapped to the Dpad. If you’ve watched all the trailers so far, you’ll know what to expect abilities wise and after unlocking them during the game, you’ll be able to begin exploring your own combination of deadly arts. I wasn’t able to test out the free-running blink jumping that I’ve seen (because I was too busy being sneaky) and the blink ability did take some initial getting used to as I tested out the range of it.
The advice I was given at the start, ‘Make sure you look up and down as well as left and right’, was extremely appropriate. Most of the secrets and entrances I missed were because I was doing just that. I think as gamers we are so used to our games leading us in to areas that we fail to explore and even when we do, it is in a limited field of view. Dishonoured, as was proven to me in my hands-on, will make games think differently. I would never have thought to throw myself in to the water surrounding the building to look for an underground access, most games punish this kind of recklessness, where in fact, Dishonoured rewards it.
All in, I can’t wait to play more and get my hands on the full game. There will be a new playable version of Dishonoured at Gamescon in Germany this month. Finger crossed we will get a new hands-on for Eurogamer in London this September.
Dishonoured is released on PC, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 on October 12 2012.
The following trailers are available for Dishonoured (NSFW)
The Initial Announcement Cinematic trailer
Dishonoured Gameplay trailer
Golden Cat Mission Walkthrough – Part 1 – Stealth
Golden Cat Mission Walkthrough – Part 2 – Direct
Dishonoured Daring Escapes