Gamescom 2012: Dishonored Hands-On Preview – The Shining Light of This Year’s Show

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Dishonored was one of few games at this year’s Gamescom that the media pretty much universally had the same opinion on, agreeing that it’s shaping up to be one hell of an epic experience. Ask anyone who had the chance to fight the crowds on the showfloor – or more likely, relax in the air-conditioned Gamescom business centre – and they’ll gush about the game more than a Bieber fan who’s found a used Bieber-napkin in the bin at their local Arby’s. We’re no different.

Our Gamescom demo picked up during the mission following our E3 hands-on and after finding out information from the kidnapped Sokolov, we now know our next target, the sophisticated Lady Boyle. Lady Boyle is described as one of Lord Regent’s (the game’s antagonist) strongest supporters, but there’s a catch… Lady Boyle could refer to one of three different women – the wife of the late Lord Boyle or her two sisters. Gulp.

It's our job to take Corvo to the ball - a masquerade ball to be specific - to snoop around, gather evidence on which one is the true Lady Boyle and then kill her – well, if you want to kill her, that is. Getting into the ball is our first job then, and like any other mission in the game, you’ll arrive by boat and have to ascend on to the mission’s main structure. The Boyle Estate is a huge vibrant estate in the middle of the oppressed city of Dunwall, patrolled by a guard or two outside and a Tallboy. And circumnavigating them and their patrol paths is extremely important, especially if you want to get in and out with so much as a whisper.

Using Dark Vision – to see enemies through walls – and Blink – a short distance teleportation skill – we were able to get inside the gates of the compound with relative ease, and because it’s a masquerade party, Corvo with his recognisable mask is considered simply a guest with a sick sense of humour – so much so that various party goers will comment on it. Infiltrating the grounds is different to getting in to the party though, but when Mattie, a woman wearing a disturbing doll mask, drops her ticket, we can now get in without anyone being any the wiser. Result.

Standing in the courtyard of the Boyle Estate, naturally, we wanted to explore before we headed inside. Unwittingly we stumble over to a Lord who was stood around milling in the yard beside two burly guards. In hindsight, it wasn’t necessarily an incredibly smart move, but then again, how were we meant to know what was about to play out? Speaking to Lord Shaw triggers a series of events that sees us take to arms for an old-fashioned pistol dual. What Shaw doesn’t know is that we’re Corvo, an assassin who can draw upon the power of time manipulation – he didn’t stand a chance. Luckily, this kerfuffle in the courtyard didn’t blow our cover though. Phew!

Enough of the dilly-dallying, we think to ourselves... We have a mission to do, and thus, we head indoors to the party itself. With masked revellers lining all of the hallways and rooms, our first job is to pinpoint the three targets – which is easy enough as they stick out like a sore thumb. The three targets are dressed head-to-toe in identical outfits with accompanying masks; the only difference: the colour of their outfits – red, white and black. Which is which though, you can’t tell, so it’s a matter of heading upstairs to their living quarters to rifle through their drawers… the furniture, of course, not their unmentionables!

Before we went trespassing though we stumbled upon a Lord in one of the side rooms. The Lord knows who we are, we panic, but he offers us a potential out if we want to complete the level without a single death. The Lord confesses his love for Lady Boyle and pleads with us to spare her life, promising he’ll make sure she disappears from the face of the planet and no-one will ever know she’s not dead. We consider, and head upstairs.

How you get upstairs is up to you. The main stairs are situated in the grand hall, but protected by an electrical forcefield that will result in certain death. There's a rat crawling by a damaged vent that signifies one possible approach, but for us, we decided to sneak past the guard who stood patrolling the back stairs.

Once upstairs we snuck from room to room, reading diaries, stealing loot and avoiding the guard patrols. Unfortunately for us, the room we apparently needed was behind three patrolling guards. The sneak and lean-around-corner mechanics truly come into their element when your aim is to keep your head down and not be detected. Combined with the Dark Vision, we get as close to the room as possible but due to a lapse in concentration we get detected and our play style goes from stealth to aggressive.

Where the stealth mechanic excels, the general combat mechanics don’t have the same effect. They work, but they’re hardly groundbreaking – especially the melee combat which works like Skyrim. Using a combination of sword swishes, the crossbow and sticky grenades, we take down wave after wave of guards who are alerted to our presence and rush to assist in taking Corvo down. Our special abilities like slow time and possess are hindered due to the presence of an Overseer who blocks our magic, so we have to rely on our bog-standard combat tools. When we’re clear, having grabbed the key for the locked room, we head inside and rifle through the belongings and find a diary. Jackpot! We now have our target.

Having royally ballsed up the quiet-in, quiet-out approach, in our haste to take down the target and leave, we decided that we were all in now and saving Lady Boyle wasn’t an option. Bam! We sprint towards her, impale her with a blade and head out the way we came in. Getting across the courtyard isn’t as easy now, having alerted the entire facility, but rather than get stuck in a battle with gun-toting guards, we Blink our way across the yard and to the main gate. Our getaway boat had now slipped further up the river, thanks to the place being on lockdown, but rather than take a Tallboy head on, we stick to the shadows and slip out behind them, jumping onto the boat just in time. Mission accomplished…but only just. Not quite how we had wanted it to go, but it’s a job well done… We think.

The best thing about Dishonored is that it’ll leave you wanting to tackle a level over, and over again, just to see how many different ways you can complete it. In this level alone, you could possess a fish and head through a drain to get into the grounds of the party, possess a rat to take shortcuts through vents to get upstairs and even more intriguingly, you can even choose to save Lady Boyle and complete the level without harming anyone. If that sounds too complex for you though, you can always blast your way through. Where’s the fun in that though? Interestingly enough, the target and the location of their diary is completely random and changes on every playthrough, so don’t expect to just do it the same way every time!

The truth is though, not only is Dishonored an intriguing prospect and an insane amount of fun, but it’s damn good too, and refreshingly original. It has the makings of a classic and that truly excites us. It’s too early to be using the phrase “Game of the Year,” but if this isn’t a contender, then consider us genuinely shocked.

Dishonored is out on October 9th and October 12th in North America and Europe respectively.


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Game Info
Arkane Studios


US October 09, 2012
Europe October 12, 2012

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