by Chris Davis
previewed on X360
What Will We Do With a Drunken Whaler?
Last August I brought you our first preview of Dishonored, Arkane Studios’ first original title in over five years. For those who didn't read that article, allow me to summarise my feelings as I left QuakeCon 2011: I was incredibly excited. Stealth-based games like Dishonored have been lacking in both quantity and stealth elements for several years now, the only significant title of the past three years coming to mind being Splinter Cell Conviction. For this year’s E3, Bethesda decided to properly unveil the game to the press and, judging by both the presentation and the live demo we got to play, the game is looking even more impressive than it did last year.
Feed Him to the Hungry Rats for Dinner
Sitting down in a room of thirty other gamers and journalists in the Bethesda booth, creative director Harvey Smith introduced the demo by stating that we would see the same level played twice: once from a stealth-focused perspective and the other being a balls-to-the-wall, kill everyone approach. To get an appreciation for the stealthy nature of the game we were shown the most subtle approach first. Trust me when I say that what we saw delivered on what was spoken.
The demo took place at the Golden Cat, a bathhouse in Dunwall that is also the site of a house of ill repute. You are tasked with eliminating the Pendleton brothers, twins that are part of the overall conspiracy that both murdered Dunwall’s Emperess and framed Corvo for the act. For the purposes of the demo the player was given the full array of Corvo Atano’s powers that will be featured when the game ships.
Starting out the level, Corvo descended to the streets (each level has multiple entry points and in this case we started out from a rooftop entrance) and approached the water’s edge adjacent to the Golden Cat. Using his possession ability, Corvo took control of a fish and swam into a broken pipe going into the building. He emerges from his pescadilliac possession in one of the women's changing rooms. Barely sneaking past two entering whores, the player enters the main lobby of the Golden Cat with the objective of finding the Madame of the establishment in order to get a master key and thus move through the building unimpeded by pesky doors and the like. Sneaking upstairs, Corvo finds her on the other side of a door after peaking through a keyhole. Waiting for her to leave, the player follows her to a secluded room where he pickpockets her, the Madame never being the wiser.
Dishonored’s stealth gameplay, more than anything, seems strongly to be a cross between classic Metal Gear Solid and that of Splinter Cell Conviction, two titles that are widely different and yet, for this title, seem to match harmoniously. Enemies utilize a cone of vision that Corvo can detect using his Dark Vision power. If the player enters that cone of vision, a circle appears on-screen indicating how well they see you and from what direction you are seen. Once the indicator turns red the player has been fully recognized as an intruder and the NPC reacts accordingly. It’s an odd combination at first but, as demonstrated in Dishonored, works very well together.
After returning to the lobby area, Corvo overhears a conversation between a “relaxing” guard and his mistress which reveals the location of one of the Pendleton brothers: the basement sauna. Descending unnoticed, the player eventually locates the target in a steam room along with one of the mistresses. As if reading my mind that a blade would be too simple for the target, the player instead turns a valve controlling one of the steam pipes, scalding both of the victims to death.
With only one target left, Corvo ascends once again, sneaking past guards and wandering prostitutes alike. Corvo eventually locates his target in the penthouse room of the Golden Cat, the unsuspecting brother chatting it up with one of the ladies of the evening. Instead of barging in through the front door the player opts for the balcony. Climbing along the rooftop and utilizing the Blink ability which teleports the player a short distance, he reaches the balcony of the room with ease. Corvo then uses his possession ability once again to take control of the last remaining Pendleton, guiding him to the balcony itself. Withdrawing from the brother, the player selects Corvo’s Windblast power and, in a move seen countless times in Skyrim videos across Youtube, blasts the target over the edge and into the water below, eliciting a laugh from all in attendance. The last target eliminated, Smith ends the demo.