I’ve been intrigued by Arkane Studio’s Bethesda published Dishonored since that first, incredible trailer – and the new that it would fill up the gaping hole in October’s release schedule left by Bioshock Infinite’s delay. It’s a game that draws inspiration from many sources – but wears its Thief and Deus Ex inspiration on its sleeve. I had an hour with the game at Gamescom – and walked away impressed and excited.
In the press session, I had an hour with one of the game’s missions; Lady Boyle’s last party. In it, I was tasked with assassinating Lady Boyle – or one of them anyway. There happen to be three of them; The wife of the Lord Regent’s (the game’s main antagonist) strongest supporters and wife of the late Lord Boyle – and her two sisters; each dressed in a different costume.
It’s our job to take the masked assassin Corvo to the grandiose masquerade ball to snoop around, gather evidence and discover which is the right Lady Boyle and then kill her – or not, if violence isn’t your thing. Getting into the ball is the first task; you arrive by boat and have find your way to the Boyle Estate; A vibrant mansion smack in the middle oppressed city of Dunwall. you arrive by boat – and have to circumnavigate the city – patrolled by a guards and a Tallboy (spider-like, armed surveillance machines on spindly legs, reminiscent of Half-Life 2’s striders) or two. Because we had an hour to play the ten-minute mission, I had the opportunity to try several different routes in to the estate – most of which lead to my untimely death. I tried possessing a rat and crawling through the underground sewerage system, coming up through the Estate’s kitchen – but I was spotted by a guard and made mincemeat of. My next go round, I tried taking control of one of the river’s fish – eventually finding my way inside, but a silly mistake – trying to summon a swarm of rats to take out a guard left me fingered as a magic-using assassin, and similarly full of holes.
In another attempt, I used blink – one of Corvo’s magical powers, that allows for short range teleportation – to transmute to a more vertical position, to survey the area and nightcrawl my way to the party. It too resulted in my death, when I pressed the wrong button on the controller and drew my weapon in front of a guard, in an area I really shouldn’t have been. Had I utilised “Dark vision,” another of Corvo’s powers that allows you to see enemies behind walls, I might have escaped that particular fate. What did work for me, on a later attempt, was a more direct approach; jumping the front gate and stumbling upon a discarded invitation to the party – and just walked in through the front door.
In the courtyard, I spoke to an NPC, Lord Shaw – which triggered a series of events that pit me against him in an old-fashioned, walk-ten-paces and fire pistol duel. He didn’t stand a chance; at the count of ten I triggered Corvo’s ability to manipulate time, turning around and shooting him in the head before he’d even had a chance to draw. Thankfully the exchange didn’t blow my cover – leaving me free to join the party.
Being masked at a masquerade ball has its advantages – mostly in that you blend right in, and nobody questions your presence. It made finding the identity of the right Lady Boyle significantly easier, by speaking to the estate full of masked guests to finally figure out which of the three was the correct target. at one point, another masked NPC came up to me, telling me he know who I was and what my job was, pleading with me to keep the good lady alive. He’s enamoured with her – and would prefer if I merely incapacitated her temporarily; he’d then ensure that she’d flee the city with him to start a new life; one where she’d be his prisoner until Stockholm syndrome kicked in and she’d love him back. Once I’d discovered the identity of my target, I took that route – convincing her that an assassin was out for her blood – and that she’d be safer if she followed me to the basement, where I’d put her in contact with her admirer and help her escape.
She did – and I promptly stabbed her in the face. It seemed the most humane thing to do.
The best thing about the refreshing and original Dishonored is that it really is pretty open ended – and you’re able to tackle each and every mission in a number of ways; whispering through without harming a soul, rushing in guns blazing or mixing your approach. Because of that, it invites players to replay levels over and over again, seeing which route works best – and the achievements and trophies rewards that. I noticed, when I finished the mission that I got an achievement for not interrupting the party – because the only death was Ms Boyle’s – and it was done out of the view of the watchful guards. It’s probably too early to go about throwing “Game of the Year” accolades – but of the rest of the game is this intriguing, it’s certainly a contender.