PAX Prime 2012: Dishonored preview

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It’s been a good while since we’ve had a really good stealth action game, with Hitman: Blood Money still reigning supreme. That all changes with Dishonored though, as it looks like we're going to get not only a great stealth action game, but one that puts as much emphasis on the world as it does the action. It isn’t your generic “infiltrate the party and kill this person”-type game where you climb in a window, shoot them, and leave unchallenged. In the mission that I played at PAX, not only did a seemingly straightforward assassination require thought, planning, and lightning-fast thinking, but it was also brutally difficult, something I believe has been missing from the genre for years.

As I started the demo, I was presented with a mission in which I was tasked with finding a way into Lady Boyle’s manor during a masquerade ball and executing her without raising suspicion; that way I could still find my way out before anyone noticed that she was gone. Unfortunately, my play style isn’t to slow down and take my time, so this resulted in a rough start to the demo; once I adapted to playing differently than I normally would, the level worked brilliantly.

As I approached the entrance to the manor, I was stopped by a guard who asked for my invitation. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have one. I overheard some partygoers outside the gate talking about fancy rich-people things and saw this as a perfect opportunity. In Dishonored you play as a magical assassin, which meant I had access to many different types of magical powers, including Wind Gust, which I proceded to select from my radial menu. Using the gust of wind on the partygoers was just the right move, as an invitation flew out of the hand of one of them and right into the sewer. I climbed into the sewer and snatched up the invitation.

I approached the guard and handed him my invitation. He welcomed me and was shocked at just how scary my mask was, which was a funny nod to the fact that the protagonist in Dishonored seemingly always wears a scary metal mask. I walked inside and started my hunt for Lady Boyle; as I made my way around the party, talking to partygoers for any information that I could find, I ran across a mysterious man.

This man knew of my intentions at the party and begged me to spare Boyle's life, as he was in love with her. If I could somehow lure her into the basement, he would make sure that she was never heard from again. While this seemed like an extremely weird request, I figured that it might be a neat alternative to look into; it was only a secondary objective, after all. I continued to walk around the party, until I finally spotted Lady Boyle. I studied her movement as she went around talking to party guests and looking at the dozens of rare antiquities throughout her mansion. I finally saw my moment as she made her way toward a back room; I started to follow her but once I entered the room that she had gone in, I realized that she had somehow slipped back out with the crowd.

I pulled up my radial menu and looked at what weapons I had at my disposal. I could fell her with a poison dart, giving me enough time to escape before anyone realized that something was wrong with her. I could simple just shoot her with my pistol or crossbow as well, but I saw a great opportunity for a bit of showboating. I equipped the sticky grenade and took aim. She wandered back out into the main foyer and I aimed a few feet above her head. I threw the grenade perfectly onto the back of her head, allowing her to move out into the plain view of all her guests before the grenade went off and her head exploded in spectacular fashion.

Of course, this raised a bit more attention than just killing her stealthily and walking away, but it showed just how many choices you truly have and how they affect the NPCs and other characters around you. After finishing the demo, I went back to see what happens if you take Lady Boyle to the basement for the creepy guy. Turns out, he manages to be even more creepy, vowing to keep her locked in his basement for the rest of her life while he tortures her. It’s pretty dark. At this point, I’m glad that I killed her, rather than having her experience that. It’s shows how things can change based on one little choice and how it might seem like the right choice but ultimately turn out to be the wrong decision.

You’ll have a hard time trying to find two playthroughs alike in Dishonored, as the open-ended nature of the game allows things to play out differently for each person depending on their actions. During my demo, I looked at the screen next to me and realized that that player had taken a completely different path than I, but we both completed the objective, resulting in a successful mission. It’s that sort of small touch that makes Dishonored’s gameplay so refreshing, and it seems to be shaping up to be a promising October 2012 release.

We’ve only seen a small portion of Dishonored so far, but I’m thankful for that, as it allows us to go back and see how things might have been different if we had taken a different path. I can only imagine how much time I’ll spend seeking out all the different possibilities and establishing a play style once the full game releases on October 9th.

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