Platforms: Xbox 360 (version tested) | PS3 | PC
Developers: Arkane Studios
Publishers: Bethesda Softworks
Chances are, you’ve probably heard about Dishonored being a game keen to emphasise the vast amount of choice when approaching an assassination mission. Rather than trying to muscle in on Assassin’s Creed’s turf, the game is a first person title.
The game world is a strange mix of Victorian architecture and steampunk mechanics. Narrow foggy streets are patrolled by police on mechanical stilts. There are regular policeman too, although they’ve got something of a WWI German feel about them thanks to single-spike helmets and over-enthusiastic moustaches.
The task at hand was assassinating the female host at a masquerade party in a nearby mansion. Powers that I had at my disposal today included a psi-push, invisibility, possession, slowing down time, seeing through walls and naturally, unleashing a swarm of rats to devour enemies. Weapons include a crossbow with regular, tranquiliser and explosive rounds, pistols, sticky grenades, mines and long knife. The dual wielding of weapons and abilities will be familiar to players of Bioshock 2.
The strangest equipment on the menu has to be the beating heart. While wondering around the game you’ll be prompted to equip it to use a sort-of radar to pick up other hearts and runes. You can see them through walls and a marker indicates how far away they are. These pickups can then be used to buy skills. Seeing as I was trying to kill a target in a busy environment, I went for the Shadow Kill skill. The first tier of this turns bodies to ash if you kill someone without them ever knowing you were there. This eradicates the bothersome task of tidying up after yourself as the corpse just disintegrates into nothing, leaving you free to waltz straight back out the front door.
Starting off in a restricted area I needed to sneak past patrols to get into the mansion grounds one of two ways. I could go in like a tramp and crawl through a large drain or use my teleport power to get over the gate. Once inside, I was wearing a mask so guests thought I was a fellow attendee. A scripted gust of wind blew an invite out of a woman’s hand which I was all too keen to poach. Once I’d handed it to the guard I was let into the mansion’s back garden, free to mingle.
As a part of a side-mission I delivered a message to another guest, who asked me to follow him. I didn’t bother first time around, but when I played again I went along to discover he wanted an old fashioned pistol duel. Backs to each other then turn on someone’s mark, that style of dual. Rather than risk having to restart anything I decided cheating was in order. So just before the mark, I slowed down time, shot him in his paused face and his friends too for good measure. With no other guests around I was free to pick up my bottle of wine that I’d grabbed to look innocuous –looks better than a crossbow and a knife- and headed inside for further schmoozing.
As you can tell, my second playthrough was the violent one. Initially, though, I went for a quiet option. Listening in on various conversations I found out there were three ladies all claiming to be the host, meaning I probably shouldn’t shiv all of them. I decided to go for a nosy, but upstairs was blocked by a guard so I possessed a rat -removing my body from existence and into the rat- and ran straight past him. Second time around I waited until the guard got bored and went to chat up a kitchen wench.
Once upstairs I read a few notes in the hostesses’ bedroom. One saying she was wearing a red dress tonight. But before running downstairs and making a scene, I carried on reading notes only to find another saying she was going to sleep with the first man that asked for it at the party tonight. Result! So, after running downstairs, and saying ‘hello, how about some sex?’ or something to that effect, she led me up to her room, away from everyone where I clumsily choked her out in a sleeper hold forgetting to stab her in the neck. So, realising no mission ping had told me to move on, as she was just unconscious I was left with only the option of kneeling down next to her and stabbing her up. It was going so smoothly as well. Smooth.
If you’d prefer the ‘make a scene’ option you better be in full control of your violent abilities because there are some skilled guards here and some of them blast out a noise that blocks your magic and disorientates you. It’s tougher, but definitely still an option with multiple escape routes available.
Replayability beyond offering higher difficulty levels isn’t something that games have done particularly well of late. With any look we won’t have that problem with Dishonored as going back to a mission to try a different approach seemed to provide very different experiences.
Dishonored is out October 12th.