Welcome back to Beta’d: Recently, we got a hands on demo of Dishonored, the hotly anticipated first-person shooter/stealth game from Arcane Studios and Bethesda Softworks.
Story: You’ve been framed for murder, given unbelievable supernatural abilities (did someone say “Swarm of Rats?”) and tasked with seeking revenge against those that killed your beloved empress. From a very simple setup comes an elaborate game in which you have complete control over how you achieve your objectives. You play as an assassin, fighting the oppression of an Orwellian militaristic government that is suppressing the people and letting disease ravage the population. Set in a neo-steampunk city that is one part technology and one part alchemy, you must take down the corrupt leaders of this dark world.
Graphics: The game’s graphics are quite striking. Every building, alley, rat, and character is detailed and rendered gorgeously. The use of your powers looks great, making everything from teleporting to possessing guards visually engaging. The dark and gritty dystopian/steampunk palette is thoroughly engaging to look at and interact with.
Gameplay: Arcane was one of many studios that took a pass at BioShock 2 for 2K Games; the gameplay feels like it was based on similar mechanics to the BioShock series. One hand controls your weapon, while the other controls your supernatural abilities, but that is where the similarities between the two franchises ends. Dishonored‘s maps provide the player with innumerable routes into and out of objectives. Between combinations of powers and routes, there are more than enough ways to skin this cat. To demonstrate Dan Casey and I are both going to explain how we worked our way though the demo. In the demo, we were tasked with the kidnapping of Anton Sokolov, a high-ranking chemist, to help bolster the rebellion you’ve been swept into. Plenty of Tallboys (think an AT-ST with a convertible top) and guards lie in the way as you have to both infiltrate a complex and then escape the area with everyone now on high alert.
Brian: Right off the bat, I was obsessed with the stealth options the game had. Sticking to the shadows and creeping by enemies is very natural. You’re defaulted with a cutlass as your weapon, but as my goal was to never have to use it, I don’t know how effective it is. Being spotted causes a kerfuffle with pretty bad odds, and you learn quickly that a full-on assault is going to cost you a lot of time and pistol shots to the knee. Blink, the game’s teleportation ability, was quite addictive as I bounced from ledge to ledge and snuck in. Timing on this game is super important, and while the guards have patterns, they’re repeated in random timing. Once I reached the scientist, all hell broke loose getting out of there. Tallboys flooded the level and took shots at me, but my Kurt Wagner reflexes took hold and I blinked my way out of there. So there, the coward’s approach to Dishonored.
Dan: You guys, I don’t know if you were reading what Brian wrote earlier, but YOU CAN SHOOT RATS AT PEOPLE! My eyebrow literally cannot be raised any higher; that’s how surprised (and delighted) I was by this power. Like Brian, I adopted a stealthy approach after I realized that simply walking up to one of the Tallboys would not only lead to my American History X-style curbside murder, but that my rat cannons were wildly ineffective. I have not felt this betrayed by a Tallboy since I accidentally left a Pabst Blue Ribbon in the freezer overnight.
Forced to put aside my considerable hubris, I remembered that I had the ability to teleport, so I Blink’d up to a large pipe running along the side of the building where my Russian Rapunzel was waiting. Seeing two guards on the balcony, I assessed the situation, scurried over to a conveniently placed shed (with an electronics panel that I lacked the competence to hack), then leaned out from my hiding spot and used my Possession power to take control of one of the guards. Finally, I know what Lindsay Lohan felt like when she was trapped in Jamie Lee Curtis’ Activia-filled body! Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that there is a time limit when you violently inhabit someone’s body like a steampunk Pazuzu, so my erstwhile host collapsed to the ground, alerting his friend to the fact that I was trespassing in more ways than one. Thankfully, I did what anyone in my position would do: violently murdered him with a cutlass before anyone could figure out what happened. Thanks, cutlass!
After some more sneaking, teleporting and avoiding guards like the plague, which is slowly devastating the people of this Orwellian nightmare world, I made my way up to Sokolov’s rooftop laboratory. Having murdered his two guards and choked Sokolov into a sweet slumber, I slung his limp science-filled body over my shoulder and then made my way out to the balcony to figure out how the hell I was going to get him down to the docks where my human trafficker/partner-in-revolution was waiting. My initial instinct was to throw his body down into the water, then dive in after him, but DON’T DO THIS because he apparently drowns with a quickness. Having reloaded from a checkpoint, I slowly hopped from ledge to ledge until I’d made my way down to the street level. From there, all it took was alternating between carrying that heavy sonofabitch and dropping him like a sack of bricks to blast rats at any interlopers before I conveyed my person-turned-parcel to my scruffy boatman/co-kidnapper. And that, my friends, is how you extradite a Russian scientist. Your move, Solid Snake.
Impressions: The game is fluid, gorgeous and confoundingly addictive. If you’re a fan of dark tales where no matter what you do you’re going to have to be a bad guy, then this game is for you. More importantly, if you’re a fan of having some agency over how you make your way from point A to point B, then you’re in luck. Pure Paragons need not apply.