Dishonored Preview (@ZathUK at E3 2012)

dishonored-box-artToday, amidst the E3 show floor madness, I got the chance to check out a hands-on preview for Arcane Studio’s new action RPG Dishonored. First up Harvey Smith, lead designer on the now legendary Deus Ex, ran us through a demo set in a brothel, the Golden Cat, showing the variety in gameplay, first running through stealthily and unseen, then bounding in spraying weapons this way and that.

As revealed before, our supernatural assassin protagonist, out for revenge after being framed for the murder of the Empress, has a number of extraordinary abilities: a kind of force push, a short range teleport, time stopping, character possession, dark vision (see guards through walls) and the ability to summon a swarm of rats to strip victims of their flesh. Seeing these abilities being used in conjunction with each other is the real joy.

In the demo the actual assassination target was possessed, walked out onto the balcony, then unpossessed and force pushed off the edge. The player then makes a quick getaway, teleporting to a roof below. Fluidity is key here and the ability to have a weapon or ability in each hand, coupled with the smooth climbing and jumping (allowing for rooftop assassinations) confirms that.

The left bumper button also allows you use other weapons such as a crossbow with equally satisfying uses including sleep darts to allow for murder-free incapacitation – Harvey assures us your body count of innocents will have an effect on your game ending. Speaking of murder, if you should choose to go down that route, you won’t be disappointed as there are many gallons of blood to be spilt and the chance of dismemberment or decapitation. It’s all about choice and player gratification.

dishonored-screenshot

Though Dishonored may not offer the ultimate graphical fidelity evident in some AAA games, the visual direction and game world more than make up for it. Characters are all slightly stylised, and adorned with fantastic historically-inspired costumes and names likes “Pendleton” – it’s the mark of a great game that evokes a deep interest in its world and lore before it’s even out. The city of Dunwall certainly draws from the steampunk aesthetic, but has its own inspirations from renaissance architecture and even cyberpunk technology. The setting is also equally intriguing with certain parts of the city filled with plague, quarantined by ‘tall boys’, guards on stilts, and infested with rats and dank industrial structures.

After having gotten hands on with the game myself, the stories of possessing people on the ground, mid-jump, to avoid fall damage or possessing fish to infiltrate bases seemed all the more exciting for the possibilities different situations and different ideas could result in. The slick visual design in both the game world and HUD elements such as the abilities and weapons wheel, wraps divergent gameplay in a fascinating and original packaging and all that’s left to really scrutinise is the story, which isn’t really possible until the game is out. Despite the misspelling of the title, with the talent Bethesda and Arcane have invested in this new IP, the awesome trailers and my first-hand experience of the game, I’m pretty damn excited.

Dishonored is out on PC, 360 and PS3 on October 9th.

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