Attack of the Fanboy
E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo)

Bethesda shows off Dishonored and its use of player choice

by William Schwartz


Since the very day we heard about Dishonored, we’ve been yearning to get our hands on it to see whether or not the game’s scope and premise was entirely too good to be true. Now that we’ve had the opportunity of getting a  little alone time with it, it’s clear that Arkane Studios and Bethesda are dead-set on making Dishonored the game you think it can’t be. Any title that blends stealth and action elements with a unique, distopic setting has our attention, and we’re not even mentioning the fact that Dishonored is not a sequel, spinoff, or reboot of another franchise. This game is a completely new and innovative IP, and after going behind the scenes at Bethesda’s E3 booth, we’re fairly certain it’ll be making a whole lot of noise building up to its release this Fall.

Co-Creative Directors Harvey Smith and Raf Colantonio came out to demo some exclusive Dishonored footage not available to the public, and to make it worth the audience’s while, they stated before the start that they’d be playing the demo not once, but twice. “The first time, we’re going to go though without killing anyone,” said Smith amusingly. “The second, yeah you guessed it, everyone’s getting killed.”

“From the outset, Dishonored’s distinct visual identity is notable and invigorating.”

From the outset, Dishonored‘s distinct visual identity is notable and invigorating. The steampunk, Elizabethan-era elements create a world that is shrouded in mystery and enigmatic wonder. The grey sky and cobbled streets covered by a thick fog provide a great backdrop for the citizens’ conversations about the oppressive Dunwall government, as well as the poverty that government has let its citizens squalor in.

The exclusive demo had protagonist Corvo following one major objective: assassinate the Pendleton brothers – two corrupted members of Parliament and supporters of the evil Lord Regent. Corvo has knowledge that the brothers are frequent visitors of the Golden Cat, a burlesque-like club lavishly established in stark contrast to the rest of Dunwall. The demo began with Corvo coming up behind a guard, and being given the option to either choke or kill. Being as it was the “stealthy” run-through of the demo, the demoer chose the non-lethal option of choking out the guard. Pressing X allowed him to carry the body, and he subsequently used his Blink ability to teleport to higher ground and hide his victim.

Corvo stood just outside the Golden Cat and using his power of Possession, the demoer took control of a fish in a nearby stream allowing him to swim through one of the building’s sewer grates and maneuver himself inside. He then demonstrated his Dark Vision ability which grants the power to see through walls and become aware of enemy positions.

The demoer moved stealthily throughout the building’s hallways and finally came upon the room of Prudence, the owner of the Golden Cat. Prudence herself was standing with her back to the player, checking something at her vanity. He creeped up behind her and was given the option to assassinate, choke, or pick her pocket. Going with the third option, the demoer stole the Golden Cat’s master key and moved to a vantage point in the rafters of the building’s large, circular foyer. Spying and eavesdropping on NPCs can gain you different or supplementary objectives, and in doing so the demoer learned the location of one of the brothers.

He quietly made his way downstairs, utilizing Blink to escape the watch of the guards. He entered into a room in which he could see one of the Pendletons, through a large plate of glass, inside the steamroom with a prostitute. Fixing and turning a valve, the player filled the room with boiling hot steam, frying the target as well as his companion. The demoer jumped back to the rafters and gained access to a ledge on the outside of the building. He scaled it until he came across the bedroom window of the second brother, again with a prostitute. It must run in the family.

The demoer could have easily taken him out, but instead decided to possess him. He then walked him out to the balcony, relieved control of him, and then used his Windblast ability to blow him off the edge.

As amazing as it was to see a game being played with such stealth and precision, there were those of us in the audience with a bloodlust, and the two Co-Creative Directors were not about to let us walk away empty-handed. The second time around, there was little subtlety involved and even less left to the imagination. The demoer got to the same vantage point in the building’s foyer, but opted this time to drop down and let the guards know he wasn’t there for an appointment. The first guard met a gory and audience-satisfying end as Corvo sliced his head clean off with one swipe from his lethal blade. Another guard charged, was countered, and stabbed sideways through the neck, granting the audience a nice view of the victim’s face and the agony that the character model rendered.

A variety of NPC and player attack animations made it look as if no encounter was the same as the last, and a series of slow-mo sequences truly highlighted the more exceptional kills.

As the demoer hacked and slashed through the guards, the combat system looked undeniably fluid and comprehensive. A variety of NPC and player attack animations made it look as if no encounter was the same as the last, and a series of slow-mo sequences truly highlighted the more exceptional kills. The demoer then showcased his Bend Time ability, which allowed him to slow time and get behind large groups of oncoming guards, gaining him an invaluable advantage when going into battle outnumbered.

Before the demo concluded, Smith and Colantonio walked us through a section of the game in a setting called the “Flooded District,” a dilapidated and seemingly deserted region. It was here that we got our first look at one of the game’s more prominent enemies: Tallboys, guards situated in a  large spindle-legged robot meant to keep infected citizens of the Rat Plague inside the city walls. Each one featured an explosive longbow as its primary attack, and to counter the demoer used his Windblast power to fire the explosives back at them. The demo ended shortly after we were shown how Corvo’s Posses power, if used on Tallboys, could gain him entry into the city’s restricted areas protected by walls of electricity.

I’ll be the first to admit that I figured Dishonored to be one of those titles we’d eventually be chalking up in the “too good to be true” category. Yet our hands-on time with it at E3 combined with what we saw behind closed doors are making us realize the reality of the situation: Dishonored is a spectacle of sandbox-esque missions determined by player choice and style. We’re hard pressed to name a title that has been able to hold our hype for so long without us knowing much about it, yet Dishonored is consistently making its case as to why this non-sequel, brand new IP should be at the top of gamers’ lists when it’s released this October.

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