With gameplay mechanics that are a cross between the Deus Ex and BioShock series, Dishonored is arguably one of the most interesting games coming out this year. Topically, it is certainly a shooter, and you can just blast your way through a level to achieve your goal, but that can just as often take a backseat to your stealth abilities. We recently got to check out a detailed live presentation as well as some hands-on time with the game, and we got a feel for how the elements all come together.
You play as Corvo Wantano, a bodyguard to the recently assassinated empress. You've been falsely accused of the crime and have been sent into hiding. On your path of revenge, you will have a large array of tools at your disposal, including a bevy of melee and ranged weapons as well as a slew of powers. These powers really open up the gameplay in emergent ways, depending on the creativity of the player. For instance, the ability to blink forward in a flash is useful to reach a distant balcony to sneak into a fortified area. With more creativity, you could escape that area by leaping from the balcony and possessing a guard on the way down, transferring your essence into his to break your fall while essentially disappearing and losing your pursuers. To initially sneak in, you may possess a local fish to swim through a sewer grate and then deposit your physical form inside.
Again, it's important to note how well these seemingly disparate abilities can be strung together. It's entirely possible to stop time, sneak up behind a guard to stealthily stab him from behind, grab his corpse, and then blink away to hide the body. It requires a bit of finger gymnastics, but you end up feeling like a supreme badass. As you play through the game, you can choose which abilities you want to improve, allowing you to amp up those that you frequently use or those that fit your intended play style.
Stealth is a powerful tool unto itself in Dishonored, and there are many systems in place that help polish the mechanics. Muffled audio through doors and some walls lets you eavesdrop on conversations while also helping you determine where the discussion is taking place, while a smart lean mechanic lets you peek out just enough to see what you want to see. You can pick pockets to get critical keys or items without having to kill their owner, and you can use a power called dark vision to see through walls to determine enemy positions and their cones of vision. It all adds up to a stealth system that works well and provides enough difficulty to make it engaging, but at the same time, you have enough tools to adapt to each situation.
Combat is often inevitable. Armed with a dagger in your right hand and a pistol in your left, you can easily fend for yourself when the need arises. Many enemies are similarly armed with melee weapons, and while you can block their attacks, you can also stagger the opponent. Once again, combining abilities is a powerful tool, so you can stop time to fire crossbow bolts at your numerous assailants before time restarts and the arrows all fly at once.
For being a relatively unknown title just a few months ago, Dishonored is certainly shaping up to be a very strong game. The gameplay in the open, non-linear environments that we saw allowed for a ton of player creativity at any time, and the use of powers, stealth and combat mechanics were intriguing. We'll get to check out how it all comes together when Dishonored launches on Oct. 9.
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