Dishonored Hands-On: Stealth, Player Choice & Possessing A Fish
It’s so easy to compare Dishonored with Irrational’s underwater hit, BioShock. Both offer the sort of cerebral thrills that are often absent from the FPS genre and both set themselves in the sorts of environments where subversive political writing is the obvious choice of wall-scrawling for the socially concerned.
Like BioShock’s Rapture, the citizens of Dunwall are oppressed and surrounded by the sort of architecture that Twenties expressionists would find a little bit depressing.
Beyond exploring the sorts of themes, characters and stories that most modern shooters leave for the big guns, Dishonored is carving its own path and creating something quite special in the process.
Arkane is building (or should that be re-building?) on a genre that stalled with Thief: Deadly Shadows and has never really been successfully reignited.
Dishonored Brings Classic Stealth To Xbox 360
Open-ended stealth has been reinvigorated over the course of the 360’s life with crowd-pleasing action games such as Assassin’s Creed, but the shadow-hiding and clinical edge required to play something like Thief properly have disappeared.
Though the stealth genre hasn’t really gone away, more evolved into something else, it’s obvious to see that Dishonored is harkening back to a style of play that’s been absent for far too long.
It’s all about the tools of the trade, too. We find Corvo hunkered down in a dank alley, the sounds of scuttling rats at his feet and it’s the first chance we get to have good look at his abilities.
Luckily for us, everything is unlocked, though we’re reliably informed at this stage In the game most of these abilities will be unattainable, at least to some degree.
Dishonored wants you to experiment, but it wants you to earn that right as well as choose your style of play. We’re not limited right now and experimenting with Blink (teleporting), Dark Vision (Bat-vision), Windblast (Force push), Time Bend (says it on the tin), Possession (ditto) and Devouring Swarm (death by rat, lots of rats).
And they said the Crazy Rat Lady was harmless…
Unparalleled Freedom Of Choice
Corvo is in this particular alleyway because he’s been sent to capture (alive, we might add) Anton Sokolov, the royal physician. Anton, right now just a white arrow on the hud, is in his rooftop greenhouse at Kaldwin’s Bridge.
With no limitations on our choice of approach, exploring the breadth of options open to us is a truly daunting prospect. And there’s no shortage of guards between our prey and us, too, but possessing fish and rats and slinking through the building’s inner workings takes us out of harms way.
It’s not just about empowering players with more choices of approach than they’ll ever realistically need, too. Reacting to opportunities as and when they arise will also see players rewarded with much-needed Runes (to help with the upgrading of Corvo’s abilities) and cold hard cash (for weapons and ammo).
The discovery of a dead body clutching a note, which explains that a hidden stash of goodies can be accessed through a secret doorway, is enough to send us on a hunting spree.
The crumbling streets of Dunwell are dense and littered with secret nooks and crannies like this that Arkane has exploited. Paying attention to this and taking the time necessary to discover them will pay off in Dishonored’s world.
It’s a style of play we are woefully unprepared for. After gaining entrance to the lower levels of Anton’s building we find the most obvious routes through it are heavily guarded.
There’s a number of BioShock-style abilities at your disposal.
Classic Gameplay Makes Dishonored Feel Refreshingly New
Dishonored needs you to think laterally about the situations ahead and sneaking into a dining room, by Blinking our way across the hallways sees our best laid plans unravel.
We had planned on a merciful mission, but getting spotted by a guard (in a fashion similar to Ubisoft’s recent Future Soldier) we have to resort to violence – beautiful, disgusting violence. Though you can hold your own for a while, you’re not the super – health-recharging – men of most FPS games.
It’s so refreshing to explore Dishonored’s world and discover that if you prod it in a certain way, Arkane has ensured it will prod you right back. Everything is built around experimentation and approaching situations with more forethought than ‘Who should I shoot first?’
We never did discover everything in the level, but we did get to Sokolov. We were able to sneak up behind him and choke him out before Blink-travelling our way across the rooftops and to freedom.