Dishonored preview

dishonored preview 1

Bethesda Softworks has a surprise in store for later this year. It’s a game from Arkane Studios, the developer behind Arx Fatalis and Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, called Dishonored. You’ve likely heard about it, but the surprise, I think, is that it will deliver in a way that you might not be expecting. One of those “perfect world” new IP scenarios where the new world being laid out before you feels both fresh and familiar. I’m basing this entirely on an eyes-on-only preview that Bethesda brought to New York City earlier in April, so bear that in mind as you read the following.

Dishonored feels like the forbidden love child of BioShock and Thief: Deadly Shadows with a dash of that highly stylized Borderlands art design thrown in. It’s a stealth-action game played from a first-person perspective. You are Corvo, a disgraced royal guardsman who finds himself on the run and looking to clear his name after he’s implicated in the murder of the same Empress that he was once charged with protecting.

The game unfolds in the fictional city of Dunwall, a sort of Victorian-era steampunk vision of London, only without all of the steam and brass that you might expect. The two environments I got to see definitely exuded their own sense of character and place while feeling very different from one another. You won’t have the freedom to explore the entire city — Dishonored follows a linear path in this regard, with discrete “levels” for each mission — but it seems like you’ll be seeing a good mixture of locations as Corvo works to clear his name.

Don’t let the idea of a linear set of missions fool you, however. Dishonored is built on the idea of multi-path gameplay. You’ve got a select set of tools that you’re constantly adding to as the story progresses, and the upgrades you select for yourself determine how you’ll often find yourself approaching a given situation. You’ve heard that sort of talk from other games, sure. There’s a lot of personality in the range of options Dishonored lays out before you.

The bulk of the hands-off preview session focused on showing off two different approaches to the same mission. Corvo is out to make his way into the Golden Cat Bathhouse so he can eliminate a pair of crooked sibling politicians. Note however that murder does not necessarily have to transpire here; the game features non-lethal alternative for every, single scenario, making it possible to proceed through the game without taking a single virtual life.

dishonored preview 2

For the stealth portion of the demo, I watch as the Bethesda rep teleports around the environment using one of Corvo’s unlockable abilities, Blink. Zapping from point A to B is as simple as targeting the location you want to go to and pressing a button. As long as the destination is inside Blink’s range — something you can improve by unlocking the power’s second rank — you’ll make the jump.

It quickly becomes clear that there’s no easy way inside without alerting the guards, so instead Corvo makes his way to the side of the building that faces an empty waterway. Using another of his powers, Corvo takes possession of a swimming fish and guides it through an open grate, into the building’s basement. Possessing people and animals is another ability you can pick up, though it’s much more than just seeing through another’s eyes. You are literally transported along with them as well, so the act of guiding the fish inside means that Corvo, too, has also infiltrated the basement.

Taking refuge in a small room, the demo driver switches on Dark Vision. The world is immediately bathed in golden hues as walls become transparent. Corvo can see people walking around outside, their line of sight indicated by flashlight-like beams emanating from their eyes. It’s a cool effect, and one that you immediately get when you look at it. Stay out of those eye beams and no one will see you.

The sneaking continues as Corvo works his way through the bathhouse. We get to see his nasty Spring Razor trap, a proximity mine-like device that explodes in a swirl of spinning razor wires whenever anyone gets too close, dismembering them immediately.

After skulking around for awhile and listening in on a few conversations, Corvo discovers that the two Pendelton twins that he’s after are in separate locations. The first he goes after is in the steam room downstairs. After dealing with the guards out front, a number of options are available. In this case, Corvo chooses to make the death look like an accident. He shorts out the steam valve after sealing the room’s door, cooking one of his marks alive.

The other twin is upstairs enjoying the loving embrace of one of the bathhouse’s female employees. There’s no indoor entry point that Corvo can use without raising an alert, so he instead heads outside onto a ledge, working his way around to the balcony outside his target’s room. After sneaking inside, he possesses the other brother and walks him out onto the balcony before relinquishing control. As the confused mark tries to figure out how he ended up outside, Corvo unleashes his Wind Blast attack, shoving the doomed man off the balcony and down to the cobblestone street below.

The bathhouse attendant is understandably distressed when Corvo walks back inside. Before she can get too worked up, Corvo brings a small, one-handed crossbow to bear — you swap weapons and powers in a radial menu that slows down time when it’s opened — and knocks her out with a sleep dart. He could have killed her, but that’s not how this portion of the demo is being run.

The more action-oriented approach to this assassination shows off the first-person combat in Dishonored. Corvo is not an unstoppable killing machine, though you can make him extremely deadly in situations where the odds are stacked against him with the right set of skills and tools. There are basic blade attacks, which lead to some cool execution animations (that is assuming the sight of a knife stabbing through someone’s neck qualifies as “cool”). There are also more supernatural powers, like the ability to summon a rat swarm and sic it on any nearby enemies.

When all of the moving parts are working together in concert, Dishonored‘s combat starts to feel like a deadly ballet. Corvo moves easily through a crowd, stabbing one enemy, sending rats after another, and then dropping a Spring Razor at the feet of two other enemies, slicing them to bits. Another power brings time to a stop, giving our assassin the breather he needs to break free from the pack and pull out his pistol, which hits with a hell of a punch.

dishonored preview 3

There are two kinds of powers in Dishonored. The active use ones, like Blink or Rat Swarm, which are tied to Runes that you collect. Then there are Bone Charms, which allow you to activate a variety of passive abilities. This could be something like enemies turning to dust when you stealth knife them from behind, removing any need to worry about hiding bodies. Arkane says that the game features around 50 of these passive abilities, but you’ll only encounter maybe half of them on a typical playthrough. They’re all randomized too, to amp up the replay value.

We also get a brief look at another area of Dunwall, the so-called Flooded District where the powers-that-be keep a quarantine on living victims of a plague that’s spread across the city. This is a markedly different location. The Golden Cat was very bright and cheery, with lots of ornate architecture and innocent bystanders. The Flooded District looks more like a post-apocalyptic urban setting; buildings in ruins, rubble all over, barely a soul in sight.

Here we see a squad of the game’s Tallboys, the stilt-walking enemies armed with incendiary arrow that you’ve seen in screens and concept art. A single Tallboy isn’t a huge challenge, but taking on one alerts a whole group of them. The sustained fire quickly overwhelms Corvo and the demo comes to an end. Afterward, we learn that one option would have been to possess a Tallboy and turn those fire arrows against the others. If it’s alive, you can possess it, provided of course that you’ve unlocked the power.

As you might have gathered from the length of this preview, there’s a lot to talk about with Dishonored. It’s not so much that Arkane showed everything; more that this is a new IP and it features many moving parts. Those moving parts all seem to come together well, however. It’s impossible to make any definitive judgments, but this is one game you’ll want to keep an eye on as the year progresses.

Gaming

Microsoft is reportedly planning an Xbox One without a disc drive for 2019

Microsoft is reportedly planning to release a new Xbox One model without a disc drive in 2019. The console will be significantly cheaper than other Xbox One systems, including the Xbox One S.
Gaming

15 tips for keeping your vault-dwellers alive in ‘Fallout Shelter’

The wasteland can be an unfriendly place, if you don't know what you're doing. Here are 15 tips that will help your vault thrive in Fallout Shelter, including information on questing.
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Gaming

These are the best Xbox One games available right now

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.
Gaming

Everything we know about 'Anthem', including new details on Javelin classes

BioWare announced an upcoming action role-playing game called 'Anthem' at EA Play 2017. Here's everything we know about the game so far, including gameplay, DLC, and when you'll be able to play it.
Gaming

Stock up on Switch accessories this week with these awesome Black Friday deals

Black Friday is right around the corner, and it's the perfect time to stock up on accessories for your Nintendo Switch. Here are the best Switch accessory deals on Black Friday, from controllers to cases and more.
Gaming

‘Spyro Reignited Trilogy’ proves nostalgia only goes so far

Spyro Reignited Trilogy is a faithful and beatiful remaster of the PlayStation classics, but its dedication to retaining the original experience ultimately hinders the experience. Spyro was great in the late-'90s, but it hasn't aged well.
Product Review

Make friends. To survive the wasteland of 'Fallout 76,' you're gonna need 'em

Fallout 76 brings the nuclear wasteland online and invites you to hop in with your friends. It’s fun, and a new direction for the Fallout franchise, but it’s not without its faults.
Gaming

‘Final Fantasy VII Remake’ director sets record straight on game’s progress

Final Fantasy VII Remake director Tetsuya Nomura clarified some information about the game's progress. There were earlier reports that the RPG was put on hold in favor of Kingdom Hearts III, but that is apparently not the case.
Features

From NES to PlayStation, retro gaming is booming. But will it last?

Everyone craves the good old days, and companies like Nintendo and Sony are cashing in with their mini versions of beloved retro consoles. But is this fad built to last or will our fixation with pixelated graphics come and go like mom…
Gaming

‘Blockchain gaming’ startup gets $16 million in Series A funding

A gaming startup, Mythical Games, has raised $16 million in Series A funding to work on their concept of blockchain gaming. The aim is for the startup to develop games for the PC, console, and mobile markets.
Gaming

‘Fortnite’ named Ultimate Game of the Year at the Golden Joystick awards

This year's Golden Joysticks, the gaming awards handed out by GamesRadar, have been announced and Fortnite has been named the Ultimate Game of the Year. It beat out Red Dead Redemption for best game, but Red Dead was named critics' choice.
Gaming

Want to gift a Steam game so you can play with a friend? Here's how to do it

The holidays may have passed, but it's always a good time to give the gift of gaming (especially when there's a Steam sale)! Here's our quick guide on how to give a Steam game as a gift.
Gaming

‘Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers’ to launch summer 2019 with gunblades, Viera

Square Enix revealed that Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers will be released in summer 2019. The third expansion of the MMORPG will include new story content, dungeons, and raids, in addition to gunblades and the Viera.