Laced all the way through Dishonored is the ability to play each mission how you want to tackle it. There are shades of Deus Ex and Thief everywhere, all wrapped in a dark and fantastical new world inspired by 1800s London.
It’s not much of a surprise when you see the line up of developers behind the title, with one of the Creative Directors, Harvey Smith and Lead Designer, Ricardo Bare having been on that original Deus Ex team. Viktor Antonov the main man behind designing City 17 around Eastern European stylings for Half Life 2 is also present. They’re just part of a dream team of art and game design and this is clear almost everywhere you look.
The mission I had the opportunity to sit down with sits part-way into the game’s long list of revenge assassinations. The protagonist is Corvo Atano, the bodyguard turned assassin who has been framed for the murder of the Empress by the Lord Regent; and as one of the Lord Regent’s supporters, Lady Boyle is Atano’s next target.[videoyoutube]She’s hosting a masked party but needless to say I didn’t have an invite so would have to find my own way in. Right off the bat there are a good number of routes that can be taken. My natural inclination was to dodge guards, hop over a fence to the main gate and see what I could do there. I stumbled across a dropped invite, and was able to use this to get into the party, where I would fit in perfectly, thanks to Atano’s signature mask. I couldn’t possibly be Atano himself, after all.
Of course, this was the thoroughly pedestrian route to take, not using any of the supernatural powers I had at my disposal. I was still getting used to everything I could do, whereas if I’d had the hours of gameplay leading up to this I might have known better to look for the sewers which I could enter by possessing a fish. I might even have ducked into an adjacent building and blinked (teleported) myself across the gap from one roof to the next.
I could even have barrelled in, weapons ablaze and used the ability to stop time, move people in front of their own bullets, and taken out all the guards. I showed a little restraint, though. It wouldn’t do to cause a scene and make my mission more difficult.
Once inside, I happened onto a side mission, deviating slightly off the main path and handing a note to a Lord. He was just hanging around in the courtyard but this note kind of dropped me in at the deep end, having me act as a representative in a pistol duel. The implementation of this duel caught me by surprise a little with how well thought out and authentic it was. A guard officiates, handing out the pistols, sending us to our marks and making us face away from one another. Only on the count of three was I to turn around, aim and shoot as best I could.
Honourably, I waited until the count, turned and in my haste put my shot wide, receiving a bullet in return for my troubles before I could reload and take better aim. I was only playing on Normal difficulty, so this didn’t kill me but I’d expect missing your first shot would be far more perilous on harder difficulties. Side mission dispatched, and with the guards muttering about the likelihood of running out of guests, I headed in to the main party to hunt my quarry.[drop]Inside the house I was again met with another challenge of sprawling possibilities, much like getting into the party itself. There are three Lady Boyles in variations of the same outfit, and I have to find the right one, assassinate her and manage to get out alive.
Excellently the target is randomised by the game, so I need to actually investigate. I could sneak out of the bounds of the party to find clues (also with their positions randomised) in one of the bedrooms, or walk around, being sprayed from the walls by confetti as I move, and engage in conversation with the guests to find clues. Even if you don’t talk to them, they’ll often take a break from what they’re discussing about the state of the empire, the plague and the game’s rather gloomy wider world in order to complement you on your dress sense.
It’s always good to hear a man with a squid for a head saying that he likes your outfit, isn’t it?
Up in one of the bedrooms, I discover which Lady I want from her journal. She’s apparently rather hot in her nether regions too, and just about ready to pounce on the first man she sees. That certainly doesn’t sound very lady-like to me but it does give me the perfect way to draw her away from the main party via some simple dialogue and quietly take her life. A more discrete option than doing so in the open with guests and guards everywhere, which will also let me leave the party before her body is discovered.
In a nice touch, there’s always a more peaceful route to take to each of the game’s assassinations, so that you can progress through the entire game without killing anyone. Hopefully not even boss characters. In this case, Lady Boyle apparently has quite an admirer at her own party, although I guess he’s more like an unhinged stalker. Either way, he’s more than willing to take her away from this place for some alone time of his own… For good.
With a large number of powers and weapons to choose from, mixed with level design that encourages and enables you to mix and combine these into different styles of play, I doubt that I’ve even covered half the possible routes to cover this mission. Dishonored is a game that looks like it will really capture the essence of the “play-how-you-want” style of game design, all wrapped in a wonderfully realised steampunk dystopia.