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Dishonored hands-on: welcome to the party, pal

Thursday, 23rd August 2012 17:37 GMT By Dave Cook

Dishonored is on track to being the hottest new IP of the year. VG247′s Dave Cook gatecrashes a socialite party with murder on his mind to find out more.

Having to work out the identity of Lady Boyle ourselves, with little in the way of clues or direction, underlines that hand-holding and ease of progression are all-too common in today’s industry. It’s time to grow up.

New IP doesn’t sell.

That’s what many of the games industry’s top brass will tell you, but this is also a dangerously short-sighted view that breeds repetition, over-familiarity and a crippling lack of new ideas. If that’s the case, the industry is doomed and we should all just pack up and go home right now.

Expect this isn’t the reality at all. All IP is newborn. New games do emerge to belie the trend, and Arkane’s grim Dishonored is likely to be next in line to do so. The public’s growing infatuation with the game is refreshing, and sitting down to play a new mission at gamescom reveals why.

Primarily, it’s because Dishonored treats you like an adult, not a moron. It’s the kind of game that strains your brain cells rather than depleting them. This new mission sees protagonist Corvo gatecrashing a party held in honour of esteemed socialite Lady Boyle.

She’s the mistress of Dishonored’s villain the Lord Regent, and its your job to pose as a guest, seek her out and slaughter her. There’s just one catch – Lady Boyle is one of three sisters who all go by the name ‘Lady Boyle.’

Plus it’s a masquerade ball and everyone is wearing masks, so you have absolutely no idea which of the three Boyles is your target. If anything highlights Arkane’s superb mission design and the artistry of its world, then this mission is it.

Infiltration

First off, you must infiltrate Boyle’s mansion compound by a method of your choosing – scale a wall, sneak past guards, or even possess a fish to swim through some sluice gates and into the building’s wine cellar. We chose fish-based entry, and worked our way into the bowels of the estate.

Like the Hitman series or Thief, Dishonored doesn’t tell you how to hatch any of these elaborate plans, it just gives you the tools and places the thought process squarely on you. In this drip-fed industry with its intrusive HUD markers, tutorials and hints, that is a huge gamble on Arkane’s part.

We sneak into the pantry, where the poor, dishevelled maids toil to serve food to the upper class pigs upstairs. Class divide is a theme that runs deep in Dishonored – here we have a world ruined by plague and poverty, yet the upper crust is celebrating at this ludicrously lavish soiree. It’s a statement if ever we saw one.

The maids are overheard shooing away a diseased rat in fright, so you can possess it and run up to them, which causes a panic, and leads the brutes guarding the door to come over and investigate, leaving the route free to the party upstairs.

Now we’re at the heart of it: cannons blast confetti everywhere when Corvo passes by, as if we all have something to celebrate; musicians blare out classical music and the rich and prosperous laugh loudly while quaffing slosh out of crystal glasses.

Because Corvo is masked, no one bats an eyelid. You can walk up to either of the Boyle sisters and talk to them, although they remain guarded and give little away. So your instincts tell you to speak with the other guests, who all gossip about the Boyles behind their back. They’re not nice people.

The Lady Boyle mission.

But still the clues are threadbare, so we guide Corvo upstairs into the restricted halls above. They’re teeming with guards, so you must be careful to peek through keyholes before entering doors, map out patrol routes and generally be aware of your surroundings.

You can then investigate each of the three Boyle sister’s bedrooms for more clues. It’s here we stumble across a diary written by our target, with an entry that explains how lonely she is and that she yearns for a man who loves music.

So back we went, talking to each of the Boyle sisters again, but still they remained guarded and the game continually refused to help or hand-hold. Spotting one of the Boyles in the mansion’s music room, we made Corvo start tapping away at the piano in an attempt to catch her eye.

He can’t play to save himself, so it didn’t work, but then Corvo is confronted by a guest called Lord Brisby. He says he knows who Corvo is and what his mission involves. He says he is Boyle’s lover and that if you promise to take her downstairs unharmed, he will keep her safe and you will never hear from her again.

He still can’t tell us who she is though, and so we started talking to more guests as the tension in the room grows thicker. But then one of the guests lets slip that one particular Boyle – we won’t spoil which – is lonely, revealing our target.

We grab her non-lethally, and suddenly the party erupts with guards, kicking off a frantic dash to the wine cellar below. Freezing time, stabbing guards and shooting our way out with Corvo’s revolver, we finally shake off the heat and deliver Boyle to Brisby.

But before Brisby takes the unconscious target away, his demeanour snaps. He tells us that Boyle had never taken notice of his advances before, but that she now has her whole life to learn and love him.

He clearly lied to us and we didn’t want to think too deeply about what he’ll end up doing to her later on, but we promptly escape the compound and the mission ends, leaving us impressed.

Having to work out the identity of Lady Boyle ourselves, with little in the way of clues or direction, underlines that hand-holding and ease of progression are all-too common in today’s industry. It’s time to grow up.

Dishonored is a smart game, tailored to smart people who want to test themselves, and this is why it will undoubtedly succeed when it launches in Europe on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 October 21st.

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8 Comments

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  1. Len

    Sounds better and better. Really looking fwd to this. :)

    #1 2 years ago
  2. DSB

    “Primarily, it’s because Dishonored treats you like an adult, not a moron.”

    I don’t really agree with that. The Witcher 2 treated you like an adult, but that didn’t make it a runaway succes.

    I think it’s much more basic than that. Dishonored does tonnes of cool shit of its own instead of just repeating what the last 5 games did.

    If you look at the vast majority of games today, you’re left with a rehash of a rehash of a rehash. It’s quite obvious that there are checklists doing the rounds out there.

    As such, very few actually try to do something a bit different. It’s not about maturity, it’s about creativity.

    I have no idea how it’ll actually turn out at this point, but I certainly hope for it to be an example of what happens when you set your designers free, instead of focus-grouping your way to a purely commercial, and utterly forgettable succes.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Dave Cook

    @2 “But I certainly hope for it to be an example of what happens when you set your designers free, instead of focus-grouping your way to a purely commercial, and utterly forgettable success.”

    Absolutely well said mate :)

    More of that needs to happen.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. hives

    You know what’s sad? That many gamers (especially young, who just don’t remember Thief or Deus Ex) will say it’s… boring.

    People who grown up with corridor shooters and linear titles won’t be interested in this game. No guy with “Follow” above his head. No map with big “X”, no bit freakin arrow on screen showing you the way, no complex description of the target and things you have to do… Just like Thief <3 But I heard many times that it's "boring".

    #4 2 years ago
  5. DSB

    I think Deus Ex:HR proved that people are very much onboard with it.

    HR didn’t come close to the original in terms of the execution, but people were still all over it, because it did go further than Call of Battlefield: Halos of War

    Gamers are partly responsible for the way the market looks, but publishers are still equally responsible for never challenging them. If a publisher dared to show a bit of vision, I think people would reward that.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. AHA-Lambda

    Oh God I really hope this game succeeds. It will be a crime if this game fails just because it’s “different”.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. OrbitMonkey

    @4, Yeah, your leading the revolution pal, god save your good.taste.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. shmacko

    @ Dave – the correct Lady Boyle dynamically changes every time you play. Nothing to spoil…

    #8 2 years ago