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E3 2012: Dishonored hands-on

E3 2012

Dishonored cuts right into the heart of what steampunk is about. It’s a first-person adventure mechanically centered around the option of player choice. We were given a demonstration of the drastically different play styles before going hands-on with what was easily one of the most impressive titles from this year’s E3.

The objective of our initial demonstration was to invade the Golden Cat Bathhouse and take out some politicians. The first playthrough showed the type of play Dishonored handles best. Rather than charging into the bathhouse to take out the targets, Bethesda showed a roundabout approach where the character dropped off the building’s side into a bit of water and possessed a fish which then swam inside the building and granted access. They then crept through the inn utilizing a range of supernatural powers and eventually took out the targets. Then the demo was restarted and we were shown a new approach which played out completely different as the emphasis shifted to hand-to-hand combat and taking out targets in a lethal way. We were told the way players played would be reflected in the ending and got some sense for the range of options on offer.

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We were then shown a portion of the Flooded District which found lurking Tallboys – stilted enemies that stand true to steampunk design – lumbering over the runic Victorian-era city. This conveyed a stark, darker tone than the previously rich and painterly aesthetics of the Golden Cat Bathhouse, but also called upon the artistry of the team to present the right mood.

Soon after our demo ended we went hands-on. What’s immediately striking with Dishonored is that there’s a range of choices at any point but they’re not ever so blunty defined as a few separate paths and choose the one that suits your play style. Things unfolded more naturally in practice and the way you play the game lent into the way you would scale the objective and capture another target. This setting was more grimly detailed and we had to make our way up through some tower and capture a guy before dragging him out of the building for a quick escape. And maybe there had been another way but we didn’t find it. That’s both the beauty and the frustration with Dishonored. The experience is transparently the one you craft along the way and while it’s not narrowly defined, there’s a sense of having that unique experience and that it might play out entirely different if it were to be approached another way.

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After our hands-on time with Dishonored, we can’t wait to see what the well-versed team at Arkane Studios come up with to further implement these possibilities for varied play styles and what that means for the end game. Dishonored is slated for an October release and remains one of our most hotly anticipated games this year.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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