Dishonored - Hands-On and Interview
Dishonored - Hands-On and Interview
Dishonored isn't a game we've seen before, but we've seen the parts before. We've seen steampunk before. We've seen stealthy assassinations before. We've seen worlds created, and we've been dumped in them unceremoniously, left to find our own way out.
But at E3 2012 it was the way Dishonored combined all these things that had me playing the same 15(ish) minute long section over and over again. Dishonored puts you in the shoes of Corvo Atano - a Master Assassin and former personal bodyguard to the Empress of the mysterious world you'll inhabit. I say former because the Empress is dead and some shady bastards framed Corvo for the job.
Before I get hands-on Co-Creative Directors Harvey Smith and Raphael Colantonio walk us through one scenario in two very different manners. One sees their player sneak through the game and kill only their assassination targets. To do this we possess a fish, swim through a drain into a bath room (not a bathroom) - and then we proceed to teleport through the building, engineering 'accidental deaths' for our victims as we go.
The second playthrough is more... obvious. Corvo storms the front entrance and lays waste to this house of debauchery, killing everyone in sight. Eventually he kills his targets as well... though if a forensics team exists in this steampunk universe they'll have a tough time sifting through the... pieces.
I sat down with Harvey Smith to talk about Dishonored at E3, and he explained the undercurrent of horror present,
Well, we have these posters all over the studio with screenshots from our favourite games and games we've worked on. So we have like screenshots from Far Cry 2 and Ultima Underworld, System Shock, Bioshock and Thief and we have a value under them - they're like motivational posters basically - they have a value under them and an explanation of it. There's things like Vertical Space - players going up and out, multiple paths to a single objective, that sort of thing. And one of them is Horror - it's not that everything we do is inherently a horror game - in fact I don't think we've ever made a horror game per se.
It's hard to move past just how much Harvey loves games - he's a self-described 'pluralist' who loves everything from Call of Duty to Red Dead Redemption to Dead Island... he even name-checks DayZ for good measure.
Still, the common feature in almost all the games Harvey talks about is one of perspective - except for Red Dead Redemption, Harvey almost exclusively talks about First Person games. The First Person Action game is making a massive resurgence in games recently - who better to ask about the revival than one of the most prolific creators in the genre himself?
I think a lot of people play First Person Shooters and love them and for me that's cool. You can take two very different shooters like - on one hand imagine a very linear, scripted game that's like a rollercoaster ride with pop ups that happen at the right time and there's only one path. And you can take a game like Half Life 2 which is less like that - it's more systemic - the gravity gun - the enemies behave according to the rules of the world.
I definitely got the Thief vibe when I got my hands on the game. During my play time I noticed it was important to take note of everything going on around you - the other people in the world, the conversations people are having, avenues of ingress and escape. I was watching patrol paths (which never seemed to be quite the same each time I played), mapping out exit routes and playing with my many abilities at all times.
Corvo has a host of abilities at his disposal, but I found that - thanks to clever map design and some out-of-the-box thinking I was actually able to complete the mission at hand (abduct a mad scientist) using nothing but my teleport ability.
While I was finding the path my teleporter-run would take I found myself experimenting with all Corvo's abilities - stopping time to set up dastardly crossfire situations, possessing guys on massive walker type vehicles... Dishonored appears to be a game which revolves around the concept of playing first - playing with the limitations of your abilities and against the weaknesses of the AI. I asked Harvey how this came about as well - how I was able to bypass an entire section of a world (the majority of the E3 demo takes place inside the building, but I managed to teleport my way up the outside) people probably spent days - if not weeks - busting their arses on.
Normally, you build the stage, you give the players some powers and if those powers break the game - if you can escape the level or you can finish before you can get past the combat or whatever - normally what people will do, they'll change the powers. They'll go in and say 'he teleports too far', 'teleports last too long', 'this power kills too many people' or whatever. And what Raph and I did, we said for this game we're going to lock down the powers - we're going to make them very powerful and we're going to lock that. People on the team were very supportive, but they weren't sure at first - that's normally the way you do it.
Dishonored is definitely a game for players - a game for the people who, at the start of Skyrim when prompted to turn right to head towards Riverrun instead headed left towards... adventure. At the same time, with a Thief style level-by-level approach to game progression it lends itself nicely to people who need a bit more direction when they play.
Dishonored was easily one of the highlights of E3 - I could have played the one level they had available to us all day, if they'd let me. There are so many different ways to do the same basic thing (abduct an evil scientist) and there's so much life to the world that I want to immerse myself in it fully. Dishonored hits October 11 on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.
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