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Dishonored Hands-on [PAX Prime 2012]

Bethesda has a history of turning out some of the best story-driven video games. Every once in a while they combine that passion for story-telling with an action-oriented video game and offer us the best of both worlds.

From the first trailer, it became obvious that Dishonored was going to be one of those projects where Bethesda tries, again, for the ‘complete package’ type of video game; providing its fans with the ability to progress through a deep, original story, while providing a smooth, satisfying gaming experience.

On the show-floor of this year’s PAX Prime, gamers had the opportunity to go hands-on with a segment of the game, about half way through the campaign, and check out some of the features that make Dishonored one of the hottest new IPs which we’ll all be keeping our eyes on.

The basic premise of Dishonored can be surmised as ‘Assassin’s Creed in First Person’ but the concept goes beyond that by providing a unique setting, and inserting magical abilities as a staple.

Along with the ability to stalk through the shadows to take out your target in a variety of ways, there’s a series of magical abilities to unlock and upgrade through-out the game. This provides a new experience in both how targets are disposed of, compared to similar ‘assassination sims’ like Assassin’s Creed or Hitman, and how the world can be traversed.

The game-play demo being shown at the Bethesda booth offered the option to toy around with: possession, teleportation, time manipulation, wind tunnels, and rat-summoning. There were also a series of mechanical items you could use including traps, crossbows, and pistols. The only disappointing part, so far, is in how those items are utilized though. Unlike other first-person action/adventure titles that focus around dual wielding (like Skyrim) there isn’t an option to specify what item/ability goes where. Whatever gadget or magic that you want to equip is placed in your left-hand, because at all times you must carry a butterfly-style knife in your right hand…

In this way, the gameplay winds up feeling a little bit more like Bioshock rather than Skyrim. Which shouldn’t be a problem really… but does feel a little like a back-step considering even Bioshock let you choose one ability and one weapon and Dishonored has you choose between a weapon or a magic ability to go along with the permanent placement of the knife.

The segment of the game that we were offered at the show this year revolved around an assassination attempt against the lady of a manor who is throwing a masquerade ball. You have multiple points of entry, and there are all manner of way to get up close and personal with the target, and an optional side-quest.

Highlights of my play-through included a series of assassinations featuring the ‘blink’ (teleport) ability, used to get in behind targets for an instant kill with the knife, and use of the time manipulation to tip the odds (heavily) in my favor for a pistol duel in the courtyard of the estate. Admittedly my imagination for these kind of ‘open ended’ ‘approach however the hell that you want’ type of games isn’t the greatest, but even I could see opportunities to take over rats and worm your way through the air vents, progress over the surrounding rooftops, or simply body-hop from person to person on the way to the target via the possession technique. Advanced players, as it was described from one of the reps, have even got to the point where they can make a target commit suicide (by possessing the target and jumping out of a window) and get away unharmed/scott-free (by possessing a near-by animal before the body hits the ground).

When the full game launches there’s bound to be a lot more of those types of stories. People will find ways to ‘break’ the game in creative ways and find their way ‘round to their targets in ways that the developers and myself would never have thought up… and that’s what makes a truly interesting game in the modern era.

Dishonored is slated for release October 9th on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC.