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A game of murder in Arkane's Dishonored


What I learned from playing Arkane Studios' anxiously awaited Dishonored is that playing it like a standard action game isn't the best course of action. You may succeed, but you're more likely to fail or stumble disappointingly to the end of a mission – a far cry from those playing with patience and a plan.

The QuakeCon 2012 demo I played was from about halfway through Dishonored's campaign, a section taking place during a dinner party murder mystery. You are the murderer, tasked with assassinating a woman named Lady Boyle during a masquerade party taking place at her estate.

The catch is that there are three women who go by the name "Lady Boyle," and you're not sure which one is your target. All are masked and wearing different colored dresses. Which Lady Boyle you are sent to kill is randomized every time you play, so unless you plan on killing all three women, you're going to have to do some detective work.

Gallery: Dishonored (QuakeCon 2012) | 11 Photos

The first time I played the demo I took a lot of relatively quick and easy paths. I got into the party by simply using the Blink ability to teleport over the large metal gate surrounding the estate. Once there, one female attendee conveniently had her invitation blown away (and her male companion conveniently told her not to chase it), allowing me to pick it up and use it as my own. I didn't exactly feel like a badass, and there are many other options that feel much cooler, but this path served my purpose.

Inside the party you can relax a little bit. It's a masquerade affair, so the mask your character wears already serves as a perfect disguise – though some guests do remark on your decision to wear a mask "just like the one on those wanted posters." You can casually talk to guests and try to gather clues, learning a lot about characters and your target. I did this for awhile, then realized I needed to sneak upstairs – a forbidden area – for some more clues.

This is where things started to fall apart for my playthrough, and when the limits of an action-heavy play style came into view.

I got careless and was caught by a guard upstairs, who sounded the alarm. I was quickly swarmed by other guards, who overwhelmed me within seconds. A man nearby, called an Overseer, had a device that negated my magical powers, leaving me weak. But even if I had them, the supernatural abilities at my disposal made me an incredibly lethal assassin, not a warrior. My death was fast and brutal. You are not equipped to be a one man army.

I could have gone back to an earlier save and tried a different path, or at least a more stealthy approach to my current path. But I'm stubborn, and I decided to accept the consequences of my actions and roll with it, seeing if I could brute force my way through.

The result was my stumbling my way to the end of the mission, which had its entertaining moments but was ultimately not a satisfying strategy. There was no finesse in figuring out which Boyle woman to kill, as I slaughtered them all as they cowered from my in a bedroom upstairs.

But that's not really what Dishonored is about.

Don't get me wrong, you can probably kill everybody in the game if you really want to. But you would have to do it smartly and systematically, making clever and calculated use of your abilities. This may be a first-person game, but it's a far cry from, well, Far Cry.

I played a lot more of the game during my time at QuakeCon 2012; replaying the same mission in multiple different ways, including one playthrough in which I didn't kill a single person, my target included (the entire game can actually be completed in a non-lethal fashion). With each subsequent playthrough I came away more impressed as a found awesome new ways to utilize my powers and play through the mission.

A game of murder in Arkane's Dishonored
But detailing all the different ways I solved each obstacle Dishonored threw at me would ruin a lot of the fun for anyone planing to play it themselves. As the game's co-creative director Harvey Smith said during one of the panels at QuakeCon, Dishonored is a game that focuses on improvisation. How you react to situations will ultimately define your experience in a lot of different ways, and the choices you may should be yours, not mine.

The options at your disposal are many and varied. Most seem to be interesting – but if you're a careless player who only wants to blaze through a game using physical force, Dishonored doesn't seem to be made for you. (Then again, who would really exclusively choose this path?)

There are many different facets of Dishonored that I could discuss, taking up thousands of words to describe a small section of a larger game. But it's the fact that the short demo kept pulling me in for multiple and vastly different playthroughs that speaks volumes about the Dishonored experience. If the rest of the game is as impressive as this one, it's going to be something truly special.

Dishonored is scheduled to launch on October 9 for the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.

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