Bethesda's track record has been pretty impressive over the past few years, especially with last year with the release of id Software's beautiful yet gritty Rage and the long-awaited Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. But this year is definitely no slouch as Dishonored is shaping up to be one of 2012's most anticipated games for good reason – it's got the same sort of vibe that BioShock carried when it came out a few years back. Its level of uniqueness, combined with various gameplay features and a stunning presentation, makes its release next month highly appealing. Bethesda recently invited us over to their booth a few days back at PAX to try out a new demo for the game.
While previous demos put various powers to the test against various enemies, this latest stage took an entirely different path by requiring us to track down a particular female target during the course of a dinner party in a manor. The task isn't that easy: first you have to actually get to the manor, avoiding street police or perhaps even finding a back way in. From there, you'll have to blend while asking around to get information on the target, which could be one of three masked women that are in attendance at the party. So yeah, easier said than done.
Fortunately, Dishonored is the sort of game where there's more than one way to accomplish something. We played through the demo twice just to get the gist of this and it was interesting how it played out.
The first time we entered the manor and tried going through the main way, contending with guards using our "Time Bend" capability and even getting on top of one of the walkers to do some damage from above, before quietly meeting up with our cohort and getting into the party. If you prefer something a bit more stealth-like, you can actually possess a fish in the water below and swim through the sewer grates and eventually end up on the lower level of the manor, working your way through a wine cellar and eventually arriving at the party.
Now, when it comes to stalking your prey at the party (without raising guards' attention) it's best to just ask around with certain guests. Some aren't too thrilled to see you (and even comment on the way you smell), while others are a wealth of information to help you pinpoint your target.
But the assassination isn't so cut and dry. One of the guests is onto your plan, and rather than seeing you complete your killing, he opts to bring the lady unconscious to the cellar. He'll be waiting with a boat, ready to take his beloved away from anyone – so it'll be like she's dead. This introduces a new way to complete the mission, with the choice being entirely up to you.
Now, we had the choice to finish up the stage one of two ways – and neither was in the benefit of this lover. (C'mon, who wants the easy way out?!) The first had us knock the girl unconscious and then carry her into a room, where we quickly dispatched of her and escaped the manor unharmed. The second was a bit more frivolous to say the least, as we sliced the girl's throat and then set her aflame with an incendiary arrow then made a run for it while the guards were distracted. Though a couple did catch up to us, we were able to defeat them and make it down to the cellar. We relocated the lover at that point, asking where the lady was - rather than talk with him, we simply shot him with an incendiary arrow and made our way out the door.
Being able to play through Dishonored and complete missions in more than one manner definitely boosts the replay value, while at the same time providing you ways to get used to your supernatural powers, particularly Possession and Time Bend. The weapons you carry are pretty sweet too, whether it's a small blade that's perfect for a convenient stab or bombs that can really clear a crowd if they're thrown in the right place. It sounds a bit violent but no one ever said that revenge would ever come easy.
This is just a small portion of what Dishonored has to offer and the final game will have multiple missions to test your killing abilities and style. You'll have more than enough reason to play through it again and again.
Look for Dishonored to hit stores at the beginning of next month for Xbox 360, PC and PlayStation 3.