Go Your Own Way

Dishonored has proven to be one of the bigger hits at E3 2012. Developed by Arkane Studios, Dishonored is built on the always popular “play as you want” foundation. It’s something several games over the past few years have promised, but based on the demo’s multiple playthroughs, Dishonored delivers on the concept.

Dishonored is played via a first-person view, putting you behind the mask of Corvo, a member of the royal guard who is drummed out and accused of regicide when the Empress ends up dead. As he awaits execution, Corvo is approached by a mysterious stranger – The Outsider -- offering opportunity for Corvo to strike back at the city’s corrupt political structure and, hopefully, figure out who was really behind the Empress’s death.

The E3 2012 demo puts Corvo on the trail of a pair of corrupt politicians held up in a bathhouse named “The Golden Cat.” In the first play, Corvo uses his stealth abilities to sneak into the bathhouse while subsequent versions focused on Dishonored’s combat.

For players who choose stealth over force, Dishonored offers a number of abilities, such as “Blink,” which allows Corvo to instantly teleport to nearly anywhere in his visual range. He can also activate a special power that allows him to see through walls and, more importantly, keep tabs on enemies’ vision cones.

There are numerous ways into the Golden Cat, though the most original involves possessing a fish and swimming in through the sewage system. Corvo can possess nearly any living entity in the game, including his targets. At one point in the stealthy run, Corvo possessed his target and walked him to a nearby balcony. After releasing the target, Corvo used a “Windblast” ability to send him to the street below, making his death look like a suicide.

Alternately, Corvo can sneak around the Golden Cat and pickpocket NPCs, possibly stumbling across the building’s master key. With the key in hand, Corvo locked a target in his office and, after fiddling with a nearby steam pipe, cooked the target alive.

For players who prefer a direct approach, Dishonored offers a number of weapons, including guns and crossbows, to dispatch enemies. Abilities have multiple uses, such as “Windblast.” Not only is it good for faking suicides, it can also knock enemies off their feet, either stunning them for a few seconds or sending them crashing through environmental set dressing. Another power lets Corvo slow time to a crawl, allowing him to easily kill enemies or set up nasty surprises for them, like land mines and grenades.

Although players can proceed through the game as brutally as they want, the approach does come with its consequences, such as harder difficulty and a darker ending. Just to add more flavor to its multiple play styles, Dishonored can be completed without killing anyone. A non-violent playthrough is, however, incredibly tough and will require patience, research and getting cozy with the locals.

Dishonored releases October 9, 2012.