Dishonored PreviewPublisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platform: Xbox 360
, PC, PlayStation 3
Dishonored's co-Creative Director, Harvey Smith stands at the front of the room and delivers a summary of the backstory for the game. You are Corvo, he says, the former bodyguard to the Empress of a steampunk-and-magic world and who stands falsely accused of ending her reign by murder. You escape from prison and, while Dishonored is structured so that you could have many motives, your mission is always to kill the nobles who orchestrated the plot.
Next, Harvey introduces the level we're about to see. This is the Golden Cat, he says. It's an exclusive bathhouse which holds two of our targets - and we're going to kill them both very quietly. We're going to play surgically, says Harvey.
We start off on the streets of Dunwall outside The Golden Cat, the painterly presentation of the game depicted in the grey cobbles as a washed out watercolour that drifts into a blur as we leap from rooftop to rooftop. Corvo has some magic tricks up his sleeve, including short-range teleportation and see-through-walls abilities which we use to great effect in bypassing most of the guards. Others we possess for limited periods, physically entering their bodies and dashing down corridors before our powers run out.
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There are two competing natural philosophers in the game called Sokolov and Piero, says Harvey Smith as an aside. Each makes his own restorative elixir, which replenish the essence that philosopher believes is most vital - essentially recharging your health and mana, though there's a little more to it than that.
As Corvo we slip past most of the guards, incapacitating the few stubborn souls that get distracted from their patrol routes by works of art or scuttling rats. The Golden Cat is a high-class establishment, with a noble clientele and wide, circular halls, but the city of Dunwall is still caught in the grips of plague - so there's no escape from the rats even here.
Eventually, we overhear a guard's conversation and manage to place one of our targets - a pair of corrupt mine-owning brothers called the Pendletons - in the Cat's basement sauna. Quickly, but with ceaseless grace, we head down to the bottom of the building and arrive in time to see him take a lady in with him.
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There's a way to get through the entire game without killing anyone at all, says Harvey, including your assassination targets. The Pendletons, for example, can be manipulated so that they end up working anonymously in their own mines for the rest of their lives. Right now though we choose to take a different tack and, fitting with our stealthy approach, engineer the scene to appear like an accident. We sneak into the nearby facilities room, where the pipes which supply the sauna begin and, while watching through a nearby window, rig the machine to boil the target and his ladyfriend alive.
As the porthole mists up we hear screaming inside and a wet palm streaks pleadingly across the glass. A lesser man would turn away from the window in disgust, but Corvo is gripped in the icy stillness of revenge, so we watch until the sounds and movement stop. Only then do we turn away and, with a smile that's all teeth and irony, wonder where the other brother is in the building.
The poor fool, he doesn't even know we're coming for him - and he won't until it's already too late.