Dishonored Combines Deus Ex Freedom with BioShock Power

Quite a Bit of Freedom — Mostly

The story needs you to kidnap the doctor to move forward, but there will be some freedom and choice in your interactions with him, said Lead Designer Ricardo Bare during an interview with Game Front. “When you take him back to interrogate him, you’ll be able to choose how you deal with him,” Bare said. From the sounds of things, just how brutal you get during that interrogation is up to you.

And as Bare also said, how brutal you are during the game will affect your ending. Committing to a dark path of murders eventually commits you to a darker endgame, he said, but there won’t just be two endings — there will be multiple variations depending on how you choose to play the game. How many endings the game will have, Bare wouldn’t say, but I got the impression it was at least three, possibly more.

Along with the options you’ll have for approaching situations, you’ll also come across sidequests dynamically in the game, even though the game is not an open world, but has a mission-based setup. Those choices will affect how people deal with you, what options you have, what assistance you might receive in the future, and more, Bare said.

Too Powerful?

Something that gave me pause about Dishonored as I was playing was the insane amount of power I was wielding — and whether it could make the game too easy. On Normal mode, the setting recommended to me during the game, I felt like a juggernaut who far outmatched most enemies in most situations.

Weapons in Dishonored are mostly insanely powerful. The mines and grenades are particularly devastating. Mines take enemies legs off at the knees, and grenades stick to their targets, guaranteeing a kill. Assassinations take enemies out instantly, and if you get into trouble, you literally have the ability to teleport clear, take over your attacker’s mind, shoot their arrows back at them or summon rats to eat their faces.

Attempting to hold back your phenomenal cosmic powers are a couple of systems. First, you don’t start with access to everything, you have to earn new powers and upgrade them by finding items called Runes in the game. Second, in a mechanic that feels a bit old-school in 2012, you’ll have a consumable resource called “Mana” that dictates your ability to go all supernatural. Too many powers and you deplete it, and have to use vials of blue stuff to replace it. It’s exactly like EVE from BioShock, and puts a limit on your powers.

Straight combat also gets hairy, and it seems to be that one of the key mechanics of Dishonored will to be to challenge you to be sneaky but to make it easy to screw up. I found myself running over rails on catwalks and over low walls accidentally (a couple times, I dropped my unconscious physician off a rooftop because of it and had to reload the earlier checkpoint), so if you’re reckless, you’ll probably get yourself into trouble. That’s also a check on your power, because enemies in force are problematic.

First, you die fast (and you have to replenish health with other little potions you find in the world). Gunshots and stab wounds can take you apart quickly. Most enemies come at you with swords, demanding you retaliate in kind, and the sword combat is neither easy nor boring. Enemies attack in force and always fan out around you, creating a rough situation as they flank and stab you in the back. You take damage fast and can die quickly — we even saw the developers killed as they were showing us the hands-off Dishonored demo.

Swordfights consist of blocking incoming blows with your blade and retaliating when you have an opening, which is not too often. Blocking at just the right time will stagger enemies and leave them vulnerable, and your sword will take limbs off if you use it correctly against an unarmed opponent. For the most part, we saw some fairly ruthless enemy AI in fights, although the enemies in the early build I played seemed to stumble when you exercise your supernatural powers against them. Blinking out of a tough situation seems like a no-brainer in terms of your abilities and the way enemies attack you, but it caused soldiers to lose track of me for a good second or two even though they could see me in front of them; it’s a bug Arkane must work out before Dishonored ships, because it can really break combat.

Cribbing from Great Sources

If the creeping around and multiple paths feels like Deus Ex in a steampunk skin, the supernatural powers and some of the weapons feels like BioShock reworked for a stealth assassination game. The powers are very similar to BioShock, and Arkane Studios even collaborated on BioShock 2, so they have experience with the series.

While Dishonored feels a lot like those two games mashed together, that’s very much not a bad thing, particularly with the world Arkane is creating. Deus Ex and BioShock are two great sources from which to borrow inspiration, and Arkane’s selective breeding of the two has yielded genetically superior offspring in Dishonored, it seems. Obviously we’ll need to see more, but I’m liking the vision the developers are putting together.

Here’s hoping that they stick close to the successes established by the great games influencing them, and don’t get mired in rehash. So far, what I’ve seen has me very optimistic.

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