We Helped A Stalker In Our Dishonored QuakeCon Hands-On
In Dishonored, players are subjected to a rigidly enforced class system, scenes of casual murder, disconnected and pompous elites, waste on a massive scale, and divergent, alternating means of completing objectives. Moreover, throughout the game, players will make many choices that can affect everything from your reputation, to the state of the city itself. (For example, so we were told, if you go on a killing spree the city will become noticeably poorer than if you choose a stealthy approach.) And Bethesda crammed all of it and more into the demo level’s masquerade ball sequences.
Once onto estate grounds, things became considerably easier (at least in the sense that you didn’t need to deal with the cops). The joke here is that Corvo Atano is simply hiding in plain sight; party guests simply assume that the mask he’s wearing to the party is a joke in poor taste, and like only the best decadent aristocrats, they think it’s exceptionally funny. You first have to find a way to actually get into the party. I was told by Bethesda staff on hand that there were multiple ways of actually doing it, but in each of my playthroughs I simply nabbed an invitation dropped by one of the partygoers socializing outside.
What’s interesting is how it’s only getting inside the party that you see how big the game is. The area of town outside the estate consists only of a river, two bridges, and a single circular street in which to sneak around. The party, however, has large grounds and a truly enormous house to explore. While the party contains the level’s core content, the grounds provided me with one of the more unique non-mandatory sidequest outcomes I can remember.
Along with the primary objective of eliminating the unknown Boyle sister, the player is also asked to deliver a letter from your patron to an attendee of the party. I assumed the recipient was an ally, but when I located him on the estate grounds and presented the letter to him, he stormed off in an angry huff. This generates a new submission, ‘Follow’, but my first playthrough, I decided I had better things to do than deal with a pompous jerk, so I let him go and went back into the party. During my second time around, I decided to see where he went: he walked through the estate gardens to a secluded area, where one of his subordinates produced a set of dueling pistols. Yes, you can grab one, yes, you really do have to walk 10 paces and stand with your back to your opponent, and yes, you really do turn and fire at the count of 3.
I won the duel, incidentally, and as a reward I was able to keep the pistol, which came in very handy later.
Inside the party proper, things were equally interesting, and just as varied. As you walk in, you’re prompted to mingle with party guests as you look for clues. This allows you to solve the identity of the correct Lady Boyle in several ways. For instance, you can find out that the sisters keep vital information in their bed chambers, then look for a way to sneak into them to find out who’s who. (Incidentally, this also opens up the chance to search the upper levels for hidden valuables. I lost 20 minutes easily just sneaking through bedrooms and bathrooms.) Or you can learn vital clues by getting a rather licentious party guest a drink. One player simply lured all three sisters into a room and unceremoniously killed them all at once. I eventually stumbled on a desperate man who informed me that he knew my mission, revealed the identity of the target and confessed his love for her, and begged me to spare her. By letting him consign her to a life as his romantic prisoner.
This opened up several additional options for solving the quest. I could simply kill Lady Boyle the second I found her (this causes all the guards in the house to begin attacking you. I did not survive this tactic long.) Or, I could either tell her I had been sent to kill her, or I could seduce her; either choice prompted her to take me to a secluded part of the estate, where I could again kill her outright, or knock her out and give her to her stalker boyfriend. In both of my playthroughs, I chose to give her to the stalker, which left me feeling a bit nauseous, especially after said stalker effusively thanks you. “She’ll learn to be grateful, eventually” (paraphrased), he said. Thanks, creeper, for making me feel worse
And the uncomfortable thing is, she actually does. The developers confirmed you’ll receive a letter from her after a later mission telling you so. Try sleeping soundly after that, world weary gamers.
I went into the demo a bit skeptical, expecting a Steam Punk clone of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It’s true that Dishonored, at least what we’ve seen so far, bears striking resemblances to that franchise. But nice touches, like the disconcerting bit of Stockholm Syndrome described above, are evidence that this is going to be a morally complex and (virtual) ethically difficult experience. Even if the game will likely have only slightly variable endings, it is nice seeing the concept of choices with actual outcomes very effectively realized. Whatever else Dishonored ends up being, it appears it will definitely provide real challenges, and real replay value.
And, let’s be honest, some serious guilt over the whole stalker thing.