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Dishonored preview: killing three Lady Boyles

by John Keefer, shacknews.com, Aug 6, 2012 10:45AM PDT

My benefactors want Lady Boyle eliminated. Her crime? She is an ally to the corrupt Lord Regent. I was not told how to carry out the deed, just make sure she was out of the way. Tonight posed the best opportunity, as the Boyle family was having a costume party, allowing me to easily fit in with this mask I wear. Convenient. The problem, however, is there are three Lady Boyles, a mother and her two daughters. I must decide how to get into the estate, find out who my target is, and eliminate her. All in a night's work.

Such was the quandary posed by the new Dishonored mission I played at QuakeCon 2012. I had to get into the Boyle estate, mingle with the guests and not only find out the correct identity of my target, but also the costume she was wearing. The good news is that I was given pretty much unlimited time to play through the mission, allowing me to try numerous tactics. When I was finally done, I had played through the mission three times, and each playthrough was completely different. And in talking to others who gave it a try, I found that their tactics were even different from mine.

In my first pass, I used none of my special powers. I was able to sneak past tall boys and guards to get into the estate, but I chose how I could get in--across a ledge, through the water or over the roof tops. I could go in guns blazing, but chose instead to blend in and keep things calm. But I still had to decide how to eliminate the right Lady Boyle without drawing attention to myself. Each time I was able to complete the mission successfully, but my favorite way revolved around getting my target to invite me upstairs for a little romp. No guards, no witnesses, dead target.

The next time, my target was a different Lady Boyle. On top of that, each lady wore a different costume from the first time I had played. The randomness provided an extra layer of intrigue and need for research. There were also multiple ways to find out about my target. I could sneak upstairs and examine special papers, I could question guests. Bringing the right woman a drink would loosen her tongue quite a bit. Find the right man who was in love with your target and he would do anything to save her, including giving you her name and costume.

"There are different pathways in the physical space--go left, go right, go over the rooftops--and then the powers you use also opens up different avenues," said Harvey Smith, co-creative director at developer Arkane Studios. "There is also the moral axis where you choose to kill or not to kill. There are all these ways to take different paths through the game, morally, tactically, use of powers and they all overlap. When you find any patch through the game, it is your path. It is unlikely any other person playing the game will do it exactly the way you do."

The amount of choice and the randomness factor in just this one level offered so many possibilities for game play. Don't get wrapped up in how many hours you are told the game will take to play it to the end, because the replay and experimentation value will increase that number exponentially. In other attempts through the level, I explored more, tested the various powers and weapons, and even experimented with the AI's cognitive abilities in the reaction of the guards after they had spotted me. All in all, the experience was incredibly glitch free.

"This is a hand-crafted game with a linear series of missions, but within each mission it is incredibly non-linear," Smith said. "There is a definite sequence of events through the game."

If I had to nitpick, the dialogue options are a bit limited, and there was one case where I was expecting to be able to converse with a quest giver after I had chosen not to do as he had asked and killed the person he had asked me to protect. But he chose to say nothing, so I killed him for his silence.

If the whole of the game plays like this singular mission--and given the track record of the creative minds at Arkane, I have little doubt it will--Dishonored should have no problem raking in some end of the year awards after it is released October 9, whether or not it makes a killing.

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