Eurogamer Expo 2012 has closed its doors for the year, boasting over 50,000 attendees, a brand new home console showing and almost every major upcoming release being playable. Over the next 2 weeks expect to see Previews and coverage of the latest and greatest titles from the Parable team!
When Dishonoured was originally revealed it was met by surprise and excitement by a large percentage of the community due to its intriguing reveal trailer and premise. A first person stealth action title set in an alternate Industrial Revolutionary steampunk Britain, focusing on an Assassin taking revenge on a totalitarian government. It’s a concept that wouldn’t be at all out of place in a best-selling novel but has been seen surprisingly rarely within video games. A comparable concept that instantly comes to mind is Bioshock and considering how incredibly well received it was, the excitement is understandable.
I was among the crowd that was particularly drawn in by Dishonoured and was very excited for the chance to have a go myself at Eurogamer, to get to grips with the interesting mixture of weapon, magic and stealth combat and the classic open ended Bethesda setup. Arkane Studios really had a lot to live up to considering the hype surrounding their new title and the relatively little amount of experience they’d had with AAA titles.
The demo on offer at the Expo was one we’ve seen before in playable form; a mission instructing us to infiltrate the safehouse of a Physician named Sokolov and abduct him. The mission is set several hours into the title and a large number of powers are unlocked from the get-go. The first thing I noticed was that the radial dial used to switch between weapons and abilties (which you then assign to specific D-Pad buttons)works extremely well. The abilities and equipment on offer ranged from simple weapons including a Crossbow and Handgun, and more interesting powers such as the ability to possess rats and teleport short distances. I was eager to get to grips with the wide range on offer.
Upon starting to play, I noticed much to my dismay that controls felt much more loose and movement for floaty than I was comfortable or happy with. It wasn’t necessarily bad but it certainly wasn’t as responsive or tight as I had hoped for from a game that was so heavily centric on combat and stealth. I spent the next few minutes sneaking past guards outside Sokolovs’ hideout and exploring the possibilities for my entry. It was nice to see multiple very obvious routes to enter, within 30 minutes I saw a rotating water wheel that could be scaled, a hole in the wall a rat could easily fit through and the ever original front entrance. I opted for the boring choice.
It feels like a good time to bring up how the title looks, so I’ll be incredibly blunt. It looks…disappointing. Jagged edges are abundant and while the art style itself isn’t intended to be overly realistic, the strange blend between cel shading and realism never really looks like its a better replacement to fully placing itself in either one of the camps. I was entirely underwhelmed by what I saw throughout the demo, as I was originally hoping that the graphical style of Dishonoured would be one of its strongest assets.
I soon met my first resistance that were swiftly dealt with via visceral stealth kills utilising the sword, which plays a major role in any combat throughout the title. Enemies were very predictable and easy to sneak around and up to, which reduced any real tension from playing stealthily. I really hope that in the full release enemy AI will improve because being able to casually sprint around as long as you don’t stray into a direct enemy line of sight is a big let down for a stealth centric title. Needless to say, I swapped to full out assault for the remainder of my playing time.
The weapons themselves are generally satisfying to use, they feel weighty and pack a significant punch, being able to dispatch multiple enemies with a single well placed shot, but the abilities fall short of delivering the same level of satisfaction. They often don’t work as you’d imagine and fall short of expectations at every hurdle. As an example, the teleport ability is very awkward to use and often places you directly in front of enemies instead of allowing you to phase through them, and has the annoying habit of clipping you into walls and corners. This lack of polish remains consistent throughout the demo title and isn’t what I’d expect to see from a title published by Bethesda. Sword fighting is incredibly simple and lacks any depth; while it does the job it never feels rewarding to parry and slice down your opponents.
Dishonoured is a title that held an incredible amount of promise, with an interesting original concept and setting combined with a style that would fit incredibly well with it. Unfortunately, a lack of polish, various bugs and annoyingly shallow gameplay distract from what could have been an excellent title. I really hope that Arkane are able to step up their game and make vast improvements from the demo build that I played in time for the full game release later this month.
We playtested Dishonoured on the Xbox 360.
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