The Dishonored demonstration: Arkane sneak and slash through demo level, hint at supernatural enemies

dishonored_creative_kills

Dishonored fans enjoyed a rare treat yesterday evening. At a developer session filled to capacity, they were able to watch one of the designers play through a section of the game. Stepping into Corvo’s shoes, Associate Producer Dinga Bakaba sneaked, shot and stabbed his way across one of the levels, before he and Level Designer Christophe Carrier took questions from the crowd.

You
have to excuse my cynicism, but I wouldn’t have been a good journalist

if I hadn’t kept one eye on Bakaba’s hands as he played, and I can
confirm that he wasn’t miming his way through any sort of demo. When it
all went to pieces, when it turned into frantic improvisation, that
really was a little bit of panic in his eyes.

He
demonstrated an early level where the player has to sneak into the
house-cum-laboratory of scientist Anton Sokolov, found on Kaldwin’s
Bridge, and kidnap him. Carrier and Bakaba described Sokolov as a
mixture of Rasputin and John Dee, a questionable character who, while he
ostensibly seems to be researching a cure to the plague that is
afflicting the city of Dunwall, seems neither trustworthy nor moral. I
won’t share many spoilers here, but it’s safe to say that, as Bakaba
investigated clues dotted around the level and eavesdropped on
conversations, we gradually saw a rather sinister picture take shape.

Bakaba
began by trying to be as subtle and stealthy as possible, using the
Blink power to teleport short distances past guards, or up onto
rooftops, and also made use of the Wind Blast power to break down
boarded up windows so that he could climb into abandoned buildings and
eventually climb his way into Sokolov’s house.

For
a while, everything was going according to plan. Then, when he tried to
possess one of Solokov’s servants and use her to walk past some guards,
he misjudged how long he could do this for. The moment he reappeared,
he was spotted by an officer who he couldn’t silence in time. “This
wasn’t the way it was supposed to go,” he said, sheepish, as the guard
called out to his colleagues. The alarm was sounded. The game was afoot.

Bakaba
did his best to demonstrate and explain as many of the game’s powers
and features as he could, while simultaneously making the very best of
his new life as a fugitive. Now that the alarm had been sounded, he
said, the guards would never return to their original, relaxed state,
even if they lost track of him.

With
a house full of hostile and heavily-armed men after him, Bakaba leapt
out of a window and into the river and tried to find another route in.
For all his peaceful intentions, the next ten minutes would see him shed
a lot of blood in a variety of unusual and, I have to admit, rather
creative ways.

Fighting
against the odds, he showed how Blinking out of a fight could seriously
disorient his enemies, set swarms of rats upon his attackers, released a
group of prisoners to create a distraction, and used Corvo’s Time Bend
ability to kill guards who couldn’t react. One unfortunate guard fell
victim to one of Corvo’s sticky grenades, which blew him into pieces
that he was able to pick up (“As a souvenir”), and after he detonated a
canister of extremely explosive whale oil to dispatch another pursuer,
Bakaba finished a second playthrough by tossing the man’s severed head
into the river. Lovely.

After
what turned out to be two quite different playthroughs, Bakaba and
Carrier went on to talk about many other ways they could’ve found
solutions to the challenges encountered, or more ways they could’ve
manipulated their environment. These included freezing time to snatch
crossbow bolts out of the air and add them to your inventory, or using
the same power to attach explosives or mines to midair bolts to turn
them into miniature missiles. The latter, they explained, was originally
a bug they hadn’t envisaged, but they decided to keep it since it made
sense in the context of the game.

One
member of the audience asked whether light sources could be destroyed
in the game, and the rather surprising answer was that they can’t. In a
detailed response, the pair explained that, while they admired the Thief
games, they felt that using darkness as cover for movement had always
seemed a little too unrealistic. Guards were unable to spot a player
even if they were right next to them, simply because the player was
standing in shadows. Dishonoured’s AI, they said would be very sensitive
to movement whether in light or dark areas, and increasingly so on
higher difficulty levels.

One
of the last questions posed by the audience was quite how unique
Corvo’s abilities were. As the game progresses, one audience member asked,
will we encounter enemies who also have supernatural powers?

There was a short silence, during which Carrier seemed to bite his lip and possibly suppress a smile.

“Yes,” he eventually said. “You will.”

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