By Nathan Grayson on August 16th, 2012 at 2:00 pm.
I’m in love with Dishonored – or at least, what I’ve gotten to play of it at various press events and things. Torrid, disgusting, fluid-filled love. And QuakeCon’s demo, which saw me infiltrate a fancy mansion party to assassinate one of three “Lady Boyles” (only one of whom was my real target) might actually be my favorite section yet. Co-creative directors Harvey Smith and Raphael Colantonio, however, have gone on at length about how much they love it when players break their game and pull off supernatural stunts they couldn’t even conceive. So, after already sinking a few hours into repeat playthroughs, I sat down at my trusty demo station with a mission: ruin everything. Test boundaries. Push limits. Become the world’s foremost expert on Jello mold physics. And gosh, it was really, really fun.
Before I lay bare the sordid nature of my experiments, let me give you a brief flyby of the basics. The mission kicked off in a canal outside the mansion, heavily patrolled by both guards and Tallboys – long, spindly legs atwitter with excitement over the fact that they finally found a home after Gabe Newell left them cold and alone in a box by the roadside. My initial goal was to get into the mansion by any means necessary (for example, possess a rat, blink up the side of a building, battle a bunch of deranged plague victims, valiantly attempt to kill everyone, etc) and figure out which of three similarly dressed women all named “Lady Boyle” was secretly plotting with the corrupt Lord Regent. And then, of course, I’d need to find a way to make her not do that anymore ever again.
Can I… take down a Tallboy using only sleep darts? – Sadly, no. I stopped time and opened (non-lethal) fire on the first Tallboy I encountered, taking care to aim at the parts of the metal menace that were boy – or man, I suppose – and not simply tall. Three bolts, no dice. So I tried again. Three more bolts. Still nothing. One more try, and… nope. So, disappointed, I slowly trudged away and promptly exploded – as is the case with most things that slowly trudge away from Tallboys.
Can I… climb around the rooftops and do Assassin’s Creed-y things? – Kind of. I managed to blink my way up to the rooftops outside the mansion and skulk around, but tossing a body near a patrolling Tallboy a couple stories below yielded no reaction. Maybe he was preoccupied? I’m sure Tallboys have problems too. You know, tall problems.
Can I… take down a Tallboy using only my sword? — Hahaha, what do you think?
Can I… briefly stun a Tallboy by leaping on his head? — Yes, actually! It was really great until he became un-stunned and then killed me.
Can I… kill a Tallboy from within a neutral zone without ramifications? — Yes, oddly. The area beyond the mansion’s gate’s was designated a “neutral zone,” which meant I wouldn’t be attacked on sight while there. So I immediately opened fire on a Tallboy just outside the gate, and he stumbled around in confusion – as though trying to swat a fly he couldn’t quite see or punch a really jerky ghost. Eventually, he went down, and I continued on my merry way. Later, though, I asked a dev about it, and he was completely stumped. According to him, that doesn’t usually happen, but all I heard was “Nathan, you are special and should feel special.”
Can I… knock out a gate guard and then prop him up like he’s still alive? — The answer to this one is inconclusive. Here’s what happened: After completing the research for my Tallboy Dissertation, I climbed over a fence and landed in a back alley near the mansion entrance. Seeing as I’d played the demo half-a-million times by this point, I already knew what was going to happen. And so, a woman promptly lost hold of her party invitation, which I retrieved and kept for myself.
I decided, however, not to use it. Instead, I casually strolled up to a guard protected by a barred window, put a sleep bolt in his sternum, and plucked the house key from his pocket. Then I went around, unlocked the door to his little guard cabin, and hoisted his snoring form over my shoulder. So far, so good. Unfortunately, unceremoniously flinging the guard into his tiny window probably wasn’t the best idea, as curious partygoers rushed to discover the source of the clanging sound and promptly began screaming. But man, I did a good job of propping this guy up. He ended up in a sort of U-shape in the crook of the window, head tilted back into the breezy night sky, as though contemplating the enormity of the universe. It was such a gloriously serene scene. You know, aside from all the screaming.
Can I… sneak in, do the job, and leave without killing a single soul? – Yep! I nearly did it on my first try, in fact. Admittedly, a lot of it kind of happened on accident. Basically, I strolled into the party, resisted my real life instinct to head straight for the mouthwatering buffet table with a giant punch fountain, and made my way toward the mansion’s sordid guts – which, given the festivities, were vomiting confetti from giant curved tuba things. Ain’t no party like an alternate history whale-oil-and-plague-based society party, etc.
Before long, however, I was approached by a man in a patchy, haphazardly threaded mask. In short, he knew why I was there and was in love with the woman I was looking to kill. He said, however, that if I knocked her out and brought her to the basement, he’d take her away on a boat and no one would ever hear from them again. Still sounds pretty icky, right? But I figured it was still (probably) better than the lethal alternative, so I decided to go through with it. The Lady Boyle I was after, according to my lovesick-in-the-head ally, was the one in red, so after fruitlessly following her around in hopes of KO-ing her out of sight, I approached her directly.
To my surprise, it worked out rather well. I suppose, though, that “You will be killed by someone (I’m not saying it’s me, but yeah, it’s totally me) if you don’t go downstairs” is a pretty solid ace-in-the-hole. So she took the hint, I choked her out, and super creepyweird psycho man got his wish. It was about as smooth of a run as I could’ve hoped for – at least, until I blindly blinked over a gate, landed with a knee-shattering crash right in front of a guard, and had the whole place after me in mere seconds. Oh well. Live and learn. Or die horribly and learn, I guess.
Can I… ride away on the boat with creepyweird psycho man and Lady Boyle? — Nope. I hopped aboard while creepyweird was talking at me (honestly, my ability to do so may have been a glitch) and prepared myself for a glamorous life of sea conquest in a tiny, two-person boat. Then, as the boat began to drift away, I ran face-first into an invisible wall.
Can I… possess Lady Boyle instead of knocking her out? — Yes. Instead of even talking to her, I just walked her to creepyweird myself.
Can I… seduce Lady Boyle? — Yes, this is technically an option. She led me upstairs to her room, and – grim though the whole scenario might be – that’s as good of place as any to pull off an assassination.
Can I… bring Lady Boyle to creepyweird psycho man and then kill her? — This is, by far, the grimmest thing I came up with. I still feel sort of disgusting even thinking about it. Fortunately, it also didn’t work. The “thanks for bringing her to me blah, blah, blah” cut-scene triggered before I could irreparably sully my hands.
Can I… cheat in a pistol duel? — Yes. In so, so many ways. So basically, a side quest on the mansion grounds saw me get roped into a duel on a “friend’s” behalf. We took our paces, turned, and then fir– nope. I stopped time, shot him in, like, four different places, and then let things take their natural course. Another time, I took an explosive canister of whale oil and set it down next to the space I’d ultimately end up at in our duel. When it was time for us to turn and fire, I picked up the canister, threw it, and took out my opponent and his three friends in one glorious flash. “Where’s your sense of honor?” you might ask me. And to that, I raise you the game’s title.
Can I… use an assassination target as an assassination tool? — Incredibly depressingly, no. First up, I decided to make another run through with the goal of causing complete, unbridled chaos. So I started by KO-ing Lady Boyle in plain sight, which caused guests to scatter and huddle in fear while guards came a-running. As I held Lady Boyle aloft, I felt a grin creep across my face as I realized exactly what needed to be done. Three guards halted in front of me, swords brandished in such a way as to exclaim, “Stop it, you… bad person, you.” So I flung Lady Boyle at them.
She drifted right through each and every one, temporarily incorporeal until gravity announced its presence with a slapstick thud. Heartbroken, not even a terrifically one-sided “swordfight” (think: stop time + summoning a ravenous herd of plague rats) could cheer me up.
Can I… use an assassination target as an assassination tool against a Jello mold? – Yes! I flung Lady Boyle into a Jello mold, and it broke into the most realistic wobbly chunks I’ve ever seen. That whole moment – much like any Jello flavor except green – was absolutely delicious.
Can I… dispose of an assassination target using a disintegrating force field barrier thing? — In theory, yes – assuming the target’s already dead and I’m only doing it to get rid of the body. However, according to a Dishonored dev, all party guests had biology-based security clearance, so they could pass through completely unharmed so long as they were alive. Me, though? Not so much.
Can I… become an international art thief? — Yep. Upstairs, I found a gigantic art gallery. Most items – from ornate jars to gleaming pieces of jewelry – were steal-able, so I stuffed them down my magic pants, which immediately converted them into money.
Can I… read everyone’s diaries? — Definitely. This is one of the less ridiculous ways to complete the mission. Sneak upstairs, read each Lady Boyle’s diary, find out which one is evil, etc.
Can I… accidentally cause a state of pandemonium by leaping on someone’s head? — If those two servers would’ve just moved out of the stupid doorway, this would’ve never happened. But no, they had to root themselves in place, immobile as hundred-year-old oaks. So I jumped to get over them, only to land on one’s head. He fell down. And then, just like that, everyone lost it. Guests fled, guards drew their swords and pistols, and I had apparently been branded a war criminal for trying to walk through a doorway. (Admittedly, this experience was atypical. But yeah, attempt to jump over people at your own risk.)
Can I… sign the party’s guest book? — Absolutely. With the entire guard staff dead and everyone else shuddering in terror, I calmly signed my name and sauntered out the exit. All’s well that ends well.
And this is, in all likelihood, just the tip of the iceberg for this level. For instance, I hardly experimented at all with rats or possession. Also, each time you play the level, a different Lady Boyle’s the target. Clever, Arkane. Clever.