Most times previews can be a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, players who are hyped up for a release gain insight about a game they’re hyped up for and whether their pre-order was a waste of money.
On the other, some previews can reveal more than players strictly want to know, and although I’ve yet to attend a demo that contained massive plot spoilers, it’s always better going into a game completely cold.
Bethesda’s preview of Dishonored 2, then, is something of an anomaly. It won’t likely tell anyone waiting for the second instalment of Arkane’s steampunk stealth adventure that they won’t know already, but then, it won’t spoil anything for them either.
The ‘rAge exclusive demo’ held in the Sony hospitality suite at the Dome was either mercifully or annoyingly brief, depending on how you look at it. The five or so minutes it took to run revealed very little besides a couple of new mechanics, a new environment and the animation that plays out when the player bites it.
In a brief intro the game’s female protagonist, Emily Kaldwin, took us through what to expect on her latest assassination mission. The building she needed to breach was the Royal Conservatory – a dimly-lit Victorian building that internally looked like a cross between an old hospital and an insane asylum.
Her target, a gaunt, ghoul-like individual named Ashworth, was revealed to be slicing through a couple of cadavers while giant insects buzzed around his bald noggin. Ashworth, we were told, kept company with an ‘eclectic crowd’, a description borne out by visuals of numerous emaciated individuals with glowing eyes who were dotted around the Conservatory.
Once the action started, it was slightly difficult to keep up. Players who enjoyed the first Dishonored will know it was possible to ghost every level in the game, sneaking in and out of danger areas, silently dispatching their quarry and leaving no trace they were ever there – they were even able to make every hit in the game look like some freak accident.
This is apparently true of Dishonored 2 as well, although one wouldn’t know it from the rAge demo. After entering the Conservatory, whomever was playing Kaldwin went on something of a bloody rampage. Within the opening minutes they’d left a sizable pile of corpses behind them – albeit using silent weapons.
The carnage showed off a decent range of powers and gadgets. The rush mechanic is back – players can traverse quickly between points on the map, and once again, this mechanic feels more like teleportation than speedy movement. On top of that, Kaldwin has a blade and wrist-mounted dartgun for silently killing enemies, and a flintlock for when keeping quiet isn’t an issue. There’s also an attack that allows players to mark three opponents and then dispatch all of them by executing a drop attack on one of them.
The visuals and sound are sumptuous and I had to wonder if the whole experience wouldn’t have been a lot more engaging if it hadn’t been treated like a speedrun. Half the fun of the first Dishonored was about sneaking through darkened corridors, eavesdropping on foes and generally soaking up the game’s macabre atmosphere. While it’s great that the game accommodates players who prefer a more run-and-gun approach, Dishonored 2 looks like it’ll reward patience more – like its predecessor did.
The only major gripe about the game is that I – like much of the local video game media – have had so little time with it. It would be great to have had a hands-on, but it seems those previews are only reserved for our First World cousins. Still, there’s a lot to be said for going into the game completely cold…