We can’t move our heads around nowadays without seeing Definitive Editions popping up everywhere. The idea of this now overly used sales concept is to take an existing game and release it on a next gen console, while adding in old DLC and bumping the frame rate to 60fps (sometimes) without changing much else. Devil May Cry, Borderlands, and Darksiders are all criminal to the lazy trend. Dishonored came out way back in 2012 and with extremely high praise and critical acclaim. Bethesda felt it was only fitting to bring it out once again for a new generation less than three years later.
Dishonored is the tale of Corvo, a lovable assassin who’s on a quest for the three Rs: Retribution, Rescue, and Revenge. Corvo was formerly the bodyguard to the Empress and her daughter Emily, until wrong doings commence. The Empress is brutally murdered and Emily is kidnapped by a group of shadowy figures, and all of the blame is placed on Corvo. We do learn, however, that this is a setup conducted by our antagonists in order to gain overall power of the City of Dunwall. After a daring escape from the city’s prison, Corvo meets up with a group of loyalist resistance fighters who want revenge for the death of the Empress and to put the power of Dunwall in the right hands. What follows after that is a list of assassinations and high profile kidnappings. That’s pretty much it.
The story itself feels pretty underwhelming, and this is mostly due to the lack of any interesting characters that could make you feel invested. The plot is fairly predictable and the characters for the most part are just too flat to even care for. The representation of our antagonists and they’re goals are purely to be evil and for no good reason other than they’re power-hungry. The game gets so bored of its villains that most of them hardly last a single mission or two, with the main antagonist of the story popping up very randomly without any real explanation. Our allies are no better, being there only to tell Corvo what to do and do nothing other than to die or betray him. There’s no depth here. Wolfenstien: The New Order did a fantastic job at creating such diverse and believable personalities that you cared and whose motivations you understood.
Sadly, Corvo is no better. He’s a silent chap who we can’t connect to on an emotional level. He is written to be a close friend to the Empress and a father figure to her daughter but with full control of Corvo, we can break that. Deus Ex brought us a protagonist with a goal and that never changed, along with the feelings he had with certain people; we simply changed the way he interacted with situations but never how he looked at them. Corvo has no presence and without knowing him at all, we make a character of our own, and so why would we care for characters he knows but we don’t? You can sense there is a conflicting interest between game-play and story which games like Dues Ex created so well–here, not so much. The only character I actually felt had purpose or was somewhat developed was Granny Rags. Her presence is chilling and she would have made a strong antagonist if she was developed and had a larger role in the story
All of that aside, Dishonored creates a world that’s incredibly detailed and impressively designed with a highly developed mythos. Similar to the world of Thief with elements of Bioshock mixed in for good measure, we’re given an organic and immersive game world to explore; a world where steampunk technology is thriving and the use of Whale oil as fuel has had a dire effect on the health of the city’s citizens. Plague and man eating rats have crippled the city, and it’s up to Corvo to help save Dunwall or leave it to rot.
There have been a few tweaks and minor improvements to the game’s graphical representation, including stronger ambient lighting, texture quality, and a higher frame rate that allows for a smoother transition with moves such as the blink function. Unfortunately, the controls are still clunky at best.
Dishonored’s gameplay remains its strongest aspect, and it delivers a truly entertaining experience. It’s a complex design of thought provoking moral choices, RPG character development, and Deus Ex style open objectives where murder isn’t the only option. There’s been a great deal of thought placed in designing the world, and how the game’s mechanics interact with the world and those who inhabit it. There’s a real emphasis on player choice that delivers an engaging and gripping experience. The concepts aren’t original, but it’s refreshing to see this kind of game among the many shooters of today.
I especially enjoyed the variations of power ups and tactics you can employ to the number of situations at hand. This included jumping at lightning speed over great distances to kill off unsuspecting NPCs or unleashing an army of man eating rats to devour a group of armed guards. Corvo can hack certain devices such as electrified gates to get the upper hand on patrolling units, and you also have access to a range of explosives and various darts for your cross bow that could either kill or subdue. Of course, your play-style has a dramatic effect on the game’s ending and the world around you. Being more chaotic brings the city to a higher level of depression, bigger risk of disease, and larger infestation of rats and plague victims. Of course you can play things more silently, and there are power ups aplenty for these playstyles, too. Dishonored beautifully caters to all playstyles from the silent ghost to the complete maniac.
It’s the small touches that add to the overall tone and atmosphere that bring an intensity that differs from the usual jump scares or gore fests often seen today. An example would be the rats that inhabit the world, and how they increase the more you murder and the more you make bad decisions. The musical feedback that follows the rats on the hunt sounds so menacing, sending a chill down my spine.
We’re also treated to two story addons and an additional set of challenges for Corvo. The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches addons give players a chance to look behind the events of the Dishonored story and see it from the eyes of a vital character. New features included for gameplay offer a more Hitman-style experience. These features include buying information or disguises to infiltrate an area, and obtaining new powers that allow for assistance during an assignment. These come together to make an engaging stealth experience. Duad is a far more of an interesting and relatable protagonist, as we hear him speak his mind and show an investment in his own wellbeing and that of others. He has depth and a bigger game based on him might have proven to be a better experience.
Well, if you’ve played the game already on Steam or previous generation systems, then Dishonored is not worth buying again. It’s a nice offer, and I do highly recommend the Definitive Edition for newcomers for its engaging gameplay, brilliantly designed game world, and additional content. It may be more worth buying it on Steam during a big sale, as the Definitive Edition doesn’t offer anything in terms of improvement like Metro 2033 and Gears of Wars: Ultimate Edition do. This is a good game aside from the weak story telling, but it sits alongside the other shallow remasters of late.