Remember back in 2007 when everyone loved BioShock and it was a big deal for gaming? Remember how much of a big deal it was before everyone went back to playing Call of Duty? Recall that in 2012 Arkane—the makers of the Thief series—had an idea for an innovative steampunk-inspired tale of assassins and whaling. Of course, everyone then went back to Call of duty—it’s just what gamers do. That being said, the fact that gamers gave BioShock and Dishonored a chance, meant that they were innovative and great for their time.
But, dare I ask, which is better? Dishonored or BioShock?
Why is each game important?
Both BioShock and Dishonored set out to revive a tired genre, and both did this with great results. Developers and gamers were inspired by the dynamic elements in gameplay and the thriving worlds the games captured.
BioShock came out at a time when 90% of console FPSs were pretty crappy, and with the start of the new console generation, things were looking bleak. We did have a few gems like Prey and Quake 4, yet they could still be classed as typical corridor shooters that were crafted a little better than the others. Then BioShock, which is just an underwater version of System Shock 2, came along and gave console gamers an experience similar to what PC gamers enjoyed about Deus Ex and System Shock 2.
BioShock was a huge inspiration to gamers, and even other developers. That’s why I believe Arkane decided to give birth to a new IP: Dishonored. It came out at a time when we were overwhelmed by military shooters, like our Call of Duties and Battlefields. It was boring for a while until, in 2012, we were given hope from the quirky, dark title that brought with it something refreshing. So both games were important, as they focused on choice, dynamic gameplay elements, and worlds that were captivating, all the while breaking us away from the never ending sight of military FPSs.
So, who did it better?
BioShock came at the right time as it was different from what many console gamers had seen before. Those who didn’t play System Shock or Deus Ex could partake in an intelligent and gripping FPS that didn’t rely solely on bloodshed and war. There was plenty of conflict in BioShock, but what made it unique was the element of choice you had to craft your advantage over the opposition. The main focus was to attack, and doing so with firearms and Plasmids also helped in developing variation.
But an issue that became clear after a few hours of play was that it relied a little too heavily on the use of firearms and plasmids, which made certain segments feel redundant or just plain boring after a prolonged use. Bioshock brought forward the use of firearms and plasmids at the same time, which I know doesn’t sound like much, but made combat much smoother and more enjoyable for the long haul.
BioShock did also offer interesting moral dilemmas and gave multiple endings as a result of your chosen path. But its sense of choice or freedom didn’t make a lasting impression, and by the end just felt like a hollow cosmetic.
Dishonored brought forward the same formula but expanded on it. Your choices felt more meaningful, whether good or bad, they had an effect on the world and the story—you could actually see the changes implemented in your experience. You could go through the whole game killing everything in your path and see the world suffer as a result, or you could go through the whole game without ever being noticed. You could eliminate unsuspecting targets or find alternative methods of eliminating them.
Choice and agency are the big deciders here. Dishonored gave you the bigger aspect of choice and true freedom to play how you wanted. It also had a tighter grip when it came to weaponry, tactics, and powers that felt more practical in use and delivered more of an entertaining experience.
Characters and charm
Rapture was beautiful and harrowing, and it presented a world that was believable. There was even a memorable cast of characters, including Andrew Ryan, Fontaine, and the sinister Dr. Steinman. We witnessed legendary moments, including Steinman’s mad rant over you being ugly, famous artist Cohen’s mission for you to kill the competition, and the super creepy bunny people who acted like mannequins when you looked at them. The atmosphere and intensity were enough to stop your heart, and the elements of horror were fantastic due to the captivating world of Rapture that was falling apart around you and the disturbing inhabitants who haunted you.
To be honest, the only real characters whom I remember fondly in Dishonored were Granny Rags and The Outsider, even though he’s never really explored much in the story. Granny Rags’ creepy nature, ability to turn into a horde of flesh eating rats, and voiceover, which was handled by Susan Sarandon, was awesome. Other than that . . . there’s the Overseer, the boatman dude, and the artist who hosted that ball. I’m really struggling to name names here. Also, you can’t deny that fighting the Big Daddies was such an amazing and brutal experience compared to Dishonored’s Tallboys.
Both Dunwall and Rapture are iconic worlds in gaming with each having wonderful aesthetics, distinct architectures, and interesting locations for you to fight, explore, and die in.
Rapture is one of the most captivating game worlds ever created and still is to this day. Rapture perfectly engrossed players into a claustrophobic world of fear, dread, and pure horror while they explored leaking corridors and flooding hallways. But even under the sea, the faults of elitism thrived and Rapture became the most ironic prison considering it was meant to be for the artists with no boundaries or the scientists without morality.
These factors create one of the most engaging worlds to explore with a host of colorfully deviant and fiendish villains in your path. From Cohen’s gallery, the underwater forest of Arcadia, and the blood stained hallways of Steinman’s hospital, you felt your nerves turning into ice but couldn’t help but love the style of the Art Deco-inspired kingdom of elites.
Dunwall is also an interesting place to captivate corruption, greed, and rat plagues running rampant while people suffer. Similar in many respects to Rapture, the elites take full control and change the nature of society as they see fit, killing off those who oppose them and forcing the lower classes into slums infested with all manners of danger. Class wars, gang wars, and wars with supernatural elements make Dunwall a fascinating place to do your gaming business.
Dunwall has plenty of hubs that represent the ills of society, including art galleries, hospitals, and government offices, which housed corrupt officials. In all fairness, the steampunk nature of Dunwall is pretty interesting and the history of whaling to create a new energy source to fuel the steampunk elements is fascinating. But the art style and architecture does fall short of BioShock’s beautiful, jaw-dropping Rapture. But in terms of gameplay, Dunwall is far superior. Here we have a game world that’s structured to benefit traversal gameplay while making the branching paths more interesting with more complex secrets, satisfying exploration, and impressive interactions.
What makes Dunwall the more appealing city in terms of gameplay was just how your actions made noticeable effects in the game world. There was a level of dynamism where your experiences were altered with new elements and cosmetic factors based on your choices alone.
Rapture is iconic, but Dunwall is more interactive and enjoyable to engage with in the long run.
It’s a tough one to call.
Both are definitive games that brought intelligence to the genre while retaining a great deal of fun value. BioShock was perfect at the time, but after nearly 10 years it’s showing its age in many ways. Rapture is a beautiful city and will remain one of the most captivating in gaming, but with a poor third act, shallow moral choices, and a lack of freedom given to players, it ends up a shallow and dated experience. But Dishonored outshines with an interesting game world that dynamically reacts to you with well-structured and clever gameplay that allows total freedom for different play styles.
BioShock is by no means bad and a game that shouldn’t be renowned highly, but Dishonored did it better.
Think I’m wrong? Please share your opinions as I’d love to hear from you. As always, stay tuned for more Gaming Classic Clashes.