Three years have passed since Dishonored ascended from the shadows of obscurity and rose to become a surprise hit. Blending the period stealth of Thief with the alternate universe stylings of the Bioshock series, while adding a dash of Half-Life to the mix, was but a small part of what made Arkane Studio’s title so revered. The heavily stylised, steampunk-tinged city of Dunwall is a major factor in that equation, evoking the atmosphere of a Victorian-era English fishing port during the time of the plague (what do you mean how would I know that?). The character in this setting goes a long way to making Dishonored a great game, along with the way it plays. All that needed improving was superficial, so inevitably a PS4 remaster was in order to smooth out those tiny faults, chuck in the DLC packs and create the definitive version of Dishonored for modern consoles right? Well…some of that is true.
Dishonored follows the story of Lord Corvo Attano; right hand man of Jessamine; the Empress of the Isles, as he returns home from an aid mission meant to provide a potential cure for the plague-ridden underclass of Dunwall. Problem for Corvo is that he’s back home a little too early for some tastes as he ends up trying to stave off an assassination attempt on the Empress. He fails to keep his ward alive and he is jailed for her murder. To make matters worse the heiress to the throne was kidnapped, leaving the way open to the conspirators who slayed the Empress to go though with a horrific ‘’cleansing of the plague-ravaged areas of the city. Corvo is freed by Loyalists and sets out to take down those who have wronged him and prevent the destruction of Dunwall. It’s a fairly standard revenge tale, but it is fleshed out admirably by the characters, world and lore that fill it. Certainly since playing the turgid reboot of Thief (which came out last year) it looks all the more impressive how captivatingly bleak Arkane made Dishonored. The addition of supernatural powers that range from teleportation (Blink) to controlling swarms of rats make the story even more interesting and give Corvo and the developer room to maneuver beyond conventional stealth tropes and that feeds well into the way you tackle each mission.
Dunwall’s levels are comprised of large open sections that give you the tools to reach your objective from multiple routes a la early Hitman titles. Depending on which powers you’ve picked up you could open up your options further and mix n’ match routes to create a more efficient path to what will likely be another vengeance-soaked murder of a high-ranking political figure on your way to hopefully finding the Empress’ daughter Emily. This style of stealth means planning ahead based on relatively minimal details and thinking on the fly whilst on the job. This is Dishonored’s meat and potatoes and serves it up fairly well bar some fiddly control issues on certain jumps and combat. It’s almost quite as refreshing to experience all this the second time around and that has little to do with any technical upgrade this Definitive Edition might provide.
Dishonored Definitive Edition is effectively a ‘’Game of the Year’’ version of the PS3 original with a bit of tidying up done to the visuals. There are good things to this. The first is Dishonored is -as previously mentioned- still a cracking game in its own right. Secondly, the DLC is some of the best I’ve played in recent memory. Putting you in the shoes of antagonist Daude, The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches sees his story running parallel to Corvo’s and manages to humanise his previously nefarious appearance in the main storyline and arguably creates a far superior story to Corvo’s. Perhaps it’s the smaller size that delivers the narrative punch to these missions, maybe it comes down to having a protagonist who vocalises his thoughts and concerns about what awful things he is doing. Either way, this DLC (and The Dunwall City Trials pack that features a bunch of challenge maps) enriches the overall package and makes for a more than worthy purchase for anyone who didn’t get round to playing Dishonored and/or its additional content. What about the rest of us? The fans and fanatics that are salivating at the thought of Dishonored 2’s impending release?
Well, apart from packaging everything up in a nice bow it offers nothing but a graphical touch up. It’s a port rather than a remaster and sadly that means it doesn’t run any better than it did before (still 30fps if you care for such things). Then there are the loading times, oh my, the loading times are aggravating. At times they seem longer than before and in any case they are always far too long for what the game is. The other gripe is a less problematic one in my case (though I’ve heard other have it worse) in that there have been minor glitches and a couple of occasions where screen-tearing occurred, but they seemed like inconsequential isolated incidents in terms of the overall playtime, but that may change from user-to-user so pay heed. So basically if you own all this on previous gen consoles or PC then forget about grabbing this for now unless you absolutely must have a current generation compendium of it or your old copy gets murdered or something. It doesn’t stop it being a fantastic game, but the lack of improvements where it could have so easily been improved make this less than essential for all but the newcomers and the die-hards.
What Dishonored: Definitive Edition does do so very well is to keep the game in the mind of the game playing public for a while longer, and it’s clearly a game worth remembering because what it does right in terms of its open, freeform game design is something to be admired and studied by other developers present and future. The future of the series looks promising based on where it goes with the DLC for narrative, and the mechanics are steady enough to be built upon and refined.