I’m going to confess something before we start: I’ve really been looking forward to writing this review for you. I first played Dishonored back in 2013 on the PS3 whilst I had a bit of time to myself and really enjoyed it. You may not know but it cleaned up a load of game of the year awards for it’s innovative design and gameplay and it was clear to see why. However I think it’s prudent for me to tell you why I enjoyed it then, and if a rehashed PS3 game is worth your PS4 time and money in 2016.
The Hound Pits pub – an unofficial base for the Corvo and typical of Dunwall architecture
The game is set in a plague infested city called Dunwall. It’s not your typical GTA style city, it’s more a cross between Victorian and the fictional steampunk era. It’s dark and gothic with sparsely populated streets and towering buildings, most of which are inaccessible to you. The world is quite engrossing and although it isn’t a free roaming sandbox environment its still handled in a way that feels relatively free. Sometimes as a gamer with limited time such as you and I it pays to have a bit of direction in your gaming, and although you’re not herded down any particular alleyways you are gently nudged in the right direction.
You play the role of Corvo, a skilled assassin currently acting as a bodyguard to the queen of Dunwall. Of course it isn’t that straightforward otherwise there wouldn’t be a game for you to play. Without spoiling too much it transpires that you’ve got some sneaking around and killing to do.
You’re aided in your endeavours with a small range of weapons and an array of magical powers bestowed on you by an NPC called The Outsider. Whilst it may all sound a little baffling, it really isn’t. The interface is extremely easy to use and you’ll soon find yourself slipping in and out of hiding spots around Dunwall with ease. The back story is handed to you in small chunks, and there’s plenty of material to read along the way if you wish. I don’t wish to spend all my gaming time reading about the world I’m in though, and Dishonored doesn’t punish you if you just want to get on and play the game. If it’s a need to know piece of information then there’s a cut scene, and blissfully those cut scene are short enough not to be eye closing but long enough to build the world for you.
Handing out a mission for their favourite Assassin to carry out. Havelock and Pendleton. They’re not renowned for their looks these boys.
Dunwall is itself magnificent even though this was originally designed for the last gen console. It isn’t as crisp as perhaps the upcoming Dishonored 2 will be, but it still handles and plays very much like a PS4 game should. The city is plague infested and hence the streets are bare aside from a few thugs and the City Watch, meaning your journey around the city can be quite eerie and lonely. However again it manages to build up tension without having you jumping out of your skin.
You play through a handful of specific missions, each one requiring you to leave your base at the Hound Pits pub and travel off to Dunwall itself. It’s essentially a chapter based game held together with your visits back to base camp to chat to the NPCs and upgrade gear and skills. It works very well, and although you’re nudged in certain directions you never feel railroaded to take any particular approach. The NPCs at our base react different depending on how you approach each mission as well meaning when you do go back it’s a little bit more than just a pit stop.
One of the games strong selling points is how it reacts to the choices you make. It’s designed to be approached in a number of ways, none of which are right or wrong. For me its a sneaking game with abilities that allow you to morph into one of the plague carrying rats for a short time to creep past guard, or the excellent ‘blink’ ability in which you essentially teleport short distances beyond the reach of guards. However you can choose to go balls-out psycho and attack everything in sight, and there’s skills and weapons to suit that approach. Every guard can be subdued quietly and hidden in a bin, and burned alive in the street and left for the rats. Which approach you take shapes both the city around you and the reactions of the NPC’s. The difference it makes is very obvious as well. Kill too many characters and more rats appear to feast on their corpses. Cause too much havoc and you’ll influence those around you with your cruelty.
Slackjaw, a useful NPC who refers to himself in the third person. You’ll notice here he’s offered a non lethal way to complete a task, something you can choose to do if killing isn’t your thing.
The elements come together incredibly well and it’s surprisingly easy to pick up and play even as a newcomer to the stealth genre. The magic powers you have use mantra, use too much and you’ll only have you blade and crossbow to see you through. It matters not of course as those plagued infested citizens left plenty of matra and health potions laying about, if you’re inclined to look in the right places.
There’s collectables too, but we’re not talking Assassins Creed collectibles which are high in number and low in actual value. Runes are cleverly hidden and will expand your magic powers, whereas Bone Charms will give you small boosts to your skills. These are versatile as well so whichever approach you take there’s a skill or boost applicable to you. I mentioned Blink which is primarily a sneaking ability allowing you to teleport over distances to creep up on guards or escape combat quickly. It’s amusing to blink your way out of a fight and hear the guards muttering ‘he was just here’ as you disappear in a puff of smoke. However there’s also abilities which allow you to release powerful melee attacks should you decide to attack the guards head on.
I found me a Bone Charm. Exciting times and a nice distraction from all that sneaking and killing.
The story is engrossing if not a bit formulaic, but it’s tempted me back for a second play through so it’s certainly deeper and more involved than a Call of Duty campaign. It won’t satisfy dedicated RPG fans, but then again if you’re a thirty something gamer like me you don’t have eighty hours to play building up a character of decent strength. Dishonored allows you to become pretty powerful whilst playing at a reasonable pace, and enjoy a decent story without having to connect too deeply with the other characters. There’s is a nice relationship between Corvo and the Princess Emily (voice by Chloe Moretz) but it isn’t a relationship that will have you reaching for your hankies.
The definitive edition comes packaged with extra content, namely the DLC offered first time around. There you get to play as Daud, an NPC from the main game who is searching for redemption. I can’t tell you what from, it’d be a big spoiler but having the DLC available makes the PS4 version good value for money.
A health vial. Much needed as your health doesn’t regenerate in Dunwall, even on the easiest setting.
If I have to pick a couple of downsides to the game then I’d probably point at it’s length. If you simply play through without exploring there’s perhaps 15 hours of gameplay here, although with the extra content the PS4 edition offers there’s a bit more to get your teeth into as well. I also occasionally found the controls to be a little unforgiving when trying to subdue an enemy from behind, twice I slashed away and alerted them to my presence when I intended to simply subdue and drag them off. However these are minor gripes for a game which on the whole plays incredibly well.
The fact is games don’t win awards for no reason, and Dishonored offers something very different from the usual selection of games without you having to immerse yourself in the world it creates. To pick the game up and simply play it is very easy, and it quickly becomes one of those ‘just five more minutes’ titles. intended to write this article at tea time, nipped on the PS4 to get the video and screenshots and played for a couple of hours as well. The stealth elements work so fluidly and you’re offered a hundred different ways to approach each situation.
If you can pick this up pre owned for £15 then it really is worth a play through. I’d bought it a second time purely to write this review from the eyes of a PS4 gamer and it hasn’t lost any of the charm or uniqueness that it delivered first time around. It’s certainly different. but not in a niche way. It’s accessible to first timers and like a good book will leave you wanting to play just a few minutes more each time. Once you’ve played through it there should be a firm release date for Dishonored 2 as well, which means now is probably the best time to start climbing the rooftops of Dunwall looking for someone to kill.
Dishonored Definitive Edition Rating: 89%
I’ve put up a short video of the gameplay here for those that are interested. You can see Corvo taking on the shape of a rat to access and previously inaccessible area, you can see him finding a much cherished Rune in a locked safe and you can see him hunt and subdue a guard as well.