Whether it be in literature or audiovisual form, the science-fiction genre has always had a certain fascination with the public that, during its illustrious history, has become increasingly varied. In addition to Jules Vernes' famous books (considered among the founding fathers of the genre), diverse and really interesting subgenres have increasingly begun to take shape throughout the genre's long history, and among them there's steampunk, which first took root in the 1980s. And so a captivating new strand of sci-fi appeared that couldn't fail to capture the attention of the gaming world.
Among the most interesting examples of alternative sci-fi in gaming is Dishonored, a game developed by the almost unknown Arkane Studios - at least they were at that time - which landed for the first time on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC stirring up plenty of interest from audiences and critics all around the world (you can read our review of the original over here).
The game was built around some classic sci-fi themes, at the same time it offered a brand-new take on the genre. Corvo Attano's first adventure was an excellent game in many respects. The game featured a compelling storyline, unprecedented freedom of expression, and it offered the player room for exploration within each sandbox area. The player's style of play influenced the ending of the story (there were three different endings), and there were several really interesting gameplay mechanics.
With a second chapter just around the corner (it was officially announced during Bethesda E3's conference last June), Bethesda and Arkane have decided to prepare the arrival of Dishonored 2 by re-releasing the original game, this time in the form of a Definitive Edition exclusively for current-generation consoles. But is Dishonored: Definitive Edition the magnificent remaster that the fans of the original have been waiting for? Or is it just a way for Bethesda to keep the audience invested in the franchise while waiting for the next chapter, or maybe reach a new audience?
For those that are completely new to Dishonored, it's important to provide a short introduction. The story begins in a retro-futuristic city called Dunwall, an imaginary city where paranormal skills and the typically bulky steampunk machines (sorry, whalepunk) live together. The town is lashed by a rampant plague (that's helped, no doubt, by the continuing spread of rat on the city streets). Corvo Attano - Empress Jessamine Kaldwin's faithful personal guard - is returning from a mission, during which he went with the imperial fleet to neighbouring countries in search of a remedy to the epidemic besieging the city. The Empress invited him to offer his report, but as he stood before her Corvo was only able to watch on as unknown forces murdered the Empress and kidnapped her daughter, Emily.
When the other imperial guards arrive at the crime scene, Corvo is accused of high treason, of the murder of the Empress and for Emily's disappearance, and therefore he's sentenced to death. Pending his judgment, Corvo is approached by loyalists who aid his escape, a group who later reveal that the murder of the Empress was part of a cowardly military coup, hatched by certain members of the government. This is where Corvo begins his adventure, trying to clear his name, to kill the conspirators, and to find Emily and to return the legitimate heir and sovereign to her seat of power.
Our first play-through revealed a solid story, but this Definitive Edition confirms its quality. Dark, gloomy, sometimes oppressing: the narrative side of Dishonored is still excellent, even after three years (an eternity for an industry that's constantly moving and evolving). The story perfectly wraps around the brilliant combat system. If at the time of its initial launch the combat felt incredibly modern - we could juggle swords, guns, and crossbows - it still holds up very well today, supported by a range of interesting features including bombs and paranormal powers, plus a skill tree that the player can use to reinforce their play-style.
In addition to this, there's another element that kept on astonishing us (in a positive way), even in this remastered edition; the AI. It's most noticeable if you choose a much more offensive approach, you always have to keep an eye on the number of the enemies in an area. They don't attack you one by one, as tends to be the norm, instead they assault you without hesitation, hitting you with swords, molotov cocktails and bombs. In short, consider your options before you attack them. It's usually better to opt for a stealthy approach, either avoiding them all or picking them off one at a time; this is at the heart of the Dishonored experience.
Well-structured and easy to use, the inventory looks similar with some contemporary additions, in which a single button (in the case of the PlayStation 4 version we tested, L1 and R1) lets you access different skills that Corvo has assigned to each of his hands. In his left hand, for example, you can select the crossbow (with several variants of dart), the bombs and the ability to "blink" (a signature move that allows Corvo to teleport short distances, becoming nearly invisible to enemies). In his right hand you might choose a gun and sword, but you can also use R1 button to defend against the attacks of your enemies, opening them up for counters with good timing. It offers an extremely versatile range of options to the player.
While there us much to praise regarding Dishonored and its various systems, we have concerns regarding the graphics. Although it's a step forward compared to the previous versions of the game on old-gen, this remastered version isn't much of an improvement on the GOTY version that we played on PC a couple of years ago. Although the game offers 1080p resolution, the experience is locked to 30 fps (probably to make it more stable than a more risky 60 fps); and there's no significant improvement on the technical side. Some of the details could have done with improvement, as could some of the stiff animations, which all told doesn't make it the Definitive Edition we'd hoped to find. In its defence, it must be said that the textures appear much sharper than the original version. Still, we would have preferred that more care and attention was paid to the visuals, an overhaul that would have helped to make Dishonored perfect on current-gen.
Another thing to note is that the Definitive Edition includes all the DLC released for the game. That includes the 10 challenge maps of Dunwall City Trails as well as the two story episodes starring Daud, the assassin who actually killed the Empress. These two episodes - "The Knife of Dunwall" and "The Brigmore Witches" - actually make a tremendous contribution to plot in Dishonored, and if you've only played the base game these DLC missions are on par with the main game and offer a nice reason to look into the Definitive Edition.
A couple of concerns aside, we're satisfied with Arkane's offering. Dishonored has stood the test of time, thanks largely to an effective plot and a rock solid combat system. This is an interesting appetiser for Dishonored 2, a game expected in the second quarter of 2016. Although we think that the studio could have put a little bit more effort into the visual update, we're still happy recommend it. This is an excellent old-gen game, bundled together with some stellar DLC, and all available at a knockdown price.