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February 2023

Dishonored Definitive Edition

Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Arkane Studios
Release Date: Aug. 25, 2015 (US), Aug. 28, 2015 (EU)

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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Xbox One Review - 'Dishonored: Definitive Edition'

by Brian Dumlao on Oct. 22, 2015 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Dishonored Definitive Edition is an immersive first-person action game that casts you as a supernatural assassin driven by revenge.

Buy Dishonored: Definitive Edition

When it came out almost three years ago, Dishonored was hailed as a masterwork of a game. By giving the player some freedom in the world, it fulfilled the promises of games like Thief but with a more vicious and artistic slant. It also helped that the story was compelling, a trait that carried over in the two-part DLC. It was one of the more memorable titles of the latter half of the previous console generation, and it was at least successful enough to receive Game of the Year editions for both the Xbox 360 and PS3. Like many of the games that were released at that point, plans were made to remaster it for consoles which, until recently, had little to no avenue for backward compatibility. Console owners now have Dishonored: Definitive Edition, a game that remains compelling even if the moniker is slightly misleading.

Dishonored is a tale of revenge. You play the role of Corvo Attano, a bodyguard to the Empress of the port city of Dunwall, which has been suffering from a debilitating plague and the rats that carry it. You were sent to the other kingdoms to find a cure for the disease, but after a few months, you haven't located a cure or any help. Facing the certainty of the city being quarantined from the rest of the world, you return to the kingdom with the dire news. You're ambushed by assassins, witness the Empress' murder and see her daughter get kidnapped. Framed for her murder, you're set to be executed six months later when rebels free you from prison. With revenge in your heart and a cache of tools and powers, you try to set things right again.

The story may be well told, but the city of Dunwall really sells the tale. The city and its people are a mix of Victorian design and the Industrial Revolution. There are tall brick buildings and ever-present indications of factories. Whale oil is the main source of energy, and there are signs of a fishing town that transformed too quickly into an industrial one, such as posters of bathhouses and hound fights intermingled with advertisements about whale oil taxes and plague elixirs. Signs of oppression are also present, such as graffiti that consists of warnings and cries for help.  You can still hear normal conversations, such as workmates planning a meet-up at the bar after the shift ends, but you'll also hear people spout conspiracies about the plague. All of this gives the environment some personality of its own.

At its heart, this is a stealth title with a first-person perspective. Sneaking is pretty basic, with a lowered stance giving you a better chance of reaching someone undetected, though you'll have to rely on plain sight to determine when to go since there's no radar system. Shadows help, but common sense is needed. For example, going under a low table won't help if your target can see you there, especially if the surroundings aren't very dark. When you sneak up on a foe from behind, you can put them to sleep or stab them for a quick kill before hiding the body. If you want to be more of a pacifist, you can pickpocket money and keys. Kills can also be initiated if you're on a perch above the target, and you can distract enemies with thrown objects. Stealthy kills require a great amount of patience.

Unlike most stealth titles, Dishonored gives you the tools to be capable if combat arises. Your sword swinging skills are decent, and you can block swings and parry. You also have other weapons and traps to buy you time if you're being pursued. You can even chuck whale oil containers at enemies to incinerate them. You may be a better protagonist when being stealthy, but you can definitely hold your own in a fight.

Even though you have a decent amount of conventional tools at your disposal, your magical abilities make this game special. You'll first receive the Blink power, which lets you run faster than light for short distances. Afterward, any runes you find allow you to purchase other supernatural abilities. Dark Vision allows you to see enemies through objects and walls, and you can also see their vision cones. Windblast lets you produce a strong wind that knocks down enemies and breaks fragile objects. Bend Time lets you slow down time for a short period to sneak around enemies or position yourself for a counterattack. Devouring Swarm lets you summon vicious plague rats that devour anyone standing in their way. Possession lets you to inhabit the body of an animal for a short while. There are also passive abilities, such as increased health and the ability to turn victims into ash. The abilities can be acquired at any time as long as you have the runes to pay for them, and they can all be upgraded. You can increase your Blink range or possess humans to open doors and pass through electrified gates.

When all of these elements are combined, you have a game that may give you a definitive mission but lets you achieve it with any method you'd like. You can use Blink to hop between rooftops. You can possess animals to sneak into places via small passages or do favors for people to open up alternate paths or have them take care of dangers for you. Disposing of bodies is easier thanks to rat hordes, and you can even set up traps to dispose of the enemy or have others do it for you. Every situation can be tackled in several ways, and no matter how many times you play through the game, it's fun to discover those methods on the fly.

One of the better things about Dishonored is that there is a real sense that you're making an impact on the world. Disabling the guards instead of killing them is a clean approach, but that causes heightened patrols, so there are fewer opportunities for body disposal and you'll need to more careful. On the other hand, shedding more blood means the increased presence of vicious rat packs and weepers (the world's equivalent of zombies), so you can lead soldiers to these threats but it's difficult for you to navigate the streets without getting bitten. Those examples prove how committed the development team was to provide players with a fluid world so they don't settle into specific gameplay patterns.

Considering the amount of time that has passed since the game's original release, it only makes sense that all of the DLCs are included in the Definitive Edition. Interestingly, this means you have access to all of the pre-order DLC that was originally available to different retailers. All of those DLC packs, when separated, were meant to give you a little boost at the beginning of the game. With all of them packed together, though, you start off with a more powerful protagonist, making the main campaign much easier than expected.

Additionally, you get the three major DLC entries. Dunwall City Trials presents you with 10 challenges that cover a wide gamut of abilities, from performing long kill chains to doing checkpoint races. All of the trials take place in The Void, so you only get a fragmented version of Dunwall's charm, and while it was a decent piece of DLC when it first came out, it holds much more value now that it's part of a package.

The other DLC, The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches, are actually two halves of a pretty meaty side story that has you playing as Daud, one of the assassins that Corvo kills in the main game. As the man responsible for the murder of the Empress six months ago, he's having second thoughts about what he did. He gets a visit from The Outsider, who informs him that he is about to die soon. Before leaving, he gives Daud the name of Delilah without any context. This tale plays out like a mystery as you try and discover why the name is important.

From a gameplay perspective, some aspects were tweaked to fit the protagonist. You can summon assassins instead of a flurry of rats, and you have a more advanced version of the Blink ability that lets you change direction mid-flight. You can bribe others at the start of your mission to gain access to things like a safe combination or more intel. The best part of Daud's missions is that he visits new locations in the world, from the slaughterhouse to the Brigmore mansion. It was the best DLC available in the original game and remains a great companion piece to the main campaign.

Graphically, the game still looks good. The resolution bump in this remastered edition is welcome, and loading screens no longer show macroblocking when played. Textures no longer suffer from pop-in, and what you're seeing has been cleaned up. Even if none of that had been done, the game would still be a looker thanks to the art style. There's a sort of watercolor style to the textures, and while most of the environments are gray, the style makes the limited color scheme more acceptable.

For all of the improvements on this front, however, the work is a little disappointing because of the frame rate, which remains at a rock-solid 30fps but was a benchmark the older consoles had already achieved. The PC, which has equivalent hardware to the current generation consoles, easily hits a solid 60fps. An increase in the frame rate would've signified that some work had been done to improve the graphics in this iteration.

What you have here is a very solid audio experience. Every effect, from the clash of steel swords to the loud bang of the pistol, comes through clearly while the otherworldly effects generate just the right amount of mystical eeriness to be fascinating even if you've heard them hundreds of times before. The voice acting is great, and there are some excellent performances throughout. The music is sparse, but what is present does a great job of matching the vibe. The mostly morose score adds to the atmosphere of a city in despair, and the fact that it doesn't play often makes its presence all the more powerful. The portions that only activate during fights provide just the right amount of excitement without being overwhelming.

Like the graphics, the sound could've also used some attention. Those familiar with the original title will remember some of the audio pops that accidentally accompanied some of the effects. Those same audio glitches appear here and are now accompanied by some sound effects playing in a slow, stuttering manner. The amount of line repetition is still present, and the sound seems to have been mixed in a way where the surround effect has been lessened. It isn't enough to label it as worse than the original, but it is clear that there wasn't much done to improve it.

Make no mistake: Dishonored: Definitive Edition is still a great title. The main campaign and story are one of the best in the last few years. The freedom lets you play the game in your own way, and the powers are a lot of fun to use. The addition of the DLC might make some aspects of the game easier, but overall, they're some of the best and most compelling pieces of content in quite a while. The game could've benefited from some additional improvements to the graphics and audio. Fans of the series won't gain much from this iteration, but for those who haven't played Dishonored before, the Definitive Edition is a great game that's worth checking out.

Score: 8.0/10

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