Dishonored Definitive Edition Review

By Jonathan Barnes, 1 year ago
"Why don't you just kill that guy?"

My seven year old niece is watching me play Dishonored Definitive Edition and I'm choking out my fifteenth guy in about ten minutes.

"Because killing isn't nice and I'm trying to be nice in this game."

"Why?"

"Because the guy I'm playing is a nice guy and if I do bad things the world ends up a worse place."

"But wouldn't killing these guys make the game easier?"

"Well... yes... but the easiest way isn't always the best way."

If you ever want a master class in game criticism, play a game in front of a seven year old. The fresh set of eyes questions every aspect and measure of a game's design. Fortunately, this fresh and (slightly) prettier version of 2012's Dishonored stands the test of time and still represents the gold standard in stealthy-stabby gameplay.

Title

A package clearly aimed at those who have missed the boat on one of last generation's top games, the Definitive Edition bundles the entire Dishonored experience in one package (at a discount rate) and offers one of the best replay values in single-player gaming.

As Corvo Attano, the main course of the game has you seeking revenge/redemption for being set up as the fall guy for the murder of the realm's empress. The package's two excellent DLC packs, "The Knife of Dunwall" and "The Brigmore Witches" flip the script and have you playing as the empresses actual assassin, Daud, as he goes on a further adventure that runs concurrent to the events of the main story.

A constant through both of these quests is the presence of powers granted by the game's demigod, The Outsider. Through the mark of The Outsider both Corvo and Daud gain amazing powers including "Dark Vision" which allows you to see enemies (and their fields of vision), objects of interest, and loot through walls, "Blink" which is a short-range teleportation powers, and "Slow Time" which allows the player to move through the world while everything else slows down or stops completely.

How you use The Outsider's gifts is up to you.How you use The Outsider's gifts is up to you.

In addition to the dark arts, you're given a bevy of amazing toys that would make Batman sit up and take notice. Equipped by Corvo's own Lucious Fox, Piero Joplin, his arsenal includes a collapsing sword, a rapid fire crossbow, and a mask which can zoom in and amplify sound. Furthermore, both equipment and powers can be upgraded by finding money (for the former), runes (for the latter), and bone charms (that supplement abilities) that are hidden throughout the game's nine missions. By the final level, Corvo/Daud is a silent, swift, and deadly assassin if you plan wisely.

As one of the latest in next-gen re-releases, the Definitive Edition does boast some slightly prettier graphics. The game's stylized aesthetic renders well on the new hardware, but those expecting a massive step forward from the previous generation's release may be a bit disappointed. The one new feature that some may find welcome, however, is the auto-record function for big moments/kills. Those things being said, I didn't encounter any major technical issues in my time with this new edition, although I found that there were small issues getting hung up on pieces of scenery and enemies getting stuck at various points in their scripted routes. The other, more onerous, technical drawback is the game's long load times. Depending on the mission, the game can take between 30-45 seconds to load in a level. While that may not sound very long at first, if you're anything like me and shooting for the "perfect stealth run", you'll find yourself saving, pausing, and reloading several times each mission and that time adds up. Those seeking the "perfect stealth run" may also be left wanting for an in-game notification (more than just the "alert sound" that can be misleading at times) that confirms whether or not you have been spotted or if a stashed body has been found during your run through a level.

Small technical quibbles aside, the thing that truly makes Dishonored great, is not the powers, toys, or small technical upgrades, it's the immaculate level design. Every level not only features ways to remove the central target lethally and non-lethally, but also countless ways to enter, approach, and take on the challenge. This plethora of options enhances the game with an almost peerless replayability. This asset is further incentivized by the game's achievement design which encourages multiple playthroughs and tactical approaches.

Dark Vision is a must-have for the modern assassin."Dark Vision" is a must-have for the modern assassin.

As a "Definitive Edition", this re-release contains the game's three DLC packs, the aforementioned "Knife of Dunwall" and "Brigmore Witches" which place you in the shoes of the assassin Daud as he hunts down one of Dunwall's best mysteries and the "Dunwall City Trials" which will make achievement hunters twitch uncontrollably. The "Dunwall City Trials" put you back in the shoes of Corvo and challenge you with taking down several level-based challenges. These trials are no easy task (as indicated by the over-four ratio on the 360 version of the DLC) and could be the major stumbling block for completionists, but are the truest test of skill for a master player. On the other hand, Daud's story is one of the best and most compelling pieces of DLC, period. Wracked with guilt over his actions in assassinating the empress, Daud's story gives the player a chance to earn some redemption for the assassin, or condemn him further. An even better twist to Daud's content is that he has some unique gear and Outsider powers which add new wrinkles to the gameplay. If you played Dishonored but never jumped in on this content, the Definitive Edition is almost worth the price of entry just to get to see Daud's story.

Finding places to make piles o' bodies is essential for non-lethal play.Finding places to make "piles o' bodies" is essential for non-lethal play.

Let's get to the elephant in the room, though; the achievements. The list for the Definitive Edition is a straight copy-and-paste job from the 360 version and should harbor the same sticking points, or point, as the initial release. While the main game, "The Knife of Dunwall", and "The Brigmore Witches" all represent high marks for achievement design featuring unique challenges and encouraging multiple playthroughs (you'll need at least two full playthroughs for the main game... probably three), the "Dunwall City Trials" are just painful and require an expert degree of skill. That being said, there is so much creativity in the design of the achievements on the other three parts, that the package still garners high marks.

Seriously. Piles. O'. Bodies.Seriously. Piles. O'. Bodies.


Summary

My niece was right, it is easier to go through a game mercilessly slaughtering anyone that gets in your way. It's even fun. The true magic of Dishonored, however, is that you don't need to. The process of teleporting to a high ledge, sneaking up behind an enemy, choking them out, finding a place to stash the body, and then repeating is so highly addictive that it should be illegal. Each level and mission is constructed like a perfect puzzle with a dozen perfect solutions and each player can dabble to find which one works best for them. Dishonored may be the perfect stealth game in that it doesn't penalize you for not being stealthy, but rewards you greater for delicate care and skill. While the Definitive Edition may not have the greatest degree of new shine on new consoles, it still is the edition of the game to own if you didn't get in on the last-gen version.
4.5 / 5
Positives
  • Unparalleled level design
  • Incredible replayability
  • Fantastic story, setting, and aesthetics
  • Great value
Negatives
  • Long load times
  • Minimal technical upgrades over the original release
  • "Dunwall City Trials" is still a pain for achievement hunters
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent approximately 40 hours sneaking through Dunwall and choking out enemies as Corvo while mercilessly butchering as Daud through half of his story. He popped 40 of the game's 80 achievements along the way. A digital copy of this game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Jonathan Barnes
Written by Jonathan Barnes
Jonathan has been a news/views contributor since 2010. When he's not writing reviews, features, and opinion pieces, he spends his days working as an informal science educator and his nights as an international man of mystery.