The RPS Verdict: Dishonored

Earlier today four RPS writers – each of them deep into their second runs through Dishonored – sat down to have a chat about Arkane’s revenge-filled game of assassination and invisibility. Here’s what they said. [We’ve avoided any major plot spoilers, keeping mostly to mechanics and a bit of world/setting discussion. We will have a spoilery discussion coming up later in the week.]

Jim: Gentlemen, we have entered the era where Dishonored is a game that people can play. Would any care to describe what they think Dishonored is?

Adam: I wrote, and perhaps you shall all disagree, that I think it’s the best stealth game since Thief 2. I also can’t remember a game from that there first-person perspective that I’ve enjoyed as much since…Stalker maybe?

Jim: The Portals?

Adam: Not for me. Which sounds like I just said they’re NOT FOR ME. I meant they’re not ‘better’ for me.

Jim: I would say it’s more important than the Portals in a number of ways, because it’s has many tricks. Portal was about saying that first-person games can be funny puzzle games, Dishonored is more like saying that FPS games can be complex, subtle and beautiful stealth cleverness with emergent bits. The Portals are not better, but they seem like the last really big first-person genre highlights.

John: I would like to state on the record in an official capacity that while this is one of the best games I’ve played for years, it’s not as good as Thief.

Adam: Nothing is as good as Thief.

Alec: DXHR is obviously a big point of comparison, but suspect we’ll get to that later. This gave me more, certainly

Jim: Dishonored is fascinating because it does a lot of things, some of them Thieflike things.

Alec: Well Dishonored *is* a superhero game, so Thief comparisons should be done carefully.

Jim: It felt to me like a mature work of a studio that has finally hit its potential, you can see the lineage – Bioshock, Thief, Deus Ex, Half-Life 2, Dark Messiah – in all aspects of it. I think the Smith, Colantonio, Mitton, Antonov production team is sort of a supergroup, and the game is representative of that level of experience. (But yes, it’s basically a superhero game. And certainly better than Spider-Man.)

Alec: Yes, and also of experience of recent accomplishments by the peers. Specifically, it’s a lot more l like what I imagined Bioshock to be before I played Bioshock. I think it’s been made mindfully of how gamers responded to that.

Jim: To Bioshock?

Alec: Yes, to Bioshock – as in, that went too far down the pure shooter route for some, this addresses an evident greater need in many players, but was cognisant that that need existed because Bioshock proved it, whereas without it industry wisdom dictated CODlikes were the only way.

John: I think perhaps the most helpful comparison is – to extend what Alec said – that this is BioShock without the enforced, over-complicated combat. Instead you’ve far more room to use your imagination.

Jim: Yes, that’s a remarkable design victory for Arkane, that Dishonored has a lot of facets to combat, without the combat ever feeling overly complex or laborious. Every fight is acrobatically lethal (or non-lethal). But I think there’s an aspect of something Adam was saying about Hitman recently, which Dishonored does best of all, which was “quiet time”. In fact most of the game is quiet time. It’s only really fireworks and bluster if you mess up.

John: Of course, in my first play through of Dishonored I had no idea what the combat was like at all. I never did any that wasn’t ranged.

Jim: Sleep dart for great victory, John?

John: Sleep darts are my greatest friend. Which makes me confused why you were never allowed more than 10 of them.

Alec: Yeah, I was annoyed when I bought the bolt capacity upgrade but it only affected standard bolts. But I *think* this forces you to engage rather than consistently snipe from afar, which might make things too easy. Whether that’s the right call for a game purporting freedom of player agency I don’t know. It’s been interesting playing it in tandem with XCOM, in that in both games every action seems to matter enormously, a huge amount of tension hangs upon pressing fire, or choke, or stun, or windblast or whatever. Cock it up and disaster ensues.

Jim: Yes, I think that consequence is something that games have trouble doing well, because you can always save/reload or whatever, but I still felt like when I messed up on Dishonored, it was a real disaster.

John: I’m likely to write more about this later, but I chose to play where getting discovered, cocking up, was a fail state, and I’d reload. I wanted to perfect a stealth route, and so put that rule on myself.

Adam: I only ever reloaded when I died, which led to some absolute disasters.

John: I killed a total of 4 times. Twice in the first level, before I’d implemented the rule, and twice with assassins later, where I panicked.

Alec: I killed no-one. NO-ONE.

Jim: In my first playthrough I just went with whatever happened, which ended in a lot of violence, but I am playing again now on Very Hard, and that persuaded me to be more careful still – because the guards are more perceptive and do vastly more damage.

Alec: Well, there was one, but I didn’t kill them – they died as a consequence of another action. But, spoilers.

John: Did anyone else think the guard AI was pretty shitty though? I’m playing now on Hard, and it’s still useless.

Jim: It’s variable, depending on the environment. What aspect of it did you think is useless?

John: They walk into walls, throw themselves of ledges, and if you duck out of sight after they’ve stared right at you, they’ll search behind themselves first.

Jim: I didn’t see any wall walking or ledge throwing, I have to admit. Although their searching for you is very clumsy. I was a little disappointed that dogs and assassins weren’t more threatening as the game progressed. It’s very much a game of Dodge The Men.

Adam: I had one inexplicable moment where everyone treated me as if I’d turned invisible for a while, but other than that, I found them simple and, yeah, a little clumsy. But they worked well enough.

John: They showed no improvement in AI than, say, Thief 3. Perhaps if they did, of course, there’d be far less fun.

Alec: I didn’t notice guards doing any of that, though they didn’t always catch me when I thought they would

Jim: Yes, but they basically have the same job as Thief 3’s AI.

John: But that they even say “Must have been rats” seems like a deliberate nod toward Thief 3’s stupid-o-guards.

Adam: The AI, I’d say, is functional rather than interesting. It doesn’t do anything surprising.

Alec: And yeah, I was suprised dogs didn’t sniff me out. They were too easy to avoid and stungun. Though I loved that you could pick up their slumbering bodies.I spent quite a while running around with a sleeping dog over my shoulder just for the hell of it.

Adam: I didn’t know dogs could be picked up. I think I discovered that I have a primal fear of being attacked by dogs. Never knew. I love dogs in real life. In Dishonored they HORRIFY me.

Jim: The only surprising AI thing I saw was a chap toppling over a railing after a sword lunge that I dodged. Although that seemed like emergent physics for of thing, rather than AI

Alec: I avoided too much use of stun dart purely because the victims had a tendency to topple off things and die afterwards. Which contravened my non-lethal mindset.

Jim: How much did you guys bother with moving bodies? I was really careful about it by the end. Also, I notice one of the powers turns bodies to ash if you kill them.

John: A lot. Great piles of snoring folks and doggies in every dark corner.

Jim: I love the snoring, it’s so cute.

John: It was a real shame that presumably 360 limitations meant that bodies rapidly disappeared if there were too many in one place.

Alec: A personal mini-game I played was storing as many bodies on top of each other as I could, and always in the toilet. I loved the idea of them all waking up and saying “what the…? Get off me, what the hell are you doing? And why is my face in the crapper? What did we DO last night?”

John: I wanted my piles of sleepy guards to become towering, but alas it didn’t like more than four anywhere.

Jim: What a terrible shame.

Adam: I never noticed that. But I was turning a lot of people to ash, using the aforementioned shadow kill power, or whatever it’s called.

John: Murderer.

Adam: This is what happens when reloads are only used at death.

Jim: Shall we talk about the sheer amount of secrety side-questy stuff? It’s really something, isn’t it? This is a game that doesn’t even care if you miss great chunks of it.

Alec: I notice the results screen only says what you did in that regard, not what you didn’t find, so it’s still a mystery to me what I Might have I missed, which I like.

John: Yes. I’m loving that on replaying, and playing now in a very silly way where I kill everyone possible, I’m finding big areas I’d not the last time, despite thinking I’d been utterly comprehensive.

Adam: It’s not just side quests either – there are branches, things shut off or revealed.

Jim: I know I missed one big chunk, and I have no idea how I missed it, either, what decision I missed that closed it off. Who did I kill?

John: I think the most revealing stat in those missions screens was the coins found. I rarely found more than three quarters, meaning I must have missed so many nooks and crannies.

Jim: The coins are really hidden obscurely – under the corners of bookshelves and so on.

Alec: Yeah, that you can easily miss like 2000 coins speaks despite thinking you’ve been thorough says much. Though quite a few come from robbing or looting npcs.

John: I also love how if you stumble on a mission that’s designed for later, you can still play it now, and the game adjusts. Like, getting into the artist’s house before anyone’s told you about it.

Alec: Yeah.

Adam: There’s an early side quest, completely unnecessary to the actual mission taking place, that could be an actual level in many games. It’s not particularly large but it has a story, characters. Takes place in a building that you might not even realise you can enter if you weren’t told about it.

Alec: I had a brilliant quasi-emergent moment there, where I’d got the code for the artist’s safe and delivered it to Slackjaw,then thought ‘hang on a minute, *I* want what’s in that safe’.

John: Surely everyone did that?

Alec: So I rushed over to rob it, and while I was doing so his men came in, realised someone was there and started hunting me. Oh yeah, I just like that there’s a little thing put in to acknowledge that greed. Plenty of other games the safe would already be empty or no-one would come. Instead I was feeling all cocky and smart and suddenly I had to hide and flee in terror

Jim: Speaking of Slackjaw – what did everyone think about the characters and acting in the game? That was a little patchy wasn’t it?

Alec: I’d say more homogenous than patchy. Piero, Sokolov and the boatman left an impression, everyone else seemed kind of indistinguishable – gruff but noble or sibilant panto villain, basically.

Adam: Yeah. They’re seldom better than OK. There are touches there I like as well though.

John: My biggest issue was that what they were saying was frequently so dull. I had no problems with any of the acting. But these great long speeches didn’t hold my interest.

Adam: Learning snippets of their inner lives and what they were before the plague became so bad.

Alec: What I really liked in that regard was the Heart.

Adam: Yeah.

John: It should be stressed that the Heart was incredible.

Alec: Telling darkly poetic stories about them, rather than expository monologues.

Jim: It’s interesting that the environment had more personality than the characters in it – and yes, the heart was part of what made that so beautiful and detailed.

John: The heart gets incredibly angry when you ask it about innocents you’ve killed.

Alec: Hah, I didn’t know that. I also like that it basically encourages you to trust no-one. I expected betrayal from everyone, because it suggests they all have an agenda. Added to the tension and paranoia beautifully.

Jim: I thought the wider fiction of the game was interesting: The Outsider as a mythology was strong, even if the character itself was a bit… teen vampire?

Adam: He looks terrible.

Alec: I just thought someone had read too much of Gaiman’s Sandman. The Outsider’s followers were the more compelling aspect – the occultist powergames and hints of a monstrous world in the shadows.

Jim: Yeah, there were strong Gaiman influences in there – but then there were lots of pulp fiction references in there. (Several Portal references too.)

Adam: I like that the Outsider’s fascinated by Corvo simply because Corvo is fascinating.

John: I felt like the Outsider story was one they started but then had no idea where to go with.

Alec: I suspect the Outsider will be the construct of sequels.

Jim: Yes, I suspect the deeper Outsider stuff might have been postponed for other games.

Alec: It’s clear within the books and letters that he’s got other agents doing other things in parallel with you. Primarily for his own curiosity.

Adam: I’m probably more generous – I think the Outsider works well as a suggestion rather than something conclusive. It’s a game full of suggestions. Did anyone else find themselves as giddily excited just by finding maps with names of places that had been mentioned in a book somewhere else?

Alec: Yeah, I agree with you there. I guess I just wish he wasn’t a character we met, more something implied that sent messages and directives somehow. e.g. if it all came from the heart – that would have been strong?

Jim: The entire worldbuilding methodology for Dishonored is to imply the world outside Dunwall, as if that context makes more of it as a place.

Adam: Yes, for all the detail of Dunwall, it’s a place so often defined by what it isn’t.

Jim: Agreed re Outsider – it was an “oh, don’t SHOW the monster” sort of moment.

John: While we obviously don’t want to say plot stuff, I thought the “twist” was horribly over-telegraphed. While the game itself is so strong that the average story doesn’t really matter, it’s sad to think how even more amazing it could be had it had a BioShock moment.

Alec:Yeah, though I sort of read it as coming across as deliberately inevitable, we’re encouraged to think about this world in a certain way, and that was always going to happen within it.

Jim: Yes, the plot was obvious from the first few moments. The twist was “when, not if”.

Alec: And who, exactly.

John: However, and I think this might be one of the best things about the game, its pacing was just the best I think I’ve ever seen. When I thought it was beginning to wind up I was thinking, “No, this is too soon! I want more!” And then it delivers me that more.

Jim: Comparisons with DXHR are going to be inevitable, aren’t they? I think Dishonored shows up how clumsy a lot of that game was.

Alec: But then Thief always made DX1 look clumsy in a lot of ways. DX games are maximalist, trying to be jack of all trades whereas Thief and Dishonored focus on one particular thing. Though Dis tries to do two things, really.

Jim: Several things, arguably. This is Deus Ex without much of the role-playing aspect. Still maximalist for a combat game, I would say.

John: You know, I never once thought of DXHR as I played. Thief, BioShock certainly, but Deus Ex never crossed my mind.

Jim: On John’s point about pacing – the game let you play – and i think it shames the like of Assassin’s Creed in that regard. While there was an extra layer of silly fiction, the game was the game, and you got right into it

Alec: Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of people saying in regard to length that Assassin’s Creed games offer far more ‘content’ despite being stealth, but while I dig those games hugely, there’s so much filler. And most all it’s largely telegraphed – here is the icon showing where the minigame is.

Jim: The reason DXHR kept occurring to me, was because of the environment and architecture – I kept thinking how in DXHR there was always an alternate route, whereas in Dishonored there were just routes, and you discovered them or not – they never felt like “this is the air duct”.

Alec: Yeah, to the point that you got XP for finding Stealth Route in DX. Which meant I was grinding, finding all three routes just for XP’s sake. While Dishonored is about organic discovery.

Adam: A quick interjection, on the word clumsy, all of the clever clever stuff really wouldn’t be as impressive if the foundation wasn’t so elegant. Corvo, in a weird way, is the most well-animated character despite being unseen. He moves so *well*.

Jim: Exactly – and so little of AssCreed rewards real skill – whereas in Dishonored I am getting better and better with the tools.

Alec: Yes, Dishonored has worked hard on movement and travel – even swimming feels good.

John: I loved how skidding was completely fun, but never had a useful purpose.

Jim: Adam: agreed, and I think that sense of flow in everything is enormously important to the success of the game. Seldom do you find first person controls as perfectly poised as this. Or any controls, really.

Alec: I didn’t use skidding much, but a couple of times when I did it felt incredible, really dramatic action movie stuff, actually sliding into cover just before I was seen by an overseer. I was beaming, all “I am so good at this”.

Jim: Yeah, i did it by accident the first time, in an escape, and was so pleased with myself.

John: Did people ever use possessing humans?

Alec: Yeah, loads.

Jim: Yes, possession was super great. Interesting that people think it’s “unrealistic” having read just the previews and stuff. Once you play the game you realise: it’s magic! This is a game about a magical assassin. That’s the point. (The possession mechanic is also a variant on the one that appeared in Requiem: Avenging Angel, many years ago.)

Alec: Possession was crucial to non-lethalling the last three levels or so for me

Adam: I was mostly a rat man.

Jim: I possessed a fish, too.

John: I barely used it. Just for rats occasionally.

Alec: Because you, er, come out of them backwards, so you steer them to cover, exit then choke, unseen. So it was perfect for dealing with situations where three guards where close together. You’d pilot one away from the scene. I also used it to get through walls of light then deactivate them from the other side.

John: Ho boy – I just played it for a moment as we talk, and saw guards spawning in on a staircase. Now I hate the game.

Adam: There should be a bit where you can move a guard from his buddies and one of them follows him, thinking it is time for their regular romantic tryst. Then Corvo pops out of the back of his head.

Jim: Random fish anecdote: I was non-lethalling the Golden Cat level yesterday, and I choked out the courtesan who is outside. Unfortunately she toppled over the wall and into the water, where she was eaten by fish. I was all :(

Alec: Hah. yeah, occassionally my exploring would unleash swarms of rats from a locked room. That happened in the doctor’s house on the first level, and they proceeded to eat sleeping men I’d left around the place. [Note – I’ve since been told apparently this can’t happen, so I guess those dudes might have been dead somehow or I am mad. Either way, I reloaded and tried that section again, as wanted non-lethal. – Alec] Horrifying.

Jim: Yeah, the rats are monstrous. But they add so much life to the world. Always something scurrying underfoot.

Adam: Yeah, I have to admit, before I played it I didn’t really GET the rat thing.

Alec: One thing I hate the game for is those River Krust things – these poison-spitting plants in the later levels, that seem to detect stealth and pummel you with deadly bile from great ranges. They seemed to be in there Just Because

Jim: Yeah, they’re rubbish.

John: It is the law that every game has to have one stupid, pointless enemy that spoils things. It’s not their fault.

Alec: Just to make things harder for a stealth player without any satisfying pay off. Fortunately they can be killed without it affecting the non-lethal rating. Plants aren’t people.

Adam: At least there’s no actual Bonehoard.

Jim: Does anyone have a favourite level yet?

Alec: I actually really like the penultimate one, the flooded district, with the teleporting guards everywhere and the boss assassin.

John: I think the masked ball was a favourite moment.

Adam: I like the bridge.

John: But the bridge was definitely the highlight for playing the game properly.

Alec: It’s not the most thematically interesting – that’s the ball – but it felt like the most open environment, and the wonderful looming of the drowned streets below.

Jim: Boss assassin bit was really good yeah, but I think the ball stood out, if just for the giant jellies

John: We should stress for fearful readers, you mean the boss of the assassins, rather than the game having a boss enemy. Which it does not.

Alec: Yes, there are no boss fights

Adam: IF it has bosses they are buildings.

Alec: Well, there is one, but it is an optional side-quest you may never see. The bosses are the levels, comparable to the tentacle beast in Half-Life.Accessing new rooms and spaces without being caught.

Jim: Boss assassin is a boss fight, surely?

Alec: I wouldn’t know! I took all his stuff and got out there without him ever knowing

John: I didn’t kill him, so no boss fight there.

Adam: He is the closest thing to another superhero. IF that’s not too spoilery.

Jim: Oh interesting there’s the chance for a big fight and then a morale decision if you go for him.

Alec: And that’s what excites me – whole new aspects of the game I haven’t seen, even if they’re not necessarily to my tastes.

John: Shall we acknowledge that the very, very end was a bit plops in its delivery?

Jim: The entire last level was rubbish. No crescendo, no great challenge. Very low key thing, I thought. (Although I should be stressed that there are at least two different ending levels, which play out differently, depending on your actions in the earlier parts of the game.))

Alec: It wasn’t the strongest, but on my part it felt very valedictory – like, I’d earned this, I’d beaten everything, now I got my lap of honour. And stealthing around that towering, long level was satisfying.

Adam: I thought it was weak but not entirely rubbish. I wonder how different it would be for you people and your non-killing ways.

Jim: I think I killed one guard on the way in, cos I couldn’t get past him. But it was easier than a bunch of the previous level.

Alec: It made a certain sense, in that the city had very little left by that point.

Jim: It makes more sense for a game to end up a bang rather than a sigh, surely?

Alec: There’s even a mention in the mission clues on one of the later levels that the guards are massively reduced now.

Jim: I’d imagined some surprise, but there was nothing.

Alec: Oh yeah, I’m not saying this was the best way, just that it’s logical if nothing else, but would we have preferred DXHR-style mandatory boss fights?

Jim: Who wouldn’t?! Everyone loved those.

Alec: It could have spammed Tallboys, but then how’s that interesting for stealthers.

Jim: The tallboys barely featured, did they?

John: It’s not about a boss fight. It’s about having the ending either be special because it’s the most elaborate challenge, or because it’s a pile of awesome story. This is neither.

[Discussion descends into complicated spoiler-heavy comparisons of plot deviations.]

Alec: Blink will be interesting for speed runs. Though I noticed there are invisible ceilings on the highest buildings

John: Yes – I wish all rooftops had been accessible, rather than there being an arbitrary height restriction.

Alec: Presumably to stop people getting all the way to the top then jumping/falling/teleporting beyond the level boundaries. But it’s annoying that they went for invisible ceilings, as it meant I kept trying then failing to get higher rather than already knowing where I could and couldn’t go.

Jim: Let’s do some concluding remarks, shall we? Is everyone as jubilant as I am that we finally have this game? It is surely the game that our DX/System Shock/Thief heritage promised us?

Alec: It’s definitely pretty damned close to it. It’s got this additional purpose of being a true blockbuster which means it isn’t as unflinchingly inward-looking as Thief, but I’m ok with that. In this instance, I’m happy to have some great spectacle at the expense of a couple more systems.

Adam: I’m thrilled to bits. I was beginning to think everyone had forgotten how to do this sort of thing so well.

Jim: Single player game of the year?

Alec: I’m not ready to choose between this and XCOM yet. I expect to be playing XCOM for a long time to come, especially if mods surface.

John: I’m sure XCOM is really boring and rubbish, so this stands out for me.

Alec: There’s also FTL… but action game of the year for sure

Adam: I’ll stand by Crusader Kings 2 because nothing could bore John more. Dishonored is my favourite action game for a good few years.

Alec: The thing about Dishonored for me is how much it feels right.

Jim: Agreed. It overflows with master craftsmanship. Beautifully made. It’s a luxury construct.

John: It’s a stunning spectacle of a game. It’s a game-game too – it embraces what only gaming can deliver, and cares so much about delivering it.

Adam: It is an important game too, which sounds so bloody pulpit-thumping, but it really is.

Jim: So we’re recommending people buy it?

Alec: I never felt confused or uncomfortable, it immediately made sense, tapping into things and skills I knew well but without simply repeating them. People should buy it

Jim: If they don’t, then I will be sad. (For them.)

John: Man! We forgot to mention how much fun blowing out the candles is!

Dishonored is out now in the US, and on the 12th in Europe.


  1. SiHy_ says:

    Ok fine! I’ll buy the damn game! There, are you happy now!?
    (Well, I would’ve done if it was out here yet… ahem).

  2. The_B says:

    Fun fact: the team also asked Kieron’s corpse to weigh in on this debate, but rats had eaten his body.

  3. Spinks says:

    Can never really get into playing a heavy story driven male main character. Never really got into Witcher either.

    • Stellar Duck says:

      I’ll admit that I don’t understand that? While there certainly isn’t a lot of female leads in games, I’ve got no problems getting into playing the few there are.

      Can you elaborate?

      • gwyrdd says:

        It can definitely make the game playing experience a little more personal and immersive when you’re playing as your own gender. It’s a bit dispiriting when so few games have even the mere option to play as a female, that both genders can’t simply be co-defaults instead of only one. I don’t dislike playing as male characters at all — it’d just be nice to have the option for both sometimes.

        • HothMonster says:

          While I certainly don’t disagree with you. Being a game that the character never speaks and is never shown I don’t see how which skin he wears makes a huge difference. You are suppose to project your own voice onto the character anyway.

          I can see girls not being able to relate to Marcus Phoenix or one of the other massive dude bros that often get the task of carrying the story but really what would making Corvo female here really do, like actually in the game? Make the hands a little smaller and change an occasional pronoun?

          Basically they would have to rerecord a ton of dialogue and random npc talk or just never use pronouns while referring to Corvo. If it’s that big of a deal for people in this type of game I would frankly rather they just make Corvo female then make them spend that money on two voice tracks or have npcs live in some weird world without pronouns.

          Maybe I am just too far on the otherside of the fence to understand though.

          • spron says:

            I do think there’s at least one wanted poster in the first mission post-prison where Corvo’s face is shown, albeit low-res. I wish that there’d have been a way to allow for at least selection of the protagonist’s sex. I fully comprehend that “allowing” for Corvo to be a woman would have necessitated extra lines, or gender-neutral lines, and would have added a different subtext to Corvo’s interactions with the Empress at the beginning of the game. However, I think that the 51% of the world’s population that identifies as female at least deserve the _option_ to play a female lead when they are gaming.

        • Stellar Duck says:

          I certainly agree with you that there are too few ladies in lead roles in gaming. That is lamentable and it can’t change fast enough.

          That said, I’m not in favor of all games having a choice. Depending on the game and story, having the person be any gender also neuters the story as everything has to be vague enough that both would fit. That’s how you end up with Mass Effect where you could play as a lion and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. Shep is a non entity in that universe. Everything becomes too… one size fits all.

          I’d much rather just see a ton more games with leading ladies than empty character slots that anything could fill.

          • TariqOne says:

            Nah. My Shepard is a total badass and I love her to bits.

          • Pod says:

            @TariqOne Your shep may be a badadd, but I think his point was that it could be a badass or not-a-badass and not much changes in the universe, as it’s designed to response to every possible combination, which leaves the end result as being a bit bland. As he said, you could even be an actual Lion and not much would change.

          • TariqOne says:

            I’m not sure how accommodating two genders (or a range of hairstyles, or different armor for that matter) makes the game universe static or bland. Candidly, this doesn’t follow at all. I don’t think a character’s gender (or hairstyle, or clothing) drives an action narrative in any significant way. Ripley in Alien was initially drafted as a male — do you think the story, setting, and arc had to be significantly altered to accommodate the change to female?

            I think a better and simpler explanation for the relative blandness underpinning the Mass Effect series is, as with all their games, a case of BioWare’s relatively simplistic black/white writing.

            Anyway I’m responding to the statement that Shepard is a “non-entity.” She’s not. She has a distinctive voice and mine is dear to my heart as a fictional character.

    • Carbonated Dan says:

      having played the first couple hours, I would surmise that dishonored’s male lead is entirely lacking in character and there is no driving force to the story, which is the most mediocre drama told by the most forced exposition sequences

      enormously disappointing for me, should make the game approachable for you

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      They story really isn’t what is shines here, and Corvo has no voice.

    • TariqOne says:

      I get this and my girlfriend feels the same way about this particular title, FWIW. Mildly in Disohonored’s defense, though, it bothers me less here where the game doesn’t seem to be purporting to be an RPG. But I find it prohibitively irritating in so-called RPGs like The Witchers, particularly when those titles are hailed as among the best PC RPGs of all time. Similarly it is utterly inexcusable in games that tout their infinite range of character/avatar customization, such as Brink.

      So inasmuch as this title seemingly aims to be an action title and doesn’t attempt to feature any customization, I’m inclined to give it a little wiggle room on this issue. But yeah, it’s unfortunate more titles aren’t offering a degree of choice for female gamers.

      • Pod says:

        >But I find it prohibitively irritating in so-called RPGs like The Witchers, particularly when those titles are hailed as among the best PC RPGs of all time.

        You’re playing the role of Garrick and he’s a man.

        When reading the Farseer series I didn’t demand that Robin Hobb change Fitz to be a girl, because that would be absurd and would change _everything_. Changing Garrick into a girl would equally change _everything_, and contradict the books it’s based on.

        I was going to come up with a another example of how changing a female lead into a male lead would ruin the game, but the best I can come up with* is Tomb Raider and in that case it’ll make 0 difference. So maybe there just needs to be more female-centric games to satisfy your desires, rather than having every game take the middle road and cater to both?

        *Actually: Beyond good and evil? Though I can’t remember the ‘story’ for that game.

        • TariqOne says:

          There’s a distinct difference between a book and an RPG. This should be self-evident. I gather, then, that to quote Wizardry, Half-Life is an RPG where you play the role of Gordon Freeman?

          I don’t want to get into this debate yet again. FOR ME, most of the fun in an RPG is about creating a character and playing/developing that role for myself. It’s not watching an interactive movie (or reading a book). D&D would have been all the poorer for being forced to play modules with assigned pre-packed roles. Once you strip the key feature of character design out of a game, FOR ME, I think you have a hard time laying claim to an RPG label, let alone be hailed as a momentous RPG.

          This always gets thrown around in these discussions, but I’m not demanding anyone change anything to suit my desires. I’m saying my preferences are such that I can’t get into so-called RPGs like that. I don’t like the Geralt character on top of it, so the whole experience, resting as it does on Geralt qua Geralt, falls flat. FOR ME. And I can see how some women (the OP and my girlfriend, to take two examples) also find it a barrier to entry.

          So my points are pretty simple: (1) I PERSONALLY sympathize with the OP as a boyfriend and father, respectively, of two girl gamers; (2) I PERSONALLY don’t like RPGs that hand you a prerolled guy and say “observe how lusty and salty our main character is”; and (3) I don’t PERSONALLY buy the “it’s too expensive to put a gender option in” in games where no expense has been spared to design a wide range of jaunty hats.

          My opinion. Shared by some, not shared by you. I get your view and you’re entitled to it. I’m not a moron and I don’t need to be hectored with barely apposite arguments about books or media other than RPGs as to why that opinion — well fleshed out by numerous people here — is wrong. It’s not, just as yours isn’t.

          • Claidheamh says:

            I really don’t think Pod was saying the game is an RPG because you play the role of Garrett, that’s ridiculous. But if it bothers you so much to call The Witcher an RPG, then don’t. Just don’t call it that. It is still a great game. The fact remains Andrzej Sapkowski made Garrett a man, and honestly, it would be much more of a problem if you could choose your gender when playing The Witcher’s title character. In Dishonored though, the only way you notice you’re playing as a guy is when NPCs address you as ‘he’.

          • TariqOne says:

            Or I can just not play it, because I don’t like the character and I’m not into his story. It’s fine just how it is, it just isn’t for me.

            A lack of gender choice in Dishonored, as I said before, doesn’t bother me as much because it’s neither pretending to be an RPG nor an interactive movie like the Witcher games.

            Also, since you’re a Witcher purist we should probably call Geralt “Geralt.” Since that’s how Sapkowski designed him and all. ;)

          • Claidheamh says:

            Obviously in a post about Dishonored, I had Thief in my mind. :P

      • Ragnar says:

        Certainly, it wouldn’t take much to turn Convo to female, and it wouldn’t effect the game, but given that it’s not about the character, and not a personal story, why bother? It’s like letting you pick your gender for a CoD game – ultimately pointless.

        I think a better idea is having more games featuring female leads. Not just where you can swap the lead to female, but that are designed around a female lead – like Beyond Good and Evil and The Longest Journey.

        That said, is it that hard to roleplay as the opposite gender? To put yourself in their position? There are greater distinctions between people that their gender. I’d argue that it’s easier for a man to relate to April Ryan than to Marcus Felix, and that it’s easier for a woman to relate to Nathan Drake than to Bayonetta.

      • majora says:

        spoilers, I guess…

        I’ll start by saying that I’m not opposed to offering the choice of gender in a lot of games. As other commenters have said, it should be a no brainer in an RPG with a player-defined character. I also agree that there should be more female protagonists in games. But…. It wouldn’t make much sense to give player a choice of reversing Corvo Attano’s gender. If you’ve finished the game, you should know that Corvo isn’t just the bodygaurd of the empress; he’s also her secret lover and the father of Emily. This is his whole motivation throughout the entire game: to avenge his lover, and protect his daughter. I love how Arkane actually makes Corvo’s actions influence Emily’s behavior; throughout the game you’re ‘raising’ Emily, whether you realize it or not. It helps to present the main conflict between bloodthirsty revenge and trying to make things right. I think the story would be significantly less interesting if the protagonist was only an employee or friend of the assassinated empress.

        A game with the gender roles reversed would be awesome. I would love to play the role of a mother protecting her child. But a gender neutral games are not always a great compromise. Even in games like The Witcher, or Alpha Protocol, I think the developers were right to limit the players freedom. The more freedom the player has to define their own character, the less freedom the author has to create interesting relationships between the player character and NPCs. Which can be awesome in some games, like Fallout, but not every game should be like that. I would love to see more games that feature real, authored female protagonists, and not just the option to pick a female skinned avatar.

    • Vegas says:

      Stoked I don’t have that problem

    • RaffyS says:

      I like playing a female character just as much as I like playing a male character. I find both equally as fun with girls coming out ahead when there are lesbian options.

    • zaphod42 says:

      The Witcher I could understand, as a narrative based RPG in third person. You’re constantly reminded of who the character is, its a character-based story, he has a voice and you choose dialogue and hear him say it, etc.

      It’d be like Mass Effect, they let you play female in Mass Effect because its a character story.

      But Dishonored? Uh… does Corbo ever speak? I don’t think so. I’ve never heard him yet. When you do have to say something, you choose between two silent lines of text. You may as well be female, you wear a mask and you’re just an assassin, nothing more. They call you “Corbo” some times, but that could be a weird female nickname maybe?

      I mean, that’s like complaining that Half-Life isn’t fun for women because it has a male lead. Gordon Freeman isn’t the main character of Half-Life, YOU ARE. Its immersive. He’s a silent protagonist so you can be the player yourself.

      Corbo is YOU. If you’re female, Corbo is female.

    • Savagetech says:

      I’m sorry, that must suck :( If it helps, this is a game where possessing people is a real possibility; who’s to say that Corvo isn’t simply a pawn of a more skilled female assassin who sees no use in sticking her own life on the line?

      Personally the gender of the lead character does nothing to stop me from getting into a game. Granted I have a greater number of games where my gender matches the protagonist, but I still loved (deep breath): the Blackwell series, Beyond Good & Evil, the Clock Tower series, Haunting Ground, Fatal Frame I & II, Rule of Rose, King’s Quest IV, The Longest Journey, and a boatload of others I’m probably forgetting. Who the characters are–their talents, past, and interactions with the situation they’re in–is far more compelling to me than their genitals.

      My characters in story-rich RPGs (Fallout, Dragon Age, Mass Effect) are female most of the time. I come up with a character concept that isn’t based on gender and just add it in as spice at the end. My women are often gruff warriors with combat skills greater than any man while the men are smooth-talking thieves who crumple in a fight unless they’re backstabbing someone. Sometimes I’ll follow gender stereotype lines as well, it just depends on the kind of character I feel fits into the game world.

      All this to say: Games already ask me to believe so many fantastical things that taking another leap to believe I’m the opposite sex is fairly trivial. If the writing is any good I’ll be far too enthralled with all the concepts and character interactions to bat an eye when I hear “ma’am” rather than “sir.”

    • Savagetech says:

      Conclude Part I: “Wot I Think About Playing the Opposite Gender.” Please flip the tape over. *skrrrk*
      Welcome to Part II: “Why Are Games Such a Sausagefest?”

      I agree that it would be nice to see more well-crafted female leads, but I think that having a male/female choice in every game could dilute the focus of the narrative in many cases. In RPGs and games where the protagonist is a faceless/wordless vessel choice is great, but the limitations of such an approach are apparent even in the good examples: you get uniform, androgynous plot points with the character’s gender only coming into play when you want to get into someone’s pants. There are plenty of great stories that can be told that way, but there are also ones where a character’s narrative is so tied to their sex that it would require sacrificing/homogenizing certain story elements just so the player can make a choice that has no real effect beyond their character’s appearance.

      There are also the mundane considerations like the extra voice acting, writing, modelling, and coding necessary to make such a choice into reality. I imagine many developers look at their games and say “Our primary audience for this title is male, so we’re not going to spend extra resources to allow a female protagonist because from past data we’ve seen that women only make up 20% of sales for these kinds of titles.” For better or worse, companies know their target markets and play towards them when making decisions. If appealing to a particular demographic costs more than it’s worth, it simply won’t happen unless the team has the freedom and generosity to throw money at a feature only a small subset of players will appreciate.

      It’s also quite possible that the writers are men who consume traditionally male-oriented literature, and thus simply stick to writing what they know. Such writers might avoid female characters because they can’t do them justice, or they try and have their efforts scrapped by editors for a similar reason. This isn’t an excuse since there are plenty of solutions (get better writers, add female writers) but it’s certainly within the realm of possibility.

      None of this is really a comfort to alienated female gamers, but looking at the possible origins of the problem could help to find the solution. If women are bothered by characterization in games, they should voice their opinions and vote with their wallets; more studios will take notice and try to address these issues if they know it will bring them more sales/fans.

    • AlKaPwn says:

      Sadly I can only play games where you get to play as a gay male. I can only play skyrim, fallout and mass effect :(

    • barrkel says:

      Corvo has no personality, and he never talks. You could imagine him female and the only changes necessary would be to make the Empress an Emperor, change a big chunk of dialog to switch pronouns, and alter some textures. It would just make the game cost more.

      IMO, however, Dishonored would have been more involving if Corvo actually had a personality and a voice, more like a Garrett or JC Denton and less like Gordon Freeman.

  4. DickSocrates says:

    Sorry but I only buy games that are 400+ hours. And then stop playing them after 8 hours.

    • Ironclad says:

      I’m sorry, but I can never buy a game that doesn’t have at least 100 hours of gameplay.

      I pirate the rest.

      obv sarcasm is obvious?

      • Hematite says:

        I only buy 600 hour games which I finish in 5 hours because you must suk at games lol.

        Edit: gravatar snap!

        • Ragnar says:

          I only buy games that are over 9000! But I don’t play them. Oh no!

          I just look at them, sitting there on my Steam list. I may even install them, if feeling bold. Sometimes I’ll hover the mouse cursor hovers over the Play button, so close and yearning to connect, but always separated by an invisible barrier.

          No, I could never play them. They must stay pristine, unplayed, forever, eternally teasing my imagination with the undiscovered treasures they contain.

  5. Laurentius says:

    Since Portal 2 was so much dissed in RPS verdict, it’s surprising it surfaces in this verdict as a comparison to “glorious” Dishonored.

    • AndrewC says:

      They both praised and criticised Portal 2, just as they have criticised and praised Dishonored here. You are entitled to your opinions, of course, but you are having to alter reality in order to hold them. Is this a situation you are happy with?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I don’t think Portal 2 was any more “dissed” than Dishonored was here. We criticise the AI, the characterisation, the ending, the final level, and I’m sure we’ve grumbled about the models and animation.

  6. Ansob says:

    Where are the Optimus thumbs, RPS? Where?!

  7. FFabian says:

    Meh I want to play this NOW but I have to wait as punishment for not living in the US. I’m on the fence for using a VPN/Spotflux for unlocking but I already had a stern warning from steam for using a proxy/VPN to buy cheaper non-Euro games just half a year ago (I was young and stupid) and so I probably shouldn’t risk something like this.

    • Snidesworth says:

      I’m using Spotflux myself and, after doing a bit of research, the general consensus is that while it’s against the TOS to get around release dates with such things nobody really cares if you do. Buying stuff from other regions will get you in trouble, but I’ve not heard a single report of someone being banned for unlocking stuff early, aside from some unsubstantiated, anonymous fear mongering.

      • Lanfranc says:

        If you just use the VPN to unlock the game and then play on offline for the next couple of days until it unlocks over here, I would think the risks of being discovered are more or less non-existent. If Steam even care at all, which I doubt, it’s not like it’s doing them any harm as far as I can see.

    • slight says:

      Wha! Oh no. I bought it from GreenManGaming because it said it was available, and they offered me a price in Euros. But I guess that it being available on Steam *somewhere* is all they meant? *cry*

    • Poliphilo says:

      There this awesome thing called patience. It’ll come to you.

  8. Snidesworth says:

    I played a couple of hours this morning, groggy and lacking sleep, and immensely it. The invisible ceilings in the home hub were disappointing though, but that was offset by the lingering thrill of seeing the rats do their thing for the first time. Going to see about playing more when I’m more well rested, potentially even starting over. From what I’ve seen so far it’s very much one of those games where you want to be awake and attentive so you can observe all the details and potential around you. And I want to see if it’s possible to ghost that opening level.

  9. coffeetable says:

    Have there been any stealth games that /have/ done AI well? Off the top of my head, guards have always been idiots.

    I always wonder just how hard “good” AI is, and whether players would even like it if they got it.

    • AJ_Wings says:

      Splinter Cell Chaos Theory came pretty close. They’re extremely sensitive to sound so you have to constantly manage your speed via mouse wheel. Even in complete darkness you can’t stand right in front of them or they’ll instantly spot you and they were pretty hard to take down once they spotted you.

      • mouton says:

        Maybe they are more sensitive but they are as dumb as as always.

      • KenTWOu says:

        …they were pretty hard to take down once they spotted you.

        Because developers made guards so fast and so accurate (especially on expert difficulty) and Sam Fisher so slow that even sleeping guard gets up and makes headshot faster than you draw your weapon and point at him.

    • Kilometrik says:

      I don’t know any game that has. Metal Gear has clearly the more responsive AI with the more varied responses. You can freeze them (as in, you point at them and yell “FREZE!” and they obey), they look for you in the entire map, spot by spot, until they’re sure they haven’t found you. Their sound redirection is PERFECT. BUUUT they get back to normal as soon as they have searched all over insted of staying in warning mode, they can only see like 5 feet ahead and are very poor marksmen… Thief 1 and 2 are horrible in the AI department. THe levels are just designer around their limitations. Deus EX 1 AI is even worse. Haven’t played Splinter Cell or Hitman.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I still love Deus Ex’s AI for its “I can see my mate damaging that guy, so that guy must be the enemy” logic, that means you can make UNATCO troopers in their own base go absolutely ape and try to execute their vaccum cleaner.

        Also convince the Hong Kong military bot to get into a fight with Max Chen until both are out of ammo.

    • DJ Madeira says:

      Exactly what I was thinking. Dumb AI is pretty much a critical part of a stealth game, since none of us actually know how to be a master ninja.

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        Yeah but that doesn’t mean it has to be simple, or bad AI. They can still be dumb about finding you, but perhaps try multiple strategies and maybe even some emergent behaviour, all the while still failing to actually find you if you’re not standing right in front of them.

        • Pod says:

          >and maybe even some emergent behaviour,

          Someone programming in ’emergent behaviour’ is the opposite of emergent behaviour.

    • Snidesworth says:

      I’ve seen people argue that good stealth games require somewhat dopey, predictable guards. The reasoning goes that having truly smart AI that’s hard to predict the actions of removes the player’s ability to plan and master the system and replaces it with them rolling the dice and/or savescumming lots.

      I’m still early on but, while playing on Hard, the only absolute rule is that blocked line of sight = safety. Darkness and distance seem to help, and Dark Sight lets you know exactly where a guard is casting his oh-so-terrible cone of vision, but if you linger too long in a guard’s peripheral vision he will eventually notice that something is up. Corvo is no Garrett in that regard; his abilities don’t allow him to flawlessly blend into shadows.

    • nblake42 says:

      I think the AI in all three Thief games is very good. Were the guards in Deadly Shadows idiots? They weren’t when playing on Expert, were they? (Unless you didn’t have the patch installed, meaning they bumped back down to ‘Easy’ if you reloaded.)

      My favourite moment in Deadly Shadows was during the first time I played the first mission where I gently bumped into a table which caused a candlestick to fall over, making a loud noise. (Not something you could do in Thiefs 1 and 2!) A guard was suspicious and walked a bit towards me before stopping. I hid behind the table thinking, “phew, he’s not going to come any closer, I’m safe”. Then the guard said, “I think I’ll take a look behind that table”, and started advancing towards my hiding place. Amazing.

    • Rise / Run says:

      Good AI is always a bitch, but most things are [likely] just scripted anyway (e.g. the look behind the [table] example given by nblake42 above). That’s the cheapest way to gain complexity, but reduces emergency (and once a player has figured it out, it often just looks silly as it can be trolled). But good AI does make stealth fun. The major turn off for me with stealth games is that it’s basically a FPS version of an adventure game. Scope out area, figure out script and what combination of things one needs to solve the puzzle, solve puzzle, maybe requiring multiple reloads if you’re spotted.

      Maybe I’m just poor at stealth games, but the scope things out part seems to require reloads in most games, as it’s more about memorizing guard paths and hidey holes than reacting to situations (thief being so much better than say, hitman, on this one.

      I very much enjoy playing spy in TF2, and while humans act semi-predictably, they have different preferences — usually based on experience. I think the major problem with guard AI (or mob AI in general) is that there’s just not a lot of variation, and it’s definitely not personal. Some guards might check behind them first, some might check corners first, some look above them. But they should be consistent in their prejudices (i.e. load a personality, rather than hit random(10) from each list of possible reactions).

      • nblake42 says:

        Those comments made by guards in Thief Deadly Shadows weren’t scripted. Guards were programmed to occasionally mutter about which part of the rooms they were going to look in, depending on what objects were placed nearby. It was just by complete chance that the guard happened to say that bark, and a complete coincidence that I happened to be hiding behind the table when he said it.

    • Wisq says:

      The AI in Batman: Arkham City seemed decent. Or at least, semi-realistic soldiers put in a semi-realistic situation. For example, knowing that Batman likes to pick their soldiers off one-by-one, the addition of bio-monitors to let everyone know whenever a single guard went down was a big bonus. And they would actually track you for a bit when you bounced from gargoyle to gargoyle, take them out now and then, etc.

      But still, they always stopped short of realistic. For example, always moving to inspect a downed colleague even if that’s the exact sort of bait you use to take out another one. Or not moving around in pairs, or watching over each other and refusing to leave a critical guard point, or shooting / watching all the gargoyles.

      Still, some liberties need to be taken for the sake of gameplay, and the Batman guards seem to be the closest I’ve seen to feeling “real”.

    • Aatch says:

      I always see it as a trade off for where you reduce the realism. A heavily-guarded “impenetrable” fortress should at least look heavily guarded. Decent guard AI would probably make it impossible to enter unless you were incredibly skilled or masterfully patient.

      Now the magic powers of Corvo do allow for some better tricks, since you can teleport around, the AI could have been upped to make it more realistic. That said, it probably wasn’t worth it.

      Difficult AI wouldn’t make the game more fun, it would make it frustrating and boring…

    • Arbodnangle Scrulp says:

      Dumb guard AI in games is absolutely realistic. Have any of you ever met a real-life security guard? They’re not hired for their brains, people!

    • Aardvarkk says:

      It wasn’t quite a stealth game, but Crysis AI was pretty dang good. I had a couple enemies who’d followed me for quite a while.

  10. kikito says:

    The beer on the second capture looks super old school.

    • seamoss says:

      Yeah, the beer is pretty flat.

      • Wisq says:

        Misread as “bear”. That led to an interesting minute of wondering whether I was blind or you guys were crazy.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, I’m not sure why, but it looks like a 2D planar sprite; B. J. Blazkowicz’ brew.

  11. kwyjibo says:

    That pint glass is the wrong shape. You know what I’m talking about bitter drinkers.

  12. karthink says:

    I would really like to buy this game now instead of in a sale ten months from now, because we rarely get immersive sims anymore and I want to vote with my wallet. (Also because it’s apparently brilliant.)

    Unfortunately, my wallet is empty. (Also, I can’t help but feel that my contribution, made at a significant loss of disposable income, will not even register as a vote for more immersive sims in Bethesda’s vast money banks.)

    Anyway, we do have a new classic on our hands, don’t we? Poor, poor Human Revolution, the side act pushed aside to make way for the star.

  13. fauxC says:

    Hmm, I never got on with Bioshock since I felt the combat was too “floaty” (too much time in the nice solid world of the Source engine). Really hoping that doesn’t affect this as I’m so very excited to play it.

    • Highstorm says:

      Interesting. Personally I find most Source games to be the very definition of “floaty” and have a hard time getting on with them as a result. It’s the way you don’t immediately stop when letting go of a movement key.

    • suibhne says:

      I’ve competed in a few shooters, so I’m pretty particular about mouse control. Bioshock wasn’t floaty at all once you fiddled with the .ini files and turned off all the mouse crap that it tried to force on you. Dishonored felt tight from the beginning (but I turned off all the mouse smoothing, aim assist, etc. before clicking “New game”). In contrast, I can’t get the mouse control in Skyrim to feel tolerable no matter what I do.

  14. Stellar Duck says:

    I’ve bought the game, but at this point I’ll be fed up with it before playing it on Friday. :(

    Can’t say I’ve read this piece and it’s somewhat annoying to have it stare at my face 3 days before I can even play the damn game.

  15. Kestrel says:

    The editor in me is cringing at this article.

  16. Nihilist says:

    Will we see a new wave of big budget games that take us gamers serious again? DXHR, XCOM and Dishonored look so promising in this regard.

  17. ZamFear says:

    “if you duck out of sight after they’ve stared right at you, they’ll search behind themselves first.”

    Considering the player character has the ability to teleport, that actually seems like a smart move.

    • Rise / Run says:

      Well, only if the guard knows that you have the ability to teleport. Seems like calling for help would be a good bet too…

  18. Bhazor says:

    So… mediocre then?

    Would you say 6.7?

  19. sabasNL says:

    I really loved DXHR although I felt like the stealth wasn’t always possible, and the action was not good enough sometimes (compared to, say, Metal Gear Solid), yet the atmossphere kept me playing it, even past the horrible bossfights (made me ragequit initially).

    I see some good references here and everyone seems to be positive, can’t wait to try out myself.

    • KenTWOu says:

      Stealth is always possible except three bosses.

      • suibhne says:

        I wonder which “bosses” you mean, but it’s tough to discuss without spoilers. I can only think of two “bosses”, and stealth is entirely possible with one of them – you can simply pickpocket him and ghost away. With the second, you can totally avoid the fight by choosing an alternative approach. And there is no endgame boss…but if you mean that one, then you can just put him to sleep or choke him from behind.

        So I finished the game after about 21 hours, and it seemed to me that stealth was *always* possible, including with assassination targets and other important characters.

  20. Kdansky says:

    Single player game of the year? Against Dark Souls as the primary contender? I doubt it!

    Guess what I’m replaying on the PC right now, and how incredibly good this thing still is on the second play-through.

    • Makariel says:

      Nothing beats Dark Souls.

      • Stellar Duck says:

        Different courses and all that. I enjoy Dark Souls greatly, but it’s a long way from the best game I’ve played this year. Unless something really weird happens that’s Crusader Kings 2. So, yea, something beats Dark Souls.

      • Unaco says:

        Yeah… It beats itself with GFWL, the terrible port, and taking a year to come to PC.

        • HothMonster says:

          It is not a terrible port, it is a straight port. There is a difference. It runs well on pc and is decently optimized. It does nothing worse than the console version. But it adds nothing to take advantage of PC only features. There is nothing wrong with the port, there is just nothing PC centric added on.

          A terrible port would require way more hardware then it needs due to bad optimization, or have bugs and flaws the original didn’t have. But as is it functions as well as the console version and runs better than the console versions. Its a functional port, calling this a terrible port lets all those really terrible ports off the hook.

          But yeah bbooooo gfwl.

        • Naum says:

          The latter is no real concern to me, but the former make this not only not game of year but also not-game of the year, for I cannot play it. GFWL shall die in a fire.

      • Lambchops says:

        Actually I’ve come to the conclusion I don’t really like Dark Souls so lots of things beat it. I can certainly appreciate it’s a well designed game that may bring joy (don’t think that’s the right word, but you get my point) to many but it ain’t for me. I was going to add that the world of Dark Souls itself doesn’t seem that interesting to me but I don’t think I’ll actually ever play enough to say that for sure, the early sections probably don’t reflect later locales.

        • derbefrier says:

          the story is actually pretty cool i think. Its true you have to go to a wikki to really know what the hell is going on which I kinda like. Bosses don’t yammer on and on being annoying(*cough* D3 *cough*) They just show up maybe do something to look tough and start kicking your ass. You can kinda get an idea from the NPCs around the world but most of them are bat shit insane or liars anyway. I actually read some of the lore on the wikki and its pretty interesting. I do like the minimalist approach they took with the story though. Makes the world that much more intriguing in my opinion.

          ok, I’ll quit being a fanboy now, back to Dishonored and how slow the clock can go at work when you have a new game sitting at home you really want to play.

          • HothMonster says:

            That world and the story is so amazing and so engrossing but the game does so little to explain it. You really have to hang on every word of the npcs and the item descriptions to even begin to understand what the hell is going on. But it is really rewarding if you do, there is a very rich and well thought out world there just no attempt to put any of it in front of you.

        • DrGonzo says:

          Same here, though less of the well designed thought. I will go back to it because I’ve heard so much praise. But it felt unfair, it would kill you with no warning, trial and error at it’s worst. But I could just be blind.

      • derbefrier says:

        I have to agree with this, but then again I haven’t been able to play dishonored yet. Stupid work..
        Dark souls is the best game I have played in years regardless though. Even without the resolution fix and gfwl there’s not much out there that comes close to its glorious level design and combat system.

      • Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

        Everything I’ve played this year since Dark Souls has felt more or less underwhelming. That game just gets under your skin so much.

        Dishonoured seems all right so far, but it’s hardly “blowing me away” (igndotcom) and this article isn’t really selling me on it either, speaking mostly of the game’s failures and then declaring it the greatest in years for some reason. By the way, for such Thief fans you guys don’t really seem to be “ghosting” this game, knocking tens of people out instead. Is ghosting even feasible with this LOS-based engine?

  21. SteveyM says:

    Nathan: Can you guys keep it down, I’m trying to play Dishonored!

    • HothMonster says:

      To get revenge on the US for the rest of the Brits they gave Nathan the preview code 3 days later then everyone else.

  22. JustAPigeon says:

    Too much Sandman? Not possible.

  23. Shooop says:

    Can you prevent the rats from eating unconscious people should you accidentally open that wrong door?

    And do accidental deaths count as your kills?

    • HothMonster says:

      No on the first question, hordes of rats eat people awake or not. They will eat you if no one else is around to distract them. Letting them free means people will die.

      Not sure if it counts against your chaos score(how much death and destruction you cause) or not.

      • malkav11 says:

        It seems like people just being eaten by ambient rat swarms won’t count against you; people you’ve knocked out getting eaten by rats, or people being eaten by rats you’ve summoned with a power, those do.

    • PikaBot says:

      If you really booked it you could grab their sleeping forms off of the ground and toss them to higher ground before the rats get to them.

      You’ll never do this, you’ll be far too busy trying to avoid getting eaten yourself.

    • Shooop says:

      Thanks to both of you, and PC Gamer for once for actually making a rather decent article covering exactly what counts and doesn’t towards getting that perfect score.

      Mostly a matter of hiding the bodies I guess. Which you logically should be doing anyway if you’re really trying to get away without murder.

  24. Sigh says:

    How then should the game be played?

    I’ll let myself out.

  25. Jp1138 says:

    I finally gave up last week and ordered Dark Souls, which I´m still waiting to receive – Damn you Amazon UK. I had already preordered XCOM a month ago and now you have made me preorder Dishonored too… And that having tens of unplayed games, including CK2… I hate YOU.

  26. Hanban says:

    There’s no such thing as reading too much The Sandman!

  27. Siimon says:

    Hate is a strong word; John and Alec both say they hate the game. Reading the whole thing it is pretty clear they enjoyed it overall, but saying something made them hate the game is A LOT stronger than saying “XX was my least favorite part” or something along those lines.

    Now, in the back of my head, I’m wondering if it is something petty or something that will truly make me -hate- the game, make me disappointed because its a game that could have been great, but isn’t.

    • HothMonster says:

      I feel like these verdicts always come across worse than they should. Clearly this is a room full of people who loved the game, or they wouldn’t all be playing it a second time. But without getting into spoilers all they really have to talk about it is what the game did well and what it did poorly. Sometimes 50 lines of what the game did poorly makes it seem worse than the sum total of its parts really is, imo.

    • Dark Nexus says:

      Alec said he hated one enemy in the game. Someone can hate one specific part of a game but still enjoy the game overall.

      John’s comment didn’t come across as a sincere expression of hatred to me, but YMMV.

      But considering they both put it in the running for game of the year, I wouldn’t read too much into those two lines.

    • Wisq says:

      My late grandfather (a rather stern sea captain) once lectured me on overuse of the word “hate”, and I sorta agree with him in principle, so your complaint certainly resonates with me.

      On the other hand, the term has become so watered down and/or associated with humour these days that I would actually generally consider “item X made me hate the game” to be a statement of (possibly comical) frustration, while “item X made me dislike the game” would actually be a serious and more severe put-down.

      But yeah, John’s was clearly a joke, IMO.

    • cspkg says:

      A fair point, Sir. However I can think of a game (DX:HR) that I really enjoyed. But by the gods did I hate the boss fights. I still remember marvelling at how *slick* the stealth and movement were. Muchos fun, but almost ruined by the forced violence.

      And I guess that Dishonoured is so highly anticipated that it’s kind of good to have expectations lowered. I’ve already preordered and am waiting impatiently for it to unlock in the UK. Between it and XCOM (stupid RPS made me buy it), I’ll have enough to last me the year.

      • Naum says:

        In case you intend to do another playthrough: There’s a mod that enables a full dev menu with invulnerability etc. Playing the bosses that way is great — it feels like literally executing the worst part of the game, hopefully convincing each and every boss in future stealth games to pack their bags and go on holidays somewhere far, far away.

        Link: link to

    • suibhne says:

      I can’t tell whether you didn’t finish reading the article or deliberate misread it. John’s use of “hate” (re. the bug with guard spawning) was clearly sarcastic hyperbole. He later said this: “It’s a stunning spectacle of a game. It’s a game-game too – it embraces what only gaming can deliver, and cares so much about delivering it.” Sounded to me like he quite liked it overall. And Alec was complaining about one specific enemy type, which shows up rarely and is at least much less frustrating than, say, Cliff Racers or Varkids.

  28. slive cinclair says:


  29. Zenicetus says:

    A quick question for anyone who has the game now, or knows about this: Does the game have options for changing the field of view, or is it stuck at one default level?

    I’m using a 4:3 monitor and my only gripe about first-person games is that sometimes the view can get cramped on a full-screen (non-letterboxed) 4:3 aspect ratio. A slight adjustment to view angle provides better immersion and situational awareness, which is especially important in a stealth game. So is the view angle adjustable?

    • HothMonster says:

      It is adjustable. The slider only goes to 85 though, I think the low end was 45 but I’m not sure didn’t really look.

  30. Iconik says:

    I don’t understand why there was so much talk about Bioshock being less story driven. Of course, I haven’t played through Dishonored yet, but from what I’ve gathered, the RPS crew wanted it to go a bit deeper and then started comparing it to Bioshock’s story. I thought Bioshock was 100% story. Both of them. There was a ton of nuance as well.

    So which is it? Is DIshonored’s story overall not as strong as Bioshocks or not?

  31. popej says:

    Some help good people!

    PC version, I’ve just started playing on ‘hard’ mode. I took the advise of RPS and have turned off objective markers, tutorial tips, item highlight and the action highlight settings.

    Problem is, they’re still working even though I’ve turned them off!

    I’m very close to the start still, I’ve just escaped (sorry don’t know how to use spoiler syntax). Are the tips still working because I’m still effectively playing a tutorial?


  32. KenTWOu says:

    guards spawning in on a staircase… bodies rapidly disappeared if there were too many in one place…

    That’s bad. That’s really really bad.

  33. pupsikaso says:

    I wonder if it’ll be on steam’s Christmas sale…

  34. Thiefsie says:

    Fantastic read guys – I played to the sewers last night and am enjoying the world immensely apart from the too brief introduction to the event at the start which seemed a little forced… otherwise well impressed so far. Sneaking seems a bit stretched even on hard, but the mechanics will get better the further I go I am sure. A pity the story sounds a bit weak but I’m sure it is passable nonetheless – I think the world interests me more than anything else. Can’t wait until some mods make this a lot harder and remove some consolisations like disappearing bodies etc…

    • Thiefsie says:

      My only other comment would be my constant grumble with a lot of games these days in that they are so obvious in some parts with lights leading you where to go or bright red ledges where you can grapple – the devs have stated people just didn’t experiment in playtesting and have thus kept a lot of this in – but for someone like me turning all the aids of its pretty annoying to still be lead by the hand a lot, along the lines of Halo 2/3 which did it too much as opposed to HL2 which seemed to almost get it balanced right… but was still a little easy.

      I think I’ll restart on the hardest mode tonight and do a non-lethal run, then go through mucking around as much as I can the second time.

      Haven’t been excited about a game this much in a long time, and I’ve also managed to squeeze in a little bit of Xcom which seemed rather pleasant from 2 missions only… Joy!

      • popej says:

        I’ve turned all the aids off as well. Problem is they’re still working! I’ve only just escaped so I’m guessing its because I’m still playing a tutorial of sorts…?

  35. nblake42 says:

    How are people managing to play the game?! Steam won’t let me because it says it hasn’t been released yet. But I’m holding it in my hands!

  36. Low Life says:

    I must say I was a bit disappointed with the length – I certainly enjoy exploration and such, and the three quarters of the loot in each level as mentioned by you guys is pretty close to what I got, but I still finished in less than 15 hours. This is non-lethal (apart from a couple of quest kills) and (after I got comfortable with the game) as a proper ghost – trying to avoid any physical contact with enemies instead of just not letting them see me before knocking them out.

    But otherwise, a really great game. I especially love the controls (having the “old school” type of absolute control instead of forced clumsiness) and the fact that it’s one of the few games in the recent years that looks sharp, not having a bunch of blur/dof/whatever filters smudging the image. I miss those in my games.

    As a comparison for the length and/or my playstyle, my first playthough of DXHR was 25+ hours.

  37. Dominic White says:

    Disappearing bodies are already fixed via a tiny INI tweak.

    Open Documents\My Games\Dishonored\DishonoredGame\Config\DishonoredAI.ini and change the following lines:


    All the piled bodies you (or the rats) can eat.

  38. Podesta says:

    Speaking of CKII I guess Queen Justa is long gone…

  39. Arach says:

    Can´t wait to try it today!

  40. Chumbaba says:

    I’ve only played the prison so far. I ran and killed all the guards with one swing of the blade. So where is the similarity to Thief?

    (NOTE: I don’t like the huge publicity campaign surrounding this game and I don’t like how it had been the “game of the year” long before anyone played it. So take this more as a joke than serious criticism.)

  41. ZX k1cka55 48K says:

    My biggest problem with Dishonored is that the game holds no challenge. It’s a way too easy with no memorable fighting moments and “baddies” don’t really stay a chance. You don’t have to be stealthy or careful to survive. The story was very mediocre too…
    I would rather have the remakes of original Thief games than this.

    Overall IMHO, Dishonored was just an “OK” game, surely better than most games that came out recently, but it’s not really saying much.
    It just didn’t live up to its hype and felt somewhat rushed…
    Hope at least that Bioshock: Infinite will deliver.

  42. lexoneir says:

    My main complaint, apart from the questionable difficulty, is the fact that is seems to be a combination of Thief and Bioshock. That sounds great on paper, but the problem is that it seem to be nothing more than this combination. The parallels are a little strange, and the gameplay is hardly advanced except that the Bioshock style abilities are now applicable to stealth gameplay. Its a decent game, certainly. Better indeed than much of what has been released recently. But as much as I love Thief, I’m not sure directly copying it without some kind of modernization of the game or ‘flow’ is actually valid. I had more stealthing in Alpha Protocol than in this game. I had fun in Thief as well, but again, its age justified its limitations and, lets face it, awkwardness – something this game seems to hold on to, almost as if it thinks its a feature.

  43. Yglorba says:

    Dishonored is great. But two things I think Hitman did better, one of which this review touched on:

    First, the save-reload thing. When I first read about how Hitman disabled in-level saving on its highest difficulty level, I thought it was insane, but now I wouldn’t want it any other way. And it’s more than just turning off saves — Hitman’s levels are designed from the ground up with the understanding that people can’t just save-reload past everything (which means that while they’re very hard, it’s always possible to avoid random chance if you think ahead and plan carefully.) It encourages players to actually play through their mistakes, which can lead to more interesting gameplay, and it encourages players to behave more realistically instead of trying to knock out every single guard (though Hitman doubles down on preventing that by giving you a limit supply of ways to knock people out — which, again, I think was a very good call.)

    Second, I think it’s better to have every level be a totally separate episode, with none of your equipment or money or anything carrying over aside from some global unlocks and maybe major branching-plot choices. Carrying over your ammo between levels encourages players to hoard their tools rather than use them; carrying over money (which the original Thief games smartly avoided) encourages players to try to loot absolutely everything even when it isn’t fun to do so, because they know they can’t come back later. And both of these things encourage players to try and get things perfectly rather than playing through their mistakes — another issue that is compounded by the easy availability of saving and reloading.

    The choices about developing your character paradoxically end up reducing choices in the long run, too. In Hitman, say, I can try a particular level in lots of different ways, since I can revise my equipment freely; in Dishonored, my choices are constrained by which upgrades I picked earlier. I’d rather have the freedom to redefine my character for each level.

    None of these things are a huge deal (and with discipline, a player can ignore them and play the game), but I think that part of what makes Hitman a cut above is that its designers so clearly understand not just what makes a good game but how people approach games — Hitman is designed to guide you into playing it in a ‘fun’ way, without being too obvious about it, and in particular to suppress OCD tendencies that might ruin a stealth game. Games with RPG elements, like Dishonored, tend to bring them out instead.

    Anyway, I don’t mean to rag on Dishonored (which is a totally awesome game). But playing it made me appreciate those specific things about Hitman a bit more.

  44. Borborygme says:

    I think this column would benefit from being presented in audio form. The conversation format seems better suited to it than text.

  45. shadowesque says:

    One thing about the Outsider that I found cool, though, is that if you look closely you can catch glimpses of things that make dents in the initial impression he makes.
    At first you think there is the Outsider, an incarnation of the free spirit and the heartfelt desires; the things that make all living beings long for freedom and cannot and should not be controlled or attempted to be explained by sourly austere rationale. (You might say, the essence of all this is, follow your heart…and then he gives you one to guide you)
    And then there is this fascist church with their abhorrent strictures that aim to cauterize exactly that freedom of thought and feeling that the Outsider represents. Of course it’s perfectly obvious from the start that the Overseers do not exist to protect humanity from some malign mystical power, but to educate people to subordination. If you hadn’t just met the Outsider in person, you would have thought they’d made him up to scare people.
    In giving me the creeps, the visit to the Overseer headquarters made unmistakably clear that this church is evil and the Outsider is good.
    But in time I come across eerie hints about the whalebone runes and charms which are supposedly connected to the Outsider giving people nightmares or driving them insane so they murder their cousins, among other worrying material … and by the time of my final encounter with the Outsider in a place so damned weird that my suspicions are nurtured once more, I find him very creepy too.
    In the end, the church is still evil of course, but I’m not so sure anymore what to make of the Outsider. If he is a representation of human nature, maybe it’s somehow connected to how nobody is purely good or evil and how these categories don’t even make sense at all – there are lines of meaning that can be implied and metaphors that can be spotted from here, if you chose to. But maybe I read in too much –
    What it comes down to is that I was pleasantly surprised that the Outsider proved to be more interesting than I initially thought.

  46. Ysellian says:

    Hooray! I have money! now off to buy this game somewhere.