Welcome to Best of Xbox Game Pass where each week I’m going to pick out a game available on Game Pass and explain why I think it is worth playing. While I’ll certainly include some of the bigger titles available on the service, I’ll focus more on other games that you might have overlooked in the hope of leading you to a hidden gem.
With Microsoft now owning Zenimax, and therefore Bethesda, it seemed only right to pick out a Bethesda title from Game Pass to highlight this week. The game I chose is a personal favourite and comes from the excellent minds at Arkane whose talent for designing awesome levels has made them a developer I love and adore. Yep, my choice for this week is Dishonored, the first-person stealth ‘n stab adventure where ever playthrough starts with me promising to avoid killing before inevitably turning into the kind of blood bath that would make Sub-Zero go for a bit of a lie-down.
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Dishonored stars Corvo Attano, the body-guard of the Empress of the Isles, who gets framed for the murder of his charge. On the run through the plague-ridden streets of Dunwall, Corvo dons a kickass mask and becomes a deadly assassin seeking revenge, aided by a raft of powers gifted to him by a mysterious being known only as The Outsider.
The story takes a backseat to what makes Dishonored amazing; the gameplay, and the atmosphere. Sure, you could argue that it’s a slight failing of Dishonored’s design that the mixture of powers and gadgets all lean heavily toward murder and mayhem while stealth is much more barebones, but it’s hard to care when it’s just so much fun. Corvo is capable of teleporting around and clambering around like a parkour genius, turning him into a graceful killer.
His pool of powers and gadgets allow for some serious creative ways of dispatching hapless victims who are stupid enough to get in Corvo’s way. In some ways, Dishonored and the modern Hitman games are alike in how they give you a bunch of tools and let you get on with it, but whereas Hitman 3 is a slow-burn where you wander the level and patiently await the right moments, Dishonored is fast, fluid and all about the more immediate thrills. When you’re as fast and deadly as Corvo, waiting around is rather pointless. Why wait when you can possess somebody and walk them into a writhing pool of rats?
Doubtless the highpoint of the entire game comes when you have to infiltrate Lady Boyle’s party and murder her. The catch is that she could be one of three different people. Ambling around the party and soaking up the atmosphere is already enjoyable, but plotting how to kill your target is where all the real fun is had. You could deduce her identity through various clues, or you could murder all three potential targets in a display of articulate violence. Choices, choices.
Level design throughout Dishonored is excellent. Arkane do a wonderful job of giving you interesting sandboxes to play in, filled with different routes and cool moments. Dunwall itself is a bleak city filled with grim and plague, legions of rats waiting to devour corpses. The streets, alleys and houses are an amalgamation of London and Edinburgh with the black plague thrown in for good measure, a miserable place that is inhabited by some equally miserable excuses for human beings.
Attempting to describe Dishonored’s art-style is a difficult task, and one that I’m not capable of doing justice. It’s sort of like an oil-painting come to life. In some ways it lacks detail, the various textures that make up the dank city of Dunwall lacking much to look at. And yet, the world as a whole is incredibly detailed, the strange mix of arcane, steampunk and industrial all mixed together with incredible skill to create a world that is utterly engaging. Every facet of Dunwall and its people is interesting.
Oh, and the Heart. How could I almost forget the Heart? This beating organ lets you listen to the innermost thoughts of anyone you aim at, with every character and enemy having unique pieces of insight to be gleaned. One of the most prized memories is going through Dishonored as a vigilante, listening to the whispers of the heart and dishing out justice as I saw fit. I’d spare people simply because the heart seemed to suggest they were decent folk, and kill others because the heart uttered damning words that made my blade itch.
Truly, Dishonored is one of the best games of the Xbox 360 generation and Arkane did even better with the criminally overlooked Dishonored 2 which is also available on Game Pass and should also be played. Despite playing even better and featuring a wealth of amazing levels, Dishonored 2 only sold a couple of million copies. That’s still quite a bit, but far less than it deserved. Perhaps Bethesda felt the same because so far there’s no sign of a Dishonored 3. With that said, Arkane’s forthcoming game, Deathloop, has a lot of Dishonored’s DNA in it.
Now that both Dishonored and Dishonored 2 are on Game Pass there’s no excuse to go and check out some of the finest games from the last generation. And if you needed any more incentive, Dishonored has just gotten FPS Boost support and improved load times on the Series S and Series X.