In the first few months of lockdown, I decided to revisit a few games from the past – games that had kept me entertained for hours in the days before games were so incredibly expensive. I keep an eye on gaming news, and occasionally a big title will catch my eye – but there are still certain franchises and developers that grab my attention immediately.

Grand Theft Auto has always pushed the limits, Crytek has released beautifully immersive experiences but the people at Bethesda Studios have something special. With titles like Fallout and Elder Scrolls behind them, they have something of a mythical status. But for me, Dishonored has been their most inspired game to date. Let me explain.

A Complex Storyline

Although Bethesda is generally somewhat unconventional in their narratives, Dishonored’s storyline is complex. The Queen’s guard is falsely indicted for her murder, then saved by a conspiracy movement that proves to be just as corrupt. A pandemic has taken hold of the city and no surrounding nations want to help.

There are hints of environmental collapse as energy is produced by whale oil, and all the while people are persecuted for worshipping a morally ambiguous figure called the outsider who is prone to appearing in dreams and granting dark powers. The game blurs the lines between good and bad,

Endless Playstyles

The game adjusts to your way of playing. As a stealth-based game it’s incredibly engaging, but nothing is stopping you from engaging in all-out crossbow and sword combat. You can move slowly or use magic to teleport through the air onto rooftops. You can kill everyone or nobody. The choice is yours.

A Rich Aesthetic and Lore

The game was released almost a decade ago, but instead of relying heavily on cutting-edge realism, the game was made to look like a painting. An incredibly grotesque, Dickensian painting of an industrial city in decline, but a painting, nonetheless.

So much went into this game’s world, from various books you can pick up and read, to the various collectibles scattered throughout the world, to the pumping heart that will tell you the secrets of any character you point it at – random NPCs included. The game is short, about 5 hours total playtime, but you can see from the detail put into the world that the developers expected players to complete this game many more times after their first playthrough.

Endless Replayability

Much like, the result of these factors is a game that you can revisit over and over again over the course of a decade and still love. You can change your style and approach to suit whatever mood you’re in, and the world changes around you as you implement these approaches. You’ll never find every book, elixir, or a scrap of information and so the game draws you back into its murky, morally ambiguous waters time and time again.

Although Bethesda is releasing the hotly anticipated Deathloop in the same collaboration with Arkane, I can’t wait until the third installment of Dishonored hits the digital shelves.