Mention the word 'steampunk' and some people's eyes will instantly light up, while others furrow their brows in confusion; confusion that usually results in them thinking you’re into some weird fetish website. We’re not going to try and educate you on the steampunk scene here. Instead we'll point an ominous, ornate walking cane at Dishonored, and leave you to figure it out for yourself.
That's essentially what this stealth game does. Set against the beautifully dark background of a crumbling waterfront empire, Dishonored casts you as a disgraced assassin who allies himself with a loyalist insurgency group. You're then whisked off on a very real and nerve-wracking journey through the seedy underbelly of a neo-Victorian world as you choose how best to serve your band of rebels.
We hear about sandbox games all the time, but Dishonored captures the brilliance of free-roaming gaming better than any we've seen for a long time. Each level has its objectives, sure, and while you might not have control over the game world itself, you certainly have control over your own actions. Morality doesn't exist, unless you choose to take your own moral compass into the shrouded and menacing cobbled streets.
To say that this is a stunningly rendered game would be an understatement, but some may also find it to be quite sparse. There's no messing around with customisations, or online components. The world has been built to live and breathe all on its own, so your influence is deliberately kept to the human qualities. And this is no bad thing, as it brings a surprising amount of realism to a game that embraces the supernatural as well as science fiction.
There is a plot running in the background, and a great one at that, but Dishonored is more about the drama you create for yourself; or that you are thrown into whether you want it or not. The result is a chaotic collection of mind-blowing mistakes, narrow escapes and death-defying feats that cement your existence in the vibrant steampunk world.
It's a game that demands commitment and patience, pushing it strongly toward the hardcore demographic, however. If you’re looking for a casual distraction, this isn't it. But if you want something to change your gaming life, put Dishonored at the top of your list.