Just before Bethesda re-released Skyrim: Buggy Pretty Version, the company announced a new change to its review program — and by “new change,” we mean “a cowardly attempt to avoid being buried by complaints that might jeopardize sales.” Bethesda argued it wanted everyone in the game industry to “experience [its] games at the same time,” which is a ridiculous rationale with which to justify not telling people whether a single-player game is amazing before they can purchase it themselves. It does, however, make perfect sense if you don’t want people to cancel preorders for a title that lands with the grace of a dead sperm whale flung out of a C-130 at 15,000 feet.
That’s the situation we find ourselves in with Dishonored 2, a game that’s being praised for its mechanics, its gameplay, and its story — on consoles. On PCs, frame rate stutters, crashes, and other problems are killing gamer opinion. Reviewers who have the console version have praised it to the heavens, while reviewers with the PC version have been reporting dropped frame rates to the point that it’s making some people seasick, even on advanced rigs. Pascal GPUs like the GTX 1080 can’t hold a stable frame rate, even with detail levels set to medium at 1920×1080, while reviewers with AMD solutions are reporting feeling seasick if they increase detail levels above Medium, even with GPUs like the R9 Nano.
Full disclosure: I’m a huge Dishonored fan. While the plot of the first game is a bit predictable, the characterization of the world and its people are excellent. There’s a rich backstory to explore, and the game world adjusts to how you complete missions. Decisions you make in early chapters impact how the game plays out and ends, and there are near-infinite ways to complete your objectives thanks to a robust set of skills and abilities and some fiendish room for experimentation. Not since Half Life 2’s Gravity Gun have a I seen a game that allowed for so much fiendish delight — Dishonored’s various abilities let you fire a crossbow bolt at your target, pause time, attach a deadly razor trap to it, and then watch as the combined bolt + spring razor wreak havoc upon impact. You can even put traps on rats that will then be triggered if the rat swarm approaches an enemy.
So yeah. I love Dishonored, and by all accounts Dishonored 2 is a great game on consoles. But once again, it’s a great game that someone thought it was okay to push out in a substandard state on PCs. And to be utterly honest, I’m getting pretty tired of that. For as long as PC games have existed, there have been terrible PC games — but the advent of consoles that were so close to PCs was supposed to make it easier to port titles and play games across all three platforms. It hasn’t. Nobody could figure out why Bethesda changed its review policy right ahead of Skyrim, but it makes perfect sense now.
Why is it that a console with seven available CPU cores based on a budget CPU design that’s now four years old and a midrange AMD GPU of the same age can play a game beautifully, while PC players with vastly more powerful hardware experience the visual equivalent of a dumpster fire? I’m tired of writing articles about how gorgeous games that run well on console hardware need several months of patches (or $3,000 in PC equipment) to run comparably. I’m tired of writing articles about how the Windows Store version of a game is garbage, or how a brand-new, cutting-edge title doesn’t run well. I’m tired of cataloging a litany of issues, some of which are related to the complexity of modern titles and architectures, and some of which are caused by publishers either farming out the PC port to a small studio that isn’t properly integrated and can’t do the job properly, or simply not caring because they want to hit a launch window.
If you want to push back against this trend, stop pre-ordering games. Stop buying half-baked titles just because they’re from a franchise you’ve enjoyed. Wait until the game is fixed — and if the game never gets fixed, find something else to play. God knows, there are enough excellent games on the market to keep us all busy for decades, especially if you’re willing to dip into back catalogs and play older titles.
And no, Bethesda — Dishonored 2 is, I’m certain, not the most egregious PC failure of the year. In fact, compared with titles like Gears of War Ultimate Edition, I’m certain it’s not even close. But given that you killed your review policy a few weeks back, and given the overall level of crap we’ve gotten this console generation, I’m through putting up with it. Shipping an amazing Doom update doesn’t get you a free pass, and if you can’t be bothered to ship a title that’s been optimized for PC hardware less than six months old, don’t bother shipping it at all.