Review: Dishonored 2
Released around October 2012, Dishonored clearly marked the heart of many players around the world, including mine (but I’m a bit biased as I worked as the game regional Middle East PR). If you didn’t read my original review of the game, you would know that thanks to its unique universe and amazing gameplay, Dishonored had managed to give a clearly unforgettable experience to fans of action and stealth game. Now four years later, French based Arkane Studios finally release its sequel, a true contender of the 2016 game of the year: Dishonored 2.
Fifteen years have passed since the assassination of Empress Jessamine Kaldwin and the struggle that its Royal Protector Corvo Attano had to endure, on his quest to avenge her and put her daughter Emily back on its rightful throne. Little Emily is no longer the frail and simple child of the original Dishnored, and has grown up to become a fine grown woman, an empress but also… A trained fighter by Corvo, which will soon enough recieve her own Supernatural abilities to protect her from the same fate that killed her mother. While everything should be fine with the Empress Emility finally on her throne, and the plague that hit Dunwall is history, a dangerous new threat arrives, and the young leader will have to face the witch Delilah Copperspoon.
Delilah’s name shoud be known for those that played the Brigmore Witches DLC in the original game. She barges in the ceremony made in remembrance of Jessamine Kaldwin’s assassination, claiming to be Jessamine’s half-sister and true heir to empire, and with the help of the Duke of Serkonos, she attacks with her guard Emily and Corvo. This is when things get interesting, and something that we haven’t seen in the previous episode: two different storyline. You see, when Delilah attacks Emily and Corvo, you will be forced to pick one of them to survive the attack, which will then be your playthrough protagonist… And here comes the new revenge story, get back the throne, and get rid of the new conspirators.
The question now is, how do you intend to do tackle this? Like the first game, all of the ingredients and tools are there for you to use, and it is up to you too cook up your plan. Do you want to be a pacifist and not shed blood or, on the contrary, consider slicing your way through all targets and tasks? There’s so many different missions in the new region of the empire, Karnaca, capital of Serkonos, which will leave you the choice of how to finish them. In my case, I went the stealthy way, in an attempt of getting couple of difficult achievements such as Shadow (Finish the game without being spotted.) and In Good Conscience (finish the game in low chaos), but also because I truly believe this is the way the game should be played.
In my playthrough – as Emily – I’ve enjoyed testing out her new power, which will be blended to your will and style. Other players might prefer to go for the adrenaline rush, chaining kills at full speed with the fluidity of movements of Mirror’s Edge, leaving a trail of crossbow arrows, sliced limbs and bullets. Be yourself the way you like to be, but just know that you are “judged” permanently, and no matter which protagonist you pick (Corvo or Emily), you’ll be evaluated at the end of each mission, and your actions will not go without consequences on the world around you and the final chapter.
Like the previous game, your right hand will always be equipped with a way to parry, block and slice enemies with a trusty blade. It’s your left hand that will be your switch of “side weaponry”, ranging from explosives, mines, pistol or even use something more subtle and quiet like the crossbow and its various ammunition. All of these come in limited quantities, and don’t hope to store crazy quantities, as you have a limit of how much ammunition and gear you can carry to reduce game exploits. But beyond this little evolved arsenal of weapons, you will also have access to the powers of the Outsider – unless you refused them throughout the game – which will give you supernatural powers like it did before with Corvo in the original Dishonored.
The powers of the OUtsider are where the real fun comes and call upon your twisted creativity, offering with this sequel an even more extensive range of actions that you can upgrade by spending runes (collectibles scattered around the story missions). When it comes to Corvo, hero of the first episode, you’ll get the same original powers, such as Blink, Possession, Devouring Swarm, Dark Vision, Bend Time and more, which should be easier for the veterans to get back into. Emily on the other hand has a different range of powers, that better fit her personality including her own version of Blink, called Far Reach which is more of a propulsion of herself to a spot than a “teleportation”. Other than that is Domino, which can bind several enemies and NPC, so that if you kill one of them, all chained suffer the same fate. Doppelganger materialize one or more clones that will serve as a decoy or companion in arms once you fully upgrade it with runes. Mesmerize can enthrall human or canine targets to put them in a distracted dream state. Finally you got Shadow Walk which turns you into a creeping shadow (which reminds of The Darkness) makes Emily almost undetectable and allow her to go through urban rodent’s borrows and tunnels. All these powers, optional for you to unlock or not with runes, offer different ways to perfect your approach, build diabolical plans, experiment some crazy ideas and even do some crazy combos… In short, to create and improvise as you wish.
Among the tools made available by the developers, it is almost necessary to evoke the levels by themselves. The most bellicose players, who prefer a high-paced fighting system will probably not see the incredible success of Dishonored 2. Like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (which you can read the review on the site) released a few months ago, Dishonored 2 did not switch to the trend of the gaming industry, and try to create an open world but preferred to split the realm into mission areas – which causes a bunch of loading scene which can be frustrating especially when reloading a save or entering a new area. The game though proposes several levels that are gigantic living sandboxes, full of traps to disable or to return against their users, with enemies placed smartly, tuned with probably one of the best AI there is.
The different “worlds” are all about variety of entry points, with a high emphasis on verticality – always look out for roofs, balconies, ledges, etc – which was a bit lacking in the previous episode. There is always a path, even if tiny and barely hanging in place, locked, filled with traps, but in Dishonored 2 there’s always a solution. Like with the original, there are opportunities everywhere to make your life easier, with people ready to help you, safe codes written in hidden messages, and so much more, that will push you to achieve these alternatives quests. If it can sometimes lengthen the journey a little and cause bad encounters and premature deaths, the experience is gratifying to find that different approach to a mission or obstacle.
If at first glance you’ll notice that Dishonored 2 doesn’t look any graphically or technically different from the original game (which is pretty basic for some gamers), you’ll soon forget it because of the world it portrays and the mood it puts you in. Besides the design of the different mission’s areas, their architecture and multitude of gameplay options, the universe is as attractive as it was in the first Dishonored, never-ceasing to tell us stories, topped by a great musical soundtrack. It’s not just about its charismatic main characters, but also the secondary cast, that one can observe, listen and live their lives and experiences. The coherence of this lively and well-stocked ensemble, with elements of the lore scattered in things like books or letters waiting to be read, transpires in a unique artistic direction and mood. The different areas that we visit in Karnaca – which is less monotonous than Dunwall – all offer visually striking visual design, ranging from the sun-drenched harbor to a steampunk palace, passing by a conservatory. I’m still amazed by the care brought to the slightest detail and the feeling of oppression that never leaves us in these settings, especially once you reach the latter chapters. This world might be inspired by many games like Thief, with its Victorian elements or BioShock, with its character design, but that doesn’t mean that Dishonored 2 is nevertheless a game with a lot of character.
Dishonored 2 was reviewed using an Xbox One and PC downloadable code of the game provided by Bethesda. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 via retail and online stores. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published
• Still one of the best artistic direction
• Engaging setting and mood
• Some of the most intelligently created level design
• So many possibilities to approach a mission
• Very good replayability
• Like the first Dishonored, but even better!
• No true technical upgrade from the original
• Fairly bland facial expressions
• Some small annoying bugs