I remember what a surprise Dishonored was for me when it was released in 2012. It arrived as a relatively unassuming stealth-action game with a steampunk-ish setting and a bunch of tried-and-trusted gameplay mechanics lashed together in a very interesting way.
Dishonored cast players in the role of Corvo Attano, royal bodyguard to the Empress of Isles Jessamine Kaldwin and her daughter, Emily Kaldwin. He was blamed for the assassination of said empress and the kidnapping of her daughter, and over the course of the game had to prove his innocence, rescue Emily (who, it turned out, is also his daughter) and restore her to the throne.
Corvo achieved this by cooperating with allies working out of a seedy pub in an abandoned area of their plague-stricken capital city of Dunwall, dispatching the key conspirators over the course of several missions with all kinds of weapons, tools and even magic powers granted to him by a heretical otherworldly being called the Outsider. The game was great, but not without its flaws, and I was surprised that it got a sequel – and that the sequel turned out to be such a big deal.
Dishonored 2 picks up 15 years after the events of the first game. Emily is now the Empress of Isles, and Corvo is still her bodyguard (and no longer makes a secret of the fact that he’s her father). During a ceremony mourning her mother’s assassination Emily’s allegedly unknown aunt, Delilah, shows up and uses dark magic to steal the throne, forcing Emily (or Corvo) to flee to the southern capital of Karnaca to unravel this new conspiracy from the bottom up.
As everyone already knows, you can choose to play as either Corvo or Emily. Whichever character you choose will escape Delilah’s coup while the other remains behind as her prisoner. The two characters get access to the same weapons, but a different set of magic powers granted to them by the Outsider. Corvo gets his familiar power set from the previous game (with some new tweaks and upgrades, of course), including the Blink ability to instantly move short distances, the macabre Devouring Swarm and the Jedi-like Wind Blast.
Like Corvo, Emily has a quick movement ability called Far Reach, which enables her to grapple to places by means of a spectral arm. She also has the ability to create dopplegangers, decoys and the ability to turn into a shadow that can creep along the ground and into small openings. Both Emily and Corvo can equip passive buffs known as Bone Charms, which are hidden in the levels, and you can craft your own Bone Charms this time, if you acquire the right skills. And, bonus note, you can choose to refuse the Outsider’s powers outright in this game, which will surely make it much harder. I wonder if you get a different ending for this? I’ll definitely be giving it a try.
Apart from those new features, the game is basically the same as its predecessor. There are several missions, each one with a target that needs to be eliminated, either lethally or non-lethally. The levels are huge and immensely detailed, full of different routes to take with optional side quests, black market weapon shops and all kinds of hidden stuff and secrets. Only on my third run, when I played as Corvo, did I discover a whole side of the prologue stage I didn’t even know existed. And in terms of level design, I think the Clockwork Mansion stage will remain with me for some time as one of the most mind-blowingly brilliant levels I’ve ever played in any game.
But you hardly need me to throw more roses at the feet of Dishonored 2, since everyone else seems to be doing that. I’m going to address the main flaw openly – and I realise this might not be a flaw to everyone – the moral choice system. Yes, once again the game keeps track of how naughty or nice you’ve been. This bugs me because games that do this always get the balance wrong, giving us mountains of murder devices in service of the bad endings, but surprisingly few non-lethal options to acquire the good endings.
That said, if we’re stuck with this system, then at least the developers included a few more non-lethal weapons and magic powers this time round. They’re still in the minority compared to the death-dealing instruments but there are a few more. Some of the magic powers have non-lethal variants too, such as Emily’s Far Reach power, which is primarily a teleport move, but it can be upgraded to snare enemies and bring them to her to be choked out (or killed). It’s actually quite funny to hide in a high place and snatch a guard away quietly only to watch his partner turn around and wonder where he went.
You can also perform a non-lethal sword counter choke-hold in combat – meaning brawls can now be resolved non-lethally. Sweet! But it’s not without its caveats. During my non-lethal run, I got spotted quite a few times in one level and chose to choke my attackers, which takes a few seconds. Unfortunately, while I was choking one guy, the others would continue to attack and often kill the guy I was choking. Well, surely the game won’t hold that against me, right? I didn’t kill them… and then at the mission end I got five kills in my ranking. What the- ?! I was trying to knock them out. The other guards killed them, not me! Dump your dead at someone else’s feet, you f#@%ing game!
The second main problem with the previous game was that it was too short. Dishonored 2 seems to have fixed that issue, with players reporting an average play time of about eight hours for a moderate playthrough, involving a decent amount of exploration and collecting on the way to completing the mission goals. But if you plan to do full completion runs, finding all the secrets, collecting all the runes and money and doing good and bad playthroughs, it’ll keep you busy for a ages.
Reportedly, some people are having issues with the PC version’s performance. I noticed this too – nothing that made it unplayable, mind you. I run it on Ultra settings and my FPS wibbles back and forth between 60 and 40 usually, with rare, much lower spikes when the game engine completely craps itself. I don’t have any trouble playing it, but hopefully the devs can patch it to get a steadier FPS in the near future.
I guess there’s not much more to say. If you liked the first game, you’re almost guaranteed to like this one. It’s a huge, sprawling stealth action game with tons of fun to be had. Just look into the PC hardware issues online first if that’s the version you plan to get.
90 Like its predecessor, Dishonored 2 sits apart from most other games, offering tons of depth and exploration.