Title: Dishonored 2
Available On: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Developer: Arkane Studios
Genre: Action Adventure
Official Site: Dishonored 2
Release Date: 11-11-16
Where To Buy: PlayStation Store, Xbox Store, Local Retailer
The first Dishonored combined stealth gameplay with first-person combat in a way that was reminiscent of Thief, but Arkane Studios’ title quickly carved a unique name for itself in the genre with the incorporation of supernatural elements, an intriguing, dark world, and a solid story that captured players’ attention. One of Dishonored’s greatest strengths was the freedom of choice – that ability to mix and match your gameplay style between stealth and combat, supernatural powers and manmade weapons. Exploration was rewarded, actions had consequences, and it all culminated into an experience that left Dishonored in high acclaim among critics and fans.
Therefore, when Dishonored 2 released earlier this month, the anticipation of playing it was high, but there was also an underlying curiosity to see how (or if) this sequel would surpass the first game. Arkane Studios accomplished this, exceeding expectations in several areas. The developers not only expanded on the lore and geography of Empire of Isles in Dishonored 2, but the game also takes on a more refined approach to the gameplay and story elements that made the first installment so memorable. One of the first noticeable changes comes with the option to play as Emily Kaldwin, the rightful heir to the Throne, or to return to our familiar protagonist, the Royal Protector, Corvo Attano.
Dishonored 2 picks up fifteen years after the events of the first game. Emily has taken on her mother’s role as the Empress of the Isles and has had a (relatively) peaceful reign until the emergence of a new threat, the “Crown Killer”. This figure has been committing murders in the land’s southern region and making it seem as though Emily and Corvo are responsible. Following a high-action sequence in the game’s opener, it is up to one of them (depending on the character you choose to play as for the campaign mode) to travel to a new area named Karnaca, investigate what is going on, as well as secure Emily’s rule on the Throne from any outside threats.
Whether you are vying to be the next stealth master of the Isles, or if direct conflict with multiple guards is more your idea of a good time, you are able to pick and choose your own playstyle, with Emily or Corvo’s many powers and weapons at your disposal. Whichever methods you use to progress through the game, there is no shortage of action or situations that require quick strategy and thought. Since controlling Emily was one of the newest elements of the game, I chose to play as her.
The gameplay follows a recognizable pattern from the first game, with much of the progression dependent upon tracking down people and clues. Much like Corvo in Dishonored, Emily is also approached by the mysterious Outsider and offered an array of powers. If you are feeling particularly bold (or rude), you can deny the powers altogether and simply play through the game with Emily’s crossbow, gun, and other weapons as you explore Karnaca.
Karnaca is as atmospheric as it is dangerous, and the streets offer a healthy challenge for even the most experienced players. After a while, though, guards proved to be an annoyance. Even if you are employing your best stealth tactics, the guards have the most impeccable hearing and eyesight, and they are not shy about calling for backup. Even leaning around corners to spot for any potential danger is dangerous. The irony of it hurts. Because of this, it is easy to build up a “High Chaos” rating early on in the game, which of course could have a major influence on the ending if not reversed.
Direct confrontation is not highly recommended until either Emily or Corvo have more weapons or powers in their arsenal. Even then, however, it is not unusual to still feel underprepared in a fight. Guards attack from all sides, sometimes more than one at the same time. Despite this, it was exciting to explore all of the potential ways to avoid the guards and take your stealth gameplay up a few more notches.
Though Dishonored 2 is not technically considered an open-world game, the impressive detail of each level makes it feel that way. Every nook and cranny of the city caters to exploration. Behind doors are hallways that lead to several more doors, and behind those doors are staircases and windows and other avenues that lead to a new location. There is no “right way” to accomplish missions and objectives.
Gameplay gives you the freedom to tailor each level to your unique playing style, and more objectives open up depending on your approach. Exploring these detailed levels and collecting runes and bone charms is what builds up Emily or Corvo’s many abilities and allows for them to be steadily upgraded for even more powerful versions. For those familiar with Corvo’s powers from the first game, Emily’s operate along somewhat of the same lines.
Where Corvo had the power to move forward quickly with “Blink”, Emily can accomplish this with “Far Reach”, but cover a much greater distance. Aside from this, though, Arkane Studios has given Emily her own set of unique powers that greatly set her apart from Corvo and bring her into a strong character in her own right. It also adds replay value to the game, as some powers are used more than others or potentially not at all. That alone encourages the player to go back and switch up their style to find various ways of accomplishing the same mission.
It’s the little things in Dishonored 2 that make Karnaca a comprehensive and believable world. NPCs run away screaming if they feel threatened by your presence. The guards’ dialogue changes depending on your actions. Emily and Corvo can even listen in on conversations as the citizens discuss the current state of affairs. Though Dunwall felt undeniably large in the first game, it was still something of a lonely place. Karnaca on the other hand is alive, and although the city is dealing with its share of problems, it is bustling and filled with people who are being affected by everything you do. Arkane makes you aware of that in a way that didn’t seem as prevalent in the first game, and it all builds up to different endings that are befitting of the different choices you made while playing.
Dishonored 2 is an impressive sequel in nearly every way. Actions have real consequences and the gameplay can be easily mixed up to suit the style of every player. Arkane gives you the freedom to make the Isles your own.
- Gameplay: An impressive variety of stealth vs direct combat. Offers great replay value for a different experience.
- Graphics: Great graphics on PS4, but definitely still has that familiar look of the first Dishonored.
- Sound: Music and sound effects set the tone perfectly throughout the game.
- Presentation: Overall a great game with a solid story and world building. It is a wonderful sequel to Dishonored.
- The new lore and exploration of Karnaca.
- Emily's wide range of abilities.
- Variety of gameplay options used to complete any mission.
- Head to head combat is not the most exciting approach, even with upgraded powers.
Tori is a writer and gamer originally from Vault 111, but now she resides in Chicago. She has an MFA in creative writing-fiction, runs primarily on coffee, and is an expert on AMC’s The Walking Dead. Follow her on Twitter @torithatnerd.