Dishonored 2 has been one of the most highly anticipated games of the autumn season. Thousands have already pre-ordered the game. A few Corvo Attanos were running around for Halloween, and people have been actively replaying the first game in preparation for the second. In the midst of all this great commotion, however, you might be hard-pressed to find someone more excited for the release of Dishonored 2 than Erica Luttrell, the voice actress for the game’s protagonist, Emily Kaldwin.
When we first met Emily in Dishonored (2012), she was an innocent and inquisitive child of only ten years old. She was fascinated by the stories that Corvo would share with her from his travels, eager to play games like hide-and-seek with him, and ready to learn the intricacies of sword-fighting. While the death of her mother, Empress Jessamine, brought out a more serious disposition in Emily, she still retained many of those childlike qualities that made her so endearing.
Fast-forward fifteen years and we have reached Dishonored 2 where Emily is an adult, not to mention a ruthless assassin when the time calls for it. She has been trained by Corvo and is now desperately fighting to reclaim her rightful place on the throne while taking several names in the process. From what we have seen of her in the trailers and gameplay from E3 2016 until now, Emily has developed a sense of morality that not only governs her actions but the future of her rule as Empress of the Empire of the Isles as well. That level of depth in her character makes her a relatable figure, but it also gives the player something to root for.
In an interview with Bethesda, Dishonored 2 voice actress, Erica Luttrell, comments on the topic of relatability and Emily’s moral judgments, saying “Aside from her being an empress and assassin, she’s a very relatable figure. She has been through so much, but still fights for what she believes is right. She fights for herself and for her people. She fights for Corvo.”
In the past, the development team at Arkane have spoken about the three pillars that make Emily who she is: Empress, Dunwall, and Assassin. In terms of how Luttrell captured those pillars of Emily’s character in the voice performance, she explains that the all three of the pillars are “born from their own kind of strength”, and that the Empress element of Emily was “a joy to capture. There’s something amazingly meditative and strengthening about it. You just kind of sink deep into yourself and embrace that power.” For those who have played the first game, we all remember how grim and bleak of a setting Dunwall was, and how Emily was kidnapped seconds after her mother’s assassination. Luttrell says that all of that added an “inherent darkness in how I played her.”
Much like Corvo in the first game, in Dishonored 2 Emily is also suffused with powers from the mysterious Outsider. While these powers add a versatility to the Assassin pillar of Emily’s character, they also make balancing her title as Empress even more complex and serve as a reminder of her dark past as she goes to reclaim her throne. Luttrell believes these two pillars of Emily are similar, because “there’s a confidence to both of them, but there’s definitely an anger in her. She’s always in control of it, so her anger never tips over the edge. She’s not unhinged. Her anger is more of a quiet, simmering, poised rage. The sort of anger someone who is an empress first and an assassin second might have.”
When asked about working with the Arkane team on Emily, Luttrell explains how much love the team has for the game and how that love is reflected in everything they do. The narrative designers had such a strong grasp on Emily’s backstory and understood every motivation behind her actions that Luttrell said “there is so much I admire about her character.”
This admiration and level of eagerness to play the game has definitely been felt among the players. Dishonored 2 releases this Friday, November 11. For those who have pre-ordered the game, though, you can “Take Back What’s Yours” as Emily Kaldwin starting tomorrow.
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.