If you’re looking for something completely new and different from the original Dishonored, this is definitely not the place to look.
Dishonored 2 offers a very familiar experience from the original Game of the Year Title, but you can definitely tell that developer Arkane Studios has done a lot to refine the experience in quite a few ways, all while providing a rich, deep and meaningful world to sneak around.
Dishonored 2 takes place 15 years after the events of the original game and sees Emily Kaldwin, the girl that you had to save in the first game, all grown up, and serving as Empress. Things are not all sunflowers and rainbows in the kingdom of Dunwall however, as the Crown Killer has been on the loose, picking off those that criticise Emily, with many putting the blame at the feet of the Empress and Royal protector Corvo Attano (the protagonist from the first game).
On the memory of her mother’s death things quickly get messy, as a coup takes place during the ceremony, revealing a woman calling herself Delilah Kaldwin who not only claims to be Emily’s older sister, but quickly seizes power of the thrown. This is the instant you will choose which character you play for the duration of the game (getting the choice of Emily or Corvo) which will be discussed in the gameplay section.
The rest of the story, if you have played the original, sticks mostly to its guns – this is another tale of revenge and vengeance, and the coup makes sure you are quickly thrown into “dishonored” status that are required to redeem yourself from. The pacing of the game is good (if you don’t count the hours of exploring), and there is a chunk of content to get through. A play-through of Dishonored 2 can take you anywhere between 12 – 20 hours depending on how fast you want to go.
There is a slight caveat in that if you have not played the original Dishonored game a lot of the story and characters may not be familiar to you at all, which is a slight downside to those that may be new to the franchise.
As mentioned, there are now two characters to choose from in Dishonored 2: Emily Kaldwin or Corvo Attano. Each characters comes with their own set of unique abilities, although it must be said, the “core” abilities (Corvo’s Blink and Emily’s Far Reach) feel extremely similar, and basically play pretty much the same.
You can forgo any supernatural abilities if you really wish to, which will get you a unique achievement but, because I like my life, I decided to play the game “normally”.
You can play Dishonored 2 in a variety of ways, depending on your own game-style and moral preferences, which I really appreciated, as I tend to prefer the non-violent approach when it comes to stealth games.
This has been improved upon significantly in Dishonored 2, thanks to being able to being able to do non-lethal take-downs even after an enemy has spotted you (something you could not do in the original game).
If you are more brains-over-brawn type player then you are more than welcome to go hostile and kill everything in your path, although I feel this may be the more difficult road in the long run, as the game and the map design help you obtain objectives in many different ways, so it is nice to mix up styles every now and then.
The game’s combat system, thanks to it being first person, is pretty basic for the most part, with emphasis put on blocking your opponent’s attacks and attacking at opportune moments. The combat system could definitely feel a bit clunky at times, but this may be my personal aversion to FPS sword combat (or my lack of console grace when it comes to first person games) so, for the most part, it is perfectly passable.
During the game you will use a Whispering Heart to find new Runes and Bone Charms, which will augment your characters in various ways. You collect Runes to either improve on abilities already learned (giving you new ways to use already known abilities), or learning new abilities entirely, while Bone Charms provide useful bonuses such as health and manage regeneration and a whole host of other useful bonuses.
These Runes and Bone Charms are pretty out the way most of the time, and I find myself, for a majority of the game, trying to get these upgrades instead of doing the main quest line so that I could learn more abilities, as they generally require you to do some obtuse thinking and sneaking around thanks to their creative positioning in the world.
Although you start in Dunwall a majority of the game actually takes place in the city of Karnaca, which offers a slightly different look to that of Dunwall, and is definitely refreshing. However, it is the level design where Dishonored 2 really shines, and it has a verticality in design that I have only seen in a few games (read: Dark Souls).
It pays for you to look up and down as often the best way to get around may not be the most obvious, which has you often finding inventive ways to get through a level – it never once felt like a linear progression with one way of doing things.
This also plays out depending on how you play the game. Killing people causes “chaos”, which can have a bad effect on not only the city itself but also on the ending of the game, so it pays not to kill all the time.
The rat plague is no longer an issue however Bloodfly’s are the new version of that plague, and Bloodfly infested buildings are often one route to get to a checkpoint, and sadistically, usually contain Runes and Bonecharms to boot. I am not a fan of these places, and generally tried to steer clear.
There are tons of hidden goods, lore and items to be found, something that I clearly was not very good at (I found exactly none of the hidden items on the opening level), which adds to the replay-ability of the game, as it is almost impossible that you will find all the hidden treasures on your first play-through of the game, which encourages you to go back and try whichever character you didn’t try the first time.
The enemies have also been improved tremendously from the original. These buggers are extremely alert (much to my frustration) and, not only that, are intelligent too. Throw a bottle to distract a guard only gives you a few seconds, as they often turn to come look in the direction the bottle was thrown from, which is a lesson I learned the hard way early into the game.
In Dishonored you could abuse the AI slightly at times (to your benefit( which is definitely not the case in the sequel – you have to play intelligently if you want to proceed.This helped the world feel alive and reactive to what you were doing, and turned Karnaca into a living, vibrant world.
The soundtrack for the game also helps set the mood of the city, which has been going through some tough times and is controlled by an overly-aggressive city guard, and has some great orchestral moments, although it must be said, perhaps a bit rarely for my own taste.
The graphics are not the best in the world but the ever-so-slightly cartoonish look of Dishonored has been refined a bit, as the characters hands are not nearly as massive as they use to be (anyone that played the original will know what I am talking about), and overall, the world is colourful and easy on the eye.
That being said, there were definitely times when my PS4 experienced some significant frame-rate drops, although luckily most drops happened out of combat. Once you’re in the thick of the city, things generally seem okay.
There have been loads of complaints about the PC version’s optimisation, so if you are wanting to play Dishonored 2 on PC, perhaps wait until a performance patch is released to fix the issues.
Everything about Dishonored 2 will feel familiar for fans of the franchise, and offers one of the slickest and most fun experiences I’ve had in a stealth game to date.
Arkane Studios have not reinvented the wheel here, and I really don’t think they had to – Dishonored won a whole bunch of awards when it was released back in 2012, and the developers have taken that formula and refined it so that if feels even better than before.
The brilliant level design laid out will have you redoing missions and going back again to find ways and paths you may have missed the first time, and shows just how much love the developers poured into this game.
If you’re a fan of stealth games, Dishonored 2 is an easy purchase in my eye. You won’t be disappointed.