From the moment I traveled beyond the rat-plagued streets of Dunwall to the stunning coastal realms of Karnaca, Dishonoured 2 had me completely and utterly under its spell. It’s four years on and Arkane Studios have been set the unenviable task of creating a sequel to the much-beloved 2012 action-adventure masterwork; yet with an additional playable protagonist and a whole new set of abilities to master, is Dishonoured 2 trying to achieve too much too quick?
Title: Dishonoured 2
Developer: Arkane Studios
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Release Date: November 11, 2016
Review copy of Dishonoured 2 (Xbox One) was provided by publisher.
Dishonoured 2 takes place 15 years after the events of the original, where Corvo Attano has restored Emily Kaldwin to the throne and has raised her to become a complete assassin. When an evil witch named Delilah Copperspoon arrives on the scene claiming to be the true heir to the throne, Emily is stripped of her title and is ousted as an enemy of the crown. It is at this junction the player decides whether or not to continue the entire adventure as Emily Kaldwin or as Corvo Attano.
While both protagonists have their own unique sets of abilities, the choice of who to play as isn’t as immediately intimidating as perhaps it could be. The screenplay of the game is fairly tight and no matter which gender you decide to inhabit, the only key phrases that differ in dialogue interactions is ‘he’ or ‘she’ (i.e – if you were playing as Emily, she’d say of Corvo: “he’s missing, we must find him” and vice versa). This means you don’t need to panic and instantly jump online to recon which storyline has the better quests – it’s all an even playing field.
Graphically, the game boasts that ‘next-gen’ quality every game developer these days seems to strive for. Like the original, the game is told through a first-person perspective – and while Dunwall feels Arkham City-like in its general bleakness, some of the tropical new areas you explore in Dishonoured 2 are so breathtaking and vibrant, you’ll be ready to dive right in for another play through as soon as you’re finished. Graphically the game felt very reminiscent of BioShock Infinite – a game of which I adore. While BioShock Infinite tells a better story than that of Dishonoured 2, the mixture of Steam Punk and Medieval English-inspired decor absolutely outclasses anything I’ve seen in a first person title to date. The game drips, shimmers and glows with fully realized, living-breathing game environments. Dispatching your enemies is a joyous task too – due to extremely varied and oh-so-satisfying slow-motion takedowns and executions.
Bethesda has never put their name to a bad game thus far, and as a result of bringing Dishonoured 2 to life with a new engine (called ‘The Void Engine’), this is an overwhelming achievement that they manage to fully maintain yet again. What is touted as ‘a leap forward in rendering technology’, the Void engine is responsible not only for the beautiful textures of characters, lighting, and locations – but also for the games intelligent AI inhabitants and stealth detection elements. No longer will enemies stand telegraphed for you to send them to their maker – they will hide and flank as often as they will rush and disrupt you. When trying to gauge whether or not to play stealthily or aggressively, usually an enemy will force your hand by walking around at speed, rather than lazily moving around a pre-determined path like a repetitive chess piece. Due to the impressive complexity of the engine, little bits and pieces will fall from your enemies as you hack their limbs off with surprising ease. While this provides a lot of fun (it’s great to throw severed heads at things) it can also work against you – as the intelligent AI is trained to pick up certain items when necessary and lob them at you. Painful? Not usually. Distracting? Always.
Bonecharm crafting is present in Dishonoured 2, along with an all-new upgrade tree which allows you to customize your powers and weapons in different ways. I’ve heard criticisms that you can end up feeling too overpowered towards the latter stages of the game as your enemies don’t necessarily level-up in difficulty, yet strangely I never found that to be the case. I completed my first playthrough on medium difficulty (playing as Emily) and found that to be challenging enough. It can be quite a lengthy playthrough – as attacking opponents head on can often lead to instant death (you’re not invincible here) and sneaking around stealthily can take a lot of time and assessment. Some of the entertaining powers and abilities here involve stalking your targets as an invincible shadow, engaging in time-bending slow motion takedowns (as Corvo only) and mesmerizing your foes by dominating their minds. I generally found the gameplay to be responsive and bug-free (playing on an Xbox One) – with plenty of fun to be had with the variety of weaponry and abilities on offer in Serkonos this time around.
I wanted to finally touch on the improvements Arkane Studios have made between the last Dishonoured entry and this one in terms of level design. The original passed me by in somewhat of a breeze – I was a fan of the genre and therefore enjoyed my time in Dunwall. I didn’t anticipate they’d be able to push the boundaries to the extent that levels began to feel like themed dungeons from The Ocarina of Time. Here, there is what I imagine will become a fan favourite level – Jindosh’s clockwork mansion. It’s the fourth mission of the game and is perhaps one of the most memorable as the environment constantly shifts and twists around you. Walls will move and levels of the floor will drop to reveal deadly traps set by the madman and his team of clockwork soldiers. I was really taken back to games of my youth when playing through this mission – reminded of dungeons in Zelda and that hidden clockwork level in Mario 64. It’s a really imaginative world and one that I didn’t expect to play in a Dishonoured game. A very worthy entry to the franchise indeed!
Overall, Dishonoured 2 is extremely impressive and surpasses any prior expectations I had of the game going in. The gorgeous aesthetic and inspired level designs take me back to some of my favourite titles of all time – and while it doesn’t always nail the story (some of the voice acting and villain’s motives feel a bit amateur-dramatic Disney Channel, not dark enough) it definitely nails atmosphere, pacing and intelligent gameplay. I can’t wait for the next instalment in what is shaping up to be an epic saga.
You'll feel honoured to play Dishonoured.
I'm a fairly casual gamer and enjoy first-person experiences that pose a challenge and tell a great story. While most of this is achieved in Dishonoured 2 - I feel the storytelling aspects left me feel a little lacking. There are huge bouts of exposition and lore to read - things that could be 'shown' rather than 'told' are extremely present and get repetitive quick. With the sheer amount of action taking place I never felt I really had time to read passages of books and pages of notes - and since this isn't a game like Elder Scrolls Online which rewards you for reading, it doesn't feel warranted here. Everything else is absolutely on point - from the excellent levels to intelligent enemies, it's a pleasure wielding your abilities to demolish anyone in your path and restore yourself to your rightful throne.