Dishonored 2 Review
The original Dishonored was a standout title in 2012 when it initially released. It was an action adventure game that allowed gamers to play stealthily or action-oriented, to use deadly force or eliminate targets non-lethally, gave players an array of interesting supernatural powers and encouraged exploration by offering an abundance of collectibles and alternate routes to get around every challenge. Add four years onto that and Arkane Studios has just unleashed a sequel in the form of Dishonored 2. How does the latest entry in Corvo’s story stack up against its well-received predecessor? Let’s find out…
Dishonored 2 follows the story of Empress Emily Kaldwin and takes place 15 years after the original title. After years of reigning over a relatively peaceful empire, Emily herself suddenly deposed by a magic-wielding usurper in a quick-fire coup. With her imperial power stripped away, players must embrace the role of either Emily herself, or bodyguard/father figure Corvo Atano (returning from the original game). Using their unique supernatural powers players must flee Dunwall to the sun-drenched city of Karnaca in order to unravel and bring to a halt a mysterious and deadly conspiracy in a bid to reclaim the throne.
The game is a first person action-adventure title that retains Dishonored’s use of a combination of weaponry which bears similarity to the Bioshock titles. Alongside the sword in the main hand, players can also dual-wield another, with ranged weapons, grenades and supernatural powers able to be equipped in their offhand. As with the original game, players can also upgrade weapons by either purchasing upgrade Blueprints from black market stores or locating them hidden in the various levels.
One of Dishonored’s most interesting attributes was the use of supernatural powers which unlocked a series of abilities for the player character to aid in progression. This trend continues in Dishonored 2, but as there are two playable characters this time around, each of them has their own unique set of powers. Corvo retains most of his abilities from the first game with some of those including: Bend Time which allows Corvo to temporarily halt time to slice up enemies, redirect attacks or run past hostiles undetected, Possession allows Corvo to enter and take control of creatures/bodies in the environment, Devouring Plague allows Corvo to summon rat swarms to attack enemies and remove bodies whilst Blink provides short range teleportation.
As the newcomer player character, Emily’s abilities are different to Corvo’s and provide a change of pace for returning players wanting to try something distinctly different from the original. Emily’s Far Reach is similar to Corvo’s Blink, but in addition to teleportation, it can also be upgraded to pull enemies or items in the environment to her. Doppleganger creates a clone of Emily which can be used to distract enemies, Shadow Walk enables her to transform into a fog-like being for a brief time before re-materialising. Perhaps her most useful ability however is Domino, in which players can link several enemies together and whatever happens to one of them will happen to the linked enemies as well, allowing you to kill or knock out large groups relatively quickly whilst retaining stealth mode.
Both of the characters unique powers and abilities can now be further upgraded using Runes which can be found in the environment. Runes can be spent to unlock upgrades to the various abilities via a series of short skill trees which allow finer control over the evolution of the powers at players’ disposal.
Players can either take to the campaign stealthily and non-lethally or more aggressively using deadly force and the assortment of weapons and special powers on offer are well balanced to cater towards both play styles. The gameplay style that a player utilizes will feed into the game’s Chaos system in which the player’s actions will ultimately result in slight tweaks to the game’s story at certain points as well as influencing the way subsequent levels will play out. Killing enemies and assassination targets will increase the Chaos level of the world and subsequently players will see a much greater number of Bloodfly nests (think bees that feed on corpses) and additional guard patrols, whilst making your way through levels non-lethally will result in a lower level of world Chaos meaning fewer guards.
Replayability is one of Dishonored 2’s greatest strengths. In addition to fielding a pair of protagonists with different skills and abilities and the ability to affect the world and story via Chaos levels, each of the nine campaign missions is essentially a large sandbox for players to explore. Every area presents players with optional objectives, as well as numerous routes and passages to get around obstacles and guard-filled zones. Exploration is further encouraged by the presence of an array of collectibles that will help make the game slightly easier with Runes for upgrading powers, Bone Charms to apply special perks to the character and Blueprints which can be used to upgrade weapons. To make things more interesting, it is also possible when playing as Emily to refuse the supernatural powers altogether, leaving players to head through the game with naught but standard melee/ranged weaponry.
Visually Dishonored 2 is excellent, continuing the almost-painted-steampunk-meets-Victorian-London vibe that the initial title carried and putting it on full display during the time spent in Dunwall, but also taking said vibe and blending it with the sunny, desert city of Karnaca giving the area its own unique flavor. The audio is also fairly well done with a number of Hollywood actors (Vincent D’Onofrio, Rosario Dawson, Pedro Pascal etc.) among other voice actors lending their talents to the game’s characters. Each of the missions has its own visual style and intrinsic story which feeds into the overarching storyline and this alongside the excellent voice acting combines to build a great deal of atmospheric value throughout the adventure.
Dishonored 2 is a great game, but one with flaws. The most noticeable of these will be experienced by stealth players who will get caught out by the inconsistent ability for enemies to detect your presence – often times a guard will spot you from great range, whilst you can sneak up on others side-on, directly in their peripheral vision and never get spotted. It seems spotty at times and can be quite frustrating, especially for those wanting to earn achievements/trophies relating to getting through missions without being spotted. AI aside, the main story itself is pretty weak as well, proving to be almost identical to the original and lacks any real depth. Central narrative drawbacks are somewhat made up for however by the great internal mission storylines and sense of location present within each level.
Ultimately, Dishonored 2 is a brilliant follow up to an excellent game. Providing numerous ways to approach missions, alternate routes, multiple characters and the ability to somewhat shape the narrative and difficulty of the game through the Chaos system, Dishonored 2 boasts a great deal of replayability. This is a game where no two playthroughs need be the same and one that will keep you coming back for more. With its longevity, the ability to see consequences to in-game actions, deep gameplay and an immersive game world, Dishonored 2 is a truly memorable experience well worth the price of admission and one that is difficult not to recommend.
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