Dishonored 2 is one of the most anticipated releases of this holiday season. A sequel to a game that won countless awards, including plenty of game of the year ones, it has a lot to live up to. Let’s see how it turned out.
Ever since the game was announced, we never got to see too much of Dishonored 2. We saw plenty of rolling demos at trade shows around the world, but were never able to go hands on with the game and make our own choices – this freedom of choice being what we’d argue is the strongest point of the original game. So although eagerly anticipated, Dishonored 2 never had us fully convinced. Was it going to be just as good, and just as refreshing? We had reasons to be doubtful, although that sounds overly negative. Our doubt really only stemmed from the fact that the first Dishonored game was so hard to fault and that made it hard to imagine how Arkane would improve it, rather than repeat it.
Dishonored 2 takes place about 15 years after the conclusion of the first game, and Corvo still plays a role – as does the city of Dunwall. Emily Kaldwin has assumed her role as Empress, but her life gets shaken up when Delilah shows up, claiming to be Emily’s mother’s sister and thus claiming the rights to Dunwall’s throne. It’s at this point that you have to choose who you want to play through the campaign with – either good old Corvo or Emily, who’s been a bit of an apprentice to Corvo. This isn’t a choice you make before each mission, but rather one for the entire campaign. Opting for the familiar, we started out with Corvo and didn’t play the game using Emily as a character until much later.
Familiarity is a key concept in Dishonored 2. We picked Corvo first because of it, but we couldn’t help thinking we were better off for another reason as well. Dishonored 2 can be overwhelming when it comes to its story, and it definitely helps if you played through the first game at least once. If you’ve played all the DLC content, even better. If you haven’t, then you’re missing out and you should pick the game up as soon as possible. You’re likely to get a great deal on it, and it’ll enhance your enjoyment of Dishonored 2.
Playing Emily after going through the campaign with Corvo didn’t feel significantly different except for some nuances, which mainly come from character-specific abilities and upgrades. I suppose this is because playing with Corvo had already shaped my playing style and preferences significantly and that had me lean towards similar tactics when using Emily. What I need to do is go into the experience again fresh and try out some approaches…
Luckily, Dishonored 2 excels in this kind of diversity. This doesn’t just come from the plentiful abilities you have access to, it also comes from the multiple approaches you can take towards your objectives. This is nothing new because it was one of the strong points of the first game, but Dishonored 2 takes the concept a step further. This time, new gameplay dynamics are introduced all the time, which makes each mission different from the next even if you play all of them with a similar style. If you choose to do so (I did not) you will also need this kind of creativity to grab all the unlockables – which, from what I’ve seen, will be time-consuming as some are very hard to reach.
Combat or stealth isn’t as black and white an option as it was before. Now, when going for a stealthy approach, you can opt to knock out an opponent rather than kill them. You choices will also affect the city as a whole, as too much bloodshed will cause panic in the streets. To help you make these choices and provide you with somewhat of a moral compass, you can make use of the Heart again – which will reveal a character’s inner secrets. It mainly serves as a narrative tool, and helps flesh out the experience. Even without an in-depth analysis of people souls, Dishonored 2’s campaign still clocks in at a hefty 15 or so hours – and you have to keep in mind how much potential there is for replayability.
Is Dishonored 2 the next big step forward for the genre, like the first game was? No, it’s not. It’s much more like a subtle evolution of the franchise to suit new generation of consoles, while keeping everything intact that was so brilliant about the first game. Perhaps it’s too similar, but let’s not complain about that – no one ever does when a movie sequel lives up to its original. In fact… most of them don’t. Dishonored 2 does, and we’re happy for it.