Dishonored 2 was a game I was really looking forward to last year, but didn’t buy until lately because the PC port was utterly fucked on launch. But now I’ve got it, and it’s time to talk about my thoughts on it. The original Dishonored was my favorite game of 2012, over games like Borderlands 2 and XCOM: Enemy Unknown. It’s also one of my favorite games of all time, but that’s another story. I’ll end up bringing virtually every element of it that I liked as I compare them to their counterparts in the new game.
So, let’s start with the mechanics. The sequel, just like the original, is a stealth-action game starring a protagonist who mixes tech gadgets with supernatural powers to get through the levels. This continues in the second game, but dialed up to 12. First and foremost, the advertising has been very clear about how there are 2 playable charcters. You can choose to play as Corvo Attano, the protagonist from the first game, or Emily Kaldwin, one of the other main characters from last time. Early on, I was worried that they would play largely the same, or that one would be clearly better than the other for everything. Thankfully, the game avoids this, and both characters have very distinct differences that are still extremely viable for general play. So let’s begin with the original hero, Corvo Attano. He plays the same as always, with the same powers as last time. The twist this time is that every power has way more uses than last time. The classic Blink now has 3 upgrades. One turns it into Daud’s Blink from The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches, which is a massive improvement as it allows you to change your destination, even in midair, while time is stopped around you. One is the classic range improvement, and the third one allows you to kick enemies backwards by attacking at the opportune moment while using Blink (this is every bit as funny as it sounds). Dark Vision is back, and it now has the ability to predict enemy routes (which is fucking awesome, by the way). Bend Time is largely the same, except you can increase the duration and how fast you move. Nice little bonuses, but nothing insane. Possession has 2 changes. Now you can possess bodies, and you can chain possession into a different host if you feel like it, which I didn’t use too often, but when combined with the Separation Trauma bone charm (which makes enemies pass out when you unpossess them), this power can wreak some real havoc on the enemy. Windblast is much the same, but now you can shift it to hit the whole area around you. Devouring Swarm is also the same, but you can now make the rats follow you. Aside from those, there are some passives, stuff like double jumping, blocking projectiles, and even crafting bone charms, where you can place up to 4 traits on them at the risk of corruption (more on this later). So, Corvo is very good all around, and he’s pretty well suited to most possible scenarios. Emily, on the other hand, is a lot more specialized. Most if not all of her powers are offense focused in some way. For instance, instead of Blink, she has a power called Far Reach. This is objectively worse for stealth than Blink is, because it lacks the “whoops, I’m gone” aspect that Blink has. However, it’s also better for combat than Blink is, as it can be used (with an upgrade) to pull enemies over to you for immediate assassination/knockout. Useful in combat, but not stealthy at all. Next is Shadow Walk, which was hyped up in the trailers as something really awesome. And honestly, it is. You’re faster, you can sneak by enemies easier, and you can execute them in really cool ways. Next is Domino, aka literally the most useful power in the game. With this, you can link up to 4 enemies so that if one dies or passes out, it affects all of them. This is especially handy, considering how rare sleep darts are. Now imagine combining this with Chain Possess Separation Trauma. The potential for causing a ruckus is near infinite. Next is Doppelganger. You can use it for 2 purposes, depending on upgrades. Either distract guards away from you, or have it fight alongside you like the Whalers in The Knife of Dunwall. I’ll be honest, I don’t use it much. Then there’s Enthrall, which can distract enemies for a while, allowing you to sneak past. No crazy twists, but it works pretty well. So, all of her powers are built around eliminating enemies directly, with minimal focus on other ways to get by. This is made more interesting due to the New Game Plus feature, which allows either character to access every power in the game, so that Domino/Chain Possession mayhem idea is absolutely possible. As for the weapons arsenal, it has also been expanded since the last game. The classic sword, pistol, and crossbow are back, but with added twists. Now every weapon has two “masterpiece” traits, of which only one can be chosen once the blueprints are found. Plus, these masterpiece traits are different depending on which character you use. For instance, Emily can choose between perfect accuracy at long range or bolts that pierce targets for her crossbow, while Corvo can pick between very high fire rate and the ability to mark 3 targets and kill them all at the cost of 1 bolt. These are available for every type of weapon, the pistol, crossbow, sword, grenades, and even armor. Speaking of which, the actual arsenal is bigger as well. The crossbow has the classic bolt, sleep dart, incendiary bolt options (the latter being very useful for clearing bloodfly nests, more on this later). But now there are two new bolts, the Howling and Stinging bolts. Howling bolts blind enemies, and Stinging bolts make them run away. The Stun Mines from The Knife of Dunwall are back as well, which are very useful for nonlethal players. In addition, Sticky grenades are now available, which are very useful indeed against Bloodflies. Aside from that, the arsenal is more or less the same. The other big innovation to the combat is that enemies can now be choked and thrown in the middle of a fight, and enemies on the ground can be either stabbed or non lethally stomped on. This means Action Low Chaos is technically possible (especially when combined with the Blink kick and Domino abilities), though very difficult. This is pretty cool as an addition, and very helpful if you fuck up at stealth (like I always do) but don’t want to kill the guards who spotted you. So, overall, the core mechanics have improved leaps and bounds from even the first game. But mechanics are only a part of this game, how is the rest of it?
Next up is the world and level design. The world itself is honestly inferior to the first game. The original Dishonored took place in Dunwall, a truly fantastic city in terms of design based on Victorian London and other Steampunk works. The opening and ending missions are still in Dunwall, though sadly none of the nostalgic locations like Clavering Boulevard are present, but the vast majority takes place in Karnaca, which feels more live Venice. I don’t like it nearly as much as the original game’s world, but it’s still acceptable. Instead of rats, the plague this time is caused by Bloodflies, which, while less inspired, are arguably more horrifying because fuck stinging insects, I hate them. They usually guard nests, which you can destroy by hitting them with your sword, setting them on fire, or using grenades on them. When you destroy the nests, all the Bloodflies collectively pass out, which is a kind of cool touch. However, the biggest shortcoming for the game in this regard is the enemy variety. The only enemies you’re likely to see are guards, dogs, overseers (basically guards again, they don’t even have the music boxes anymore), and witches (basically guards, but with the addition of Blink). Gone are fantastic enemies like the Tallboys of the original, and nothing really replaces them, except maybe the Clockwork Soldiers, which are indeed very fun, but not to the level of the original. A particularly fun way of killing them is to Bend Time, then hit them with a Sticky Grenade and stick a Springrazor to them. It’s not quite as cool as freezing time, shooting a crossbow bolt, and sticking a Springrazor to it in order to 1-shot a Tallboy, but it’s still a fun way to mess around. So overall, the enemy variety has lost a fair amount of the magic from the first game. As for the actual level design, it’s just as good as ever. Let’s take the first in-game Wall of Light as an example. To get around it, what can we do? Well, we could take out the guards and shut off the windmill powering it. Or we could go through a Bloodfly infested apartment, killing all the Bloodflies along the way by throwing liquor bottles at them which burst into flame. Or we could go through an apartment where Overseers are looking for an Outsider Shrine, and loot the valuables within. Or go even farther, and just walk along the roof of a walkway on the ground. If you’re on New Game Plus, you could also do things like Bend Time or Possess a guard to get past the Wall of Light, and this applies to future missions as well. So the Play Your Way aspect has definitely survived into the second game, and it might be even stronger than ever. As for the individual levels, each one is unique, and each one has a very clever gimmick to it. There’s the Addermire Institute, basically a hospital with a very dark secret. Then there’s the Clockwork Mansion, an awesome concept that I wish was explored further. Then the Royal Conservatory, a kind of demented museum full of witches. There’s a level featuring a war between the Howler gang and the Overseers where the player can help either side, or find another way to get past the situation. The Stilton Manor might just be the coolest level gimmick I’ve ever seen. Being able to traverse back and forth in time between the ruined mansion of the present and the time it was in its full glory as a way to get by obstacles. The Duke’s palace is a classic infiltration mission, though one where it’s very easy to get around the level by getting up to the roof and has the opportunity for some truly awesome maneuvers, like jumping off the tallest edge and breaking your fall by possessing an enemy right before the ground. The last level is also pretty cool, being about sneaking into a ruined Dunwall Tower full of witches, with objectives like turning the power back on in order to activate the elevator to reach the throne room where Delilah is. Overall, they’re pretty damn memorable levels, which is all I can really ask for. Sure, there’s nothing as brilliant as Lady Boyle’s Last Party (though the Stilton Manor comes close), but it’s fantastic anyway
So the gameplay and level design are absolutely wonderful. But how’s the story? Well, the main villain this time is Delilah once again. Apparently, getting a sword jammed through the roof of her mouth just wasn’t enough to stop this bitch. So she turns either Corvo or Emily into stone, depending on who the player chooses to play as. The remaining character then escapes to Karnaca, and needs to figure out why Delilah is seemingly immortal, as well as eliminating her key allies. First is the Crown Killer, a sadistic serial killer who framed you for their murders and destroyed your reputation. Next is Kirin Jindosh, the inventing genius responsible for powerful machines including the new Clockwork Soldiers. At the same time, you need to rescue Anton Sokolov, who had a sizable role in the first game. I would’ve rather had Piero back, but I’ll take what I can get. The next target is Brianna Ashworth, curator of the Royal Conservatory, witch, and probably Delilah’s most important ally. Then you just have to take out Duke Abele, and it’s on to Delilah herself. While the targets (with the exception of the Duke and the Crown Killer) are nowhere near as memorable as the last game, they’re good enough for what they are. There are also other major characters like Paolo, head of the Howler gang. He’s nowhere as near as fun as Slackjaw from the original game, but he’s alright. Billie Lurk from The Knife of Dunwall makes a reappearance as well, although we never get to see her fight. We even get a pseudo-cameo from Daud himself, as he appears on an audiograph with the narration from the Low Chaos ending of The Brigmore Witches playing (slightly different, though, so they actually got Michael Madsen in for the part). There’s also less to the story than the first game, but it’s still in pretty good shape. The last thing to talk about in the story is the ending, which is exponentially weaker than the original game. It’s not as flowing, the protagonist only has a small part in it, and it feels disjointed. That said, it’s not a massive buzzkill, so I guess I can’t complain too much. So overall, the story is considerably weaker than last time, but it’s still alright.
Last off is the technical stuff. So if you get bored by this kind of thing, skip this part. The actual graphics are, indeed, way better than the original game, though I had to play on Low. The soundtrack was alright, nothing all too memorable. Granted, the original game only really had 2 memorable tracks (the trailer song “The Wake of Eden” and the ending tune “Honor For All”), but this one has pretty much none. The voice acting is very good, with Erica Luttrell and Stephen Russell giving very fantastic performances as Emily and Corvo. Vincent D’Onofrio really hams it up as the Duke of Serkonos, which is much appreciated. Rosario Dawson is alright as Billie Lurk, although she doesn’t have all that much to work with. The Outsider got recast, and while Robin Lord Taylor is alright, he just doesn’t live up to the original performance. The guards are also decent, and if you listen to the male guards for long enough, you may hear a particularly hilarious limerick. Now, the big one: performance. My PC is a decade old, so I waited months before picking up the PC version, in hopes that it would be patched by the time I got it. Good news is, it runs at a stable framerate. Bad news is, it has issues when first loading. It skips and stutters for a little bit, and then it runs smoothly. So, the performance isn’t as utterly fucked as it was on launch, but it’s not great. So, the technical side scrapes by on the visuals and voice acting, but is held down by poor performance and boring soundtrack.
Overall, Dishonored 2 is a wonderful game, with the stellar mechanics and level design making up for the weaker story, duller cast, and less interesting world. It’s not a full S, because those issues are so notable, but it’s still a top tier game. As such, I am issuing Dishonored 2 a full A+ rating, with a Pretty Good seal of approval. Definitely worth buying, and I look forward to playing it over and over again, just like the original. As far as I’m concerned, this series has the potential to become one of the best franchises in video game history, and I’m very excited for what Death of the Outsider brings to the table. Fingers crossed, hoping that will be good.