Revenge: The Cause Of (And Solution To) All Life’s Problems
GOOD The. Clockwork. Mansion.
BAD How long do I have to wait for the DLC?
WTF Wait, I can skip a level by figuring out a logic problem? Okay, let’s get a pen and paper!
Dishonored 2 was worth the wait. Going bigger and better than Dishonored must have been one heck of a challenge for the developers at Arkane Studios – that game was a masterpiece blending masterful level construction, genre-best stealth, and incredible visual design into one of the finest games ever made. With its DLC, they went on to prove that they were capable of expanding the world they’d created without losing any of the quality, while also hinting they had more stories to tell.
Well, the next story has arrived, and it’s a doozy.
As a follow-up to the entire Dishonored Definitive Edition experience, D2 picks up fifteen years after the first game’s ending, with Emily ruling as a fair empress in a gradually improving steampunk world — they’re even gradually switching from Whale Oil to wind power! Things take a turn for the awful when another conspiracy arises, and a cabal of witches and corrupt politicians either send Emily fleeing to a southern province or transform her into a statue, depending on which character the player decides to control at the outset.
That’s right, there are two playable characters this time. In addition to bringing back Corvo with all his familiar powers, they’ve added an entirely new set of abilities for Emily. While the abilities still revolve around traversal, stealth, and distracting/incapacitating enemies, hers are completely different in appearance and execution. Since Emily is just as finely-tuned as Corvo, at least two playthroughs feel not just like an option, but a necessity.
The story is also improved, and not just because Corvo can speak now. While the structure of a royal conspiracy to be thwarted is very similar to the first Dishonored, there’s greater depth this time. Both heroes and villains are more fully-realized characters thanks to a larger amount of dialogue and text files on hand to fill out their stories. Everyone’s motivation is better explored this time, and the result is a more satisfying experience. It’s still a fairly straightforward affair — plotters have to be dealt with and Emily returned to the throne — but it tracks more logically this time. Really, it feels like the developers taking a second shot at the previous narrative, slicing out the annoying prison levels and replacing them with a couple of design masterpieces.
Speaking of that design, the philosophy of the first Dishonored — let players engage however they want — is back in force. Every level is built with half a dozen paths through, giving those who chain magical abilities together an experience that’s just as smooth as those armed with nothing but a sword and their wits. Dishonored 2‘s nine locations are universally excellent, but there are a couple of standouts among them — those masterpieces I mentioned.
A trip back to one of the first game’s locations is a thrill, as is the new take on the ‘play through two time periods at once’ conceit that so many other efforts have failed to do justice. The absolute best level, however, is the Clockwork Mansion — it’s a mad scientist’s modular house that has to be seen to be believed. The space is constantly transforming and offers a huge number of secrets hidden within. Even if the rest of the campaign was merely mediocre, the opportunity to explore the Mansion would make it worth playing.
I searched long and hard for something negative to say about Dishonored 2, and the best I could do was that I was mildly annoyed by the developers’ decision to leave out a ‘restart mission’ option when I accidentally ruined my no-kill run, but that flaw can be remedied by saving more often. They even added a ‘quicksave’ feature to encourage players to take chances and try out new strategies.
Dishonored was already amazing, and this sequel bests it on every level — I’ve played it twice already, and that number will probably increase as I eagerly await whatever DLC the developers have planned.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda. It is currently available on PC, XBO, and PS4. This copy of the game was obtained via retail store and reviewed on the XBO. Approximately 25 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed twice. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, and Suggestive Themes . Okay, some caveats to the ‘everyone should play this game‘ thing — Dishonored 2 is hyper violent, full of brutal executions, setting people on fire and sacrificing the weak to dark gods. There’s sex and drugs and cannibalism and necrophilia, and yeah, that’s not a typo. This is as dark as it gets, folks. You can also still summon rats to consume people. That doesn’t make it any less of a must-play, of course, but it’s an adults-only kind of must play.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: It’s kind of a mixed bag — all dialogue is subtitled, but being able to hear enemies’ footsteps is vital to proper stealth gameplay. As in the first game, there’s a ‘see through walls’ power, and it’s a must-buy if hearing impaired players want to get the most out of the stealth features.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options. I don’t see it causing too many problems, however — I played a few levels in black and white and had no trouble navigating my surroundings or completing objectives. The biggest problem is that onscreen indicators for lethal/non-lethal options are colored blue and red, which can cause a little confusion, although the objectives screen can help clear that up.