Usually, I'm guilty of hopping on franchise bandwagons without having played their previous instalments; The Witcher, The Elder Scrolls and the diabolical Mercenaries to name a few. This time, things were different. I had played the first Dishonored. And I'd enjoyed the first Dishonored. With such a winning combination, what could possibly go wrong?
With new characters, new abilities and new enemies to challenge, Arkane Studios aims to improve upon the foundations laid by their previous game; foundations built upon corpses and rats. But will the new structure stand tall and proud, or disintegrate like two of the three little pigs' pathetic attempts? Although admittedly, for pigs, they were laudable efforts. But enough about pigs…this isn't Spirited Away or Homer's Odyssey. This is a hopefully honourable review for Dishonored 2.
Dishonored 2 is available on Steam for £39.99.
Dishonored 2 is a direct sequel, so naturally, it contains spoilers for the first; in the event you either haven't played the game to its conclusion, or suffer from dreadful amnesia (perhaps induced by the rat plague), a helpful introductory cutscene brings the player up to speed. Emily's mother, the Empress Jessamine, was assassinated, with Corvo Attano, her royal protector, being falsely accused. Players spent many hours becoming an actual assassin in an effort to catch her real killers and rescue her daughter Emily. Because we all know the best way to prove that you're not a murderer is by murdering loads of people.
Now, Emily sits comfortably on the throne of Dunwall, with her father at her side (that father being Corvo, who spoiler alert, wasn't killed in the first game- except for the several hundred times you may have had to reload a save). However, a mysterious "Crown Killer" has been picking off their political allies, leading the populace to assume Corvo has returned to his infamous ways to secure her position of power. What's worse, a mysterious woman claiming to be Jessamine's sister, and rightful Empress, shows up with the Duke of Serkonos to seize the throne. And of course, everybody believes this woman, who turns up out of the blue after fifteen years, despite never attending any of Jessamine's royal galas or answering her telegraph calls prior to this moment.
One of you is turned to stone and the other is thrown into your quarters; temporarily. You, of course, escape, and attempt to track down the real Crown Killer, rescue your loved one, and reclaim the throne from this random woman and the Duke of Serkonos. And woe betides anyone who stands in your way.
The game plays pretty much identically to the first; it's an action-adventure game, but new to Dishonored 2 is the ability to pick between two characters; you can continue the tale of Corvo, or you can decide to play as Emily; very much the poster-girl of Dishonored 2 (because she's the Empress, so naturally, her face will be everywhere).
Both characters have their distinct differences, past gender and whatnot; Emily has been trained by her father but is very much a different person. Whilst not at all restrictive, Emily is naturally a stealthier character, with special abilities and powers that assist her in hiding in the shadows, either darting past the enemy lines and leaving everyone unscathed or sneaking up behind them and giving them all a nice cordial hug on the windpipe. Corvo, meanwhile, maintains his abilities from fifteen years ago, despite gradually getting older by the minute, and is trained to easily dispatch anyone he comes into close contact with- unless he's in marble form. The natural inclinations do not necessarily dictate the style of a playthrough; it is entirely at the player's discretion how they will tackle the obstacles in their path. Or, indeed, avoid all the obstacles and ghost your way through the game.
Soon after escaping Dunwall, you will be reunited with the mysterious Outsider, bestower of Corvo's powers, and revered figure by many in the game. You can choose to accept the Mark of the Outsider, thus granting access to powers like Possession and Mesmerize, or you can refuse his offer and play "no powers" mode (if you're a masochist or mistakenly purchased this instead of Assassin's Creed).
After receiving the Mark of the Outsider (it burns, apparently), runes can be found littered around the world; these can be spent to unlock or upgrade powers, which can be used to aid you in your quest, or just make you look good. Also discoverable are bonecharms, which alter passive abilities such as health restoration or movement speed, or further enhance your powers. Less fancy collectables include blueprints for ordinary, civilised weapons like crossbow darts and pistol bullets, and paintings, which you seem to instantly sell for a healthy amount of change. If only I could do that in real life…I could make a tidy profit on my awful childhood scribblings.
There's an awful lot to be found in Dishonored 2, and multiple ways of resolving missions; given time, a minimum of two playthroughs is recommended. You can choose the "Leeroy Jenkins" approach and murder everyone you come across (including innocent dockworkers and shop owners, if you're cruel), or take a more refined approach and sneak around simply knocking everyone out. It's even possible, albeit rather difficult, to largely ignore everyone, except for major enemies; but where's the fun in that?
The game tracks your playstyle on a graph after each completed section, charting whether you've taken a lethal or non-lethal, stealth or assault approach to that mission. The way you play affects the outcome; creating more corpses for bloodflies to proliferate around makes people act more cynically, and leads to a generally darker ending than taking a more subtle approach, where everyone lives happily ever after to play hopscotch and eat cupcakes. Save game files helpfully indicate whether you're currently on a low or high chaos playthrough; you can mix and match play styles, but if you're aiming for a particular outcome, it's best to stay consistent.
Graphics and Audio
Dishonored 2, for me, has a rather marmite appearance. From a distance, everything looks beautiful. Each area has distinctive visuals, creating a vibrant and natural atmosphere; a gloomy hospital versus a colourful town. But when you get close, some of the graphics become somewhat disappointing.
Some parts of the game exhibit an incredible attention to detail, such as tiny nicks in bricks or stains on countertops. However, the resolution of everything appears generally medium-quality; especially noticeable when looking at rocks or foliage. While posters and notes are present, none of them are actually readable; this is just nit-picking, though. Everything has shadows, and things like trees are suspect to subtle movements in the wind, but everything seems a little lacklustre; it looks and feels a lot like the first game, which was released over four years ago. While there is detail in terms of what has been included, what's there is in reality rather low-resolution and pretty forgettable.
Dishonored 2 adopts a somewhat unique approach when it comes to characters; much like cel shaded or pixel based titles, Arkane does not attempt photo-realism; or if they do, it's a miserable job. Many faces' styles bear a slight resemblance to those found in Fable, with a hint of Team Fortress 2 or The Ship: Murder Party. Or potatoes. Lip-syncing is rather poor, and facial expressions are somewhat generic. I honestly believe this is intentional, though, and hence adds to the charm. It certainly makes for a unique aesthetic style. Either way, it does not detract from the gameplay; it's just occasionally slightly irksome, and questions whether they are really graphics worthy of 2016 technology.
Strangely, more care and attention seems to have been given to primary characters; figures like Corvo, Emily and Meagan Foster, an ally whom you meet early on, do not suffer from any symptoms of the vegetable-face syndrome troubling the other citizens of the Isles.
The audio, contrastingly, features incredible attention to detail. There are unique sound effects for pretty much everything in the game- from playing a piano to flushing a toilet, there are aurally accurate accompaniments to pretty much every one of the many banal and pointless things you can do in the game. The clang of steel on steel is satisfying, while the smashing of glass will alert nearby guards to your presence, running in and ready to be skewered on your foldable sword (officer Mortimer Ramsey raises a very interesting point about the logic of those- surely the structural integrity of a weapon is compromised if it folds in half?) Even the death gurgles are rather good; there's nothing particularly laughable about any part of the audio; something which many otherwise spectacular titles can fall down own.
Dishonored 2 features an extensive cast list; everyone and their mother seems to have a unique actor muttering trivialities or singing to themselves. I wouldn't be surprised if the kitchen sink had one, too. There are no stand-out names in terms of guests stars, though video game stalwart Stephen Russell returns to voice Corvo once more, while Erica Luttrell voices Emily; understandably, a child actor isn't best suited to play the role anymore, so original voice actor Chloë Grace Moretz does not reprise her role.
The game also features its own specially-composed soundtrack, which has even been released for purchase on Amazon; in-game, nothing stands out too much; the music merely adds to the tone of the game. Honestly, it's not all that noticeable; you'll quickly become absorbed into the world of Dishonored 2; either that or get bored and become disinterested, moving on to greener pastures. Green because there probably wouldn't be as many blood stains.
Dishonored 2 takes what was good about the first game and attempts to build more around it; the core mechanics haven't changed; it's an action-adventure stealth game, whose non-linearity and replayability will easily absorb tens of hours of your life. The AI has been improved, and the addition of Emily adds new possibilities and powers for returning players to sink their teeth into. The story is easily investable in, and those who crave 100% completion will have a heart attack over just how much there is to find in this game; a medal should be awarded to anyone who finds all the coins in the game without using any guides; I guarantee it's nigh on impossible.
Arkane has crafted another good title; while it's not compulsory to play its predecessor, it's advisable. If anything, it'll save you money should you decide you don't like the style; it's not for everyone; especially the cartoon-esque graphic style. Those who enjoy games of the action–adventure and stealth genres could find worse than Dishonored 2. It's by no means a perfect game, but it's pretty damn good.
|+ Immersive story||– Low resolution graphics|
|+ Replay value|