In Dishonored 2, you’ve been framed for murder and treason. Your life has been turned upside down because of who you are and where you came from.
But many opportunities present themselves, offering you either redemption or revenge. Bringing closure to your plight may be crawling on hands and knees in front of you or casually strolling along below. What happens next is entirely your call.
The original Dishonored wedged open the door to these possibilities, whereas Dishonored 2 boots it off its hinges. Arkane Studios have thoroughly encouraged players to engage with the game in a way that’s comfortable for them, whether they want to directly assassinate targets, sneak around, or find alternative ways to move the story forward.
With multiple outcomes for every mission, and several ways to reach your destination – in addition to two playable characters – Dishonored 2 certainly hasn’t been designed for players to rush through once and be done with it.
This has been further emphasised by New Game + coming in December.
Not to mention that both Corvo and Emily will interact with objects in different ways throughout the game, offering fresh perspectives. They’ll have different conversations with NPCs, and even use different powers that change the way you play. Hell, you can even opt not to have any powers at all and play the game vanilla.
But the thing that Dishonored 2 does most brilliantly of all is not have a clear developmental bias. Even in Dishonored 1, it felt like the game rewarded you for being a ghost more than a havoc-wreaking banshee. You always felt like it was giving you a sneaky thumbs up whenever you avoided dicing up every guard and hatter in sight.
With Dishonored 2, the thing that Arkane Studios have got really right is a sense of satisfaction no matter how you choose to play the game. Just try deflecting blows in full-on sword fights, then unexpectedly stab your enemy in the leg so you can break through their defenses and decapitate them. It feels suitably bad ass and fills you with unexpected glee. But likewise, if you’ve managed to sneak around five high-alert guards without raising an alarm or drawing their attention, you’ll find the smirk still sitting on your face five minutes later.
Dishonored 2 has drawn on the very best games in the genre and blended their experiences together to craft something truly special. This feels more ’98 Thief than the Squeenix Reboot ever did thanks to Arkane creating playspaces that require your constant attention. All while lathering on real tension during chase sequences no matter how powerful you’ve become. If you really wanted to, you could even throw out some slight Deus Ex comparisons when considering the powers of the Outsider.
And yet, Dishonored 2 feels fresh and organic. It might even become the standard bearer upon which all future titles of this ilk will be judged because it truly understands what it takes to be a great game.
The narrative direction of Dishonored 2 also doesn’t suffer from the disjointed nature of its predecessor. There is clear direction from the shocking usurption scene that opens the game, to the targets you chase down, through to the thrilling conclusion, plus all the lore and side quests in-between. Everything feels purposeful and poigniant, and it helps build a world that not only gives life to your targets, but also your allies, perfect strangers, and especially the central cast.
Throughout most of Dishonored 1, Corvo was a kind-of dull mute who went around stabbing some people, presumably because he hadn’t eaten his Weetabix that morning. Now he’s acting like a parental guardian to Emily, training her, mentoring her, helping her cope with the incredible responsibility on her shoulders. And because of that, you’ll immediately feel like there’s a reason Corvo is making certain choices in his quest, no matter what they are. He is so much more expressive and engaging than last time around.
I did, however, feel like Emily was the more natural character choice. Some conversations worked better with her and the story seemed to suit her arc a little bit better. Arkane haven’t gone out of their way to make this obvious or show preferential treatment either way, though, and no matter who you choose Dishonored 2 is easily one of the best stories in any game this year. The pacing never feels rushed, it’s always clear what’s going on, the events tie in with what’s come before, and you may even find yourself empathising with those you’re targetting.
And that goes hand in hand with some truly incredible level design. The Clockwork Mansion does need to be seen and experienced to be believed. The combination of enemy variety, placement, level control, secrets, multiple pathways, the story weaving it all together, the difficulty curve. Forget current-gen, this is one of the finest examples of level crafting and world building I’ve seen in any game in years.
The Open World nature of the game also feels more expansive and inviting than before. I always felt like there were restrictions in the way during Dishonored 1 and it hampered my enjoyment just slightly. While it wasn’t directly linear, you felt like you were being ushered along to your objective and could just do some cool stuff along the way only slightly off the beaten path.
Dishonored 2 encourages you to discover side-quests, it practically begs you to try and find other solutions. There are even sequenced events which you’ll encounter that don’t tie into the main plot at all, but are directly influenced by passing conversations you overhear.
The other surprise is how different Dishonored 2 looks from its predecessor. Dunwall is a dreary, damp, dark, and dismal place where life is constantly being sucked out of you. While it certainly has a reputation for being a drain on the Empire of the Isles, Dishonored 2 is much more up-tempo and virtuous now that it’s mostly set in Karnaca.
My immediate thought when I first pulled up to the docks of Karnaca was recognition. I felt like I’d actually travelled to Venice, leaving the fantasy realm of Dishonored behind me. This isn’t a coincidence as the game’s city was influenced by the culture of various European countries – inspired by its paintings and sculptures – yet Arkane have done so in a way that the environment maintains its own identity and effortlessly fits inside an established universe.
With Karnaca, Arkane have majestically captured true beauty, so much so that when Corvo grumbles about travelling there – he has his reasons – you may find yourself wanting to slap him. How could he hate a place like this? But that also works into the mystique of the area, encouraging you to unravel its finer delicacies and darker secrets.
Naturally, a new location means new sound – both in terms of music and effects – further seperating itself from its predecessor. While obviously the voice acting changes the complexion of the game, the music really captures a whole other layer of this dark, magical world. The soft symphonies are twisted with a quirkiness that feels both familiar and different, which really helps set a scene as you clamber along rooftops, or stay cloaked in shadow.
Sound remains as crucially important as ever. If you’re smashing glass willy-nilly, or knocking items off tables, guards are going to hear and come to investigate. More than ever, you’ll need to plan your movements around the environment very carefully because the AI in Dishonored 2 is just so much more aware and logical. If you run free-will, your footsteps are going to echo. If you stay in view for too long, they’ll know something is up.
The AI is just so much more alive in Dishonored 2. They’ll band up together to bring you down en-force. They’ll deviate from their patterns to throw you off your gameplan, and are also harder to shake when they do discover you. Even in combat they prove to be worthy adversaries that will put up an admirable fight.
Dishonored 2 has admittedly experienced some issues on PC with frame rate stuttering, control glitches, and random bugs. Having played the game prior to this patch, I can attest to and acknowledge many of the difficulties early adopters faced. But having applied the new 1.2 Beta Update – which should be officially rolling out to everyone very soon – I can also confirm the game now floats like a dream. I’m running everything on Ultra Settings and just gasping and grinning at the fast-paced nature and fluidity of the action. It’s genuinely superb.
Having sat on this review for a few hours, I’ve been racking my brains trying to decide if I’ve forgotten anything, or if I’m getting swept up in my own enjoyment. In settling on a final score, I seperated myself from the experience as much as possible to look at it critically and impartially, desperately trying to see what truly makes it tick. Ultimately, I’ve still reached the same conclusion – based on Patch 1.2 – Dishonored 2 deserves a perfect score.
This is the finest version of an absolutely fantastic game, it’s filled with some amazing content, and there are plenty more exciting things already announced for its future. Dishonored 2 does exactly what any sequel should do – improve and expand on the original mechanics, refine and polish to make them serve an even great purpose, all while giving us something compelling and memorable.
It’s an absolute travesty that Dishonored 2 has suffered sales-wise compared to its predecessor. Not only is it leaps and bounds a better game, I’ve rarely felt compelled to immediately jump back in and do it all again. Simply put, this is hands-down the most fun and enjoyment I’ve had all year, and if you plan on grabbing anything on Black Friday or at any point in the near future, make it Dishonored 2. There’s no better modern experience on the market right now.
Bethesda’s phenomenal year has ended with the biggest bang of the bunch, the first ever perfect scoring game on Expansive.
+ So much replayability with all the variation on offer
+ Location, Story & Characters enlived by wonderful VOX, Visuals, and expert narrative direction
+ Every mistake made in Dishonored 1 has been learned from and improved upon
– Nobody is buying it and we need more content/sequels!
10 out of 10
Platform review on :- PC
Based on Patch 1.2