Dark powers, blood, and revenge; the same theme seems to follow every Dishonored game. Dishonored 2, however, tops the first Dishonored in every category, with new powers, better upgrades, cooler kills, and a wickedly intricate revenge plot. That, stacked with the fact that the game is just plain fun, makes Dishonored 2 one of the coolest choice-based action RPG games I’ve ever played.
Picking up where Dishonored left off, 15 years have passed since Corvo Attano saved the murdered Empress Jessamine Kaldwin’s daughter, Emily. Having taken her deceased mother’s title of Empress, Emily has been slowly rebuilding Dunwall by eliminating corruption, draining the flooded districts, and helping to cure the poor and afflicted. Well-liked by her people and well-trained by her “father” Corvo, a time of moderate peace has followed the rat plague. Complications arise, however, with mysterious murders committed by the “Crown Killer” in the name of the Empress, and with the arrival of a mysterious usurper who claims to have right to the throne.
Dishonored 2 wastes no time in throwing you into the action. The optional tutorial puts you in the mind of Emily as she trains with Corvo. Basic controls and strategies are revisited, which can be partly useful and partly annoying, depending on how well you remember the first game. It can be skipped, however, and doesn’t pose a serious hindrance to gameplay. The real fun begins immediately after the tutorial, when you’re given the option as playing either Emily or Corvo for the main campaign of the game. Once chosen, your character gets right back into their stealthy ways, stalking guards and solving puzzles in pursuit of additional weapons and powers.
No matter your style, Emily and Corvo can be tailored to the way you want to play. If you want a high-chaos playthrough, death and mayhem can abound with loud, powerful weapons and blood-fueled abilities. If you prefer a quiet, low-chaos playthrough, crafting helps you with items like sleep darts and other non-lethals, as well as upgraded stealth abilities. You can go to either extreme; or you can coast along in the middle, creating chaos in the streets while still sneaking past mechs and guards.
Combat is fast-paced and enjoyable, with a variety of possible finishing moves and techniques. It is limited, however, and seems to be tailored for only one-on-one situations. When swarmed by several guards or other enemies, your only basic options are to attack or block. Without the use of any abilities, defeating a huge crowd of enemies (especially if you’re trying not to kill them) is incredibly difficult. Even on easy mode, death is constant, and detection is hard to shake. This makes the guard swarm extremely hard to avoid, which in turn makes a non-lethal or undetectable playthrough close to impossible (without ridiculous amounts of patience). With patience and steadily accumulated abilities, however, it can be overcome.
Additionally, Emily and Corvo have different abilities from the Outsider. Corvo’s powers are much the same as they were in Dishonored, but Emily’s are unique. Her Doppelganger and Mesmerize powers distract enemies, while Shadow Walk allows her to move undetected. For both low-chaos and high-chaos playthroughs, Domino is incredibly useful, which allows her to link multiple enemies that will receive the same damage if one is affected. As always, runes can unlock and upgrade each of these abilities, making them infinitely useful and extremely customizable.
Dishonored 2 is home to a gigantic world to explore, and it is encouraged that you do so. Certain side quests, lore, and characters can only be found by taking the road less traveled, and there is always a reward for the effort. There are books, notes, journal entries, and collectible items that make it fun to solve hidden puzzles, and make the word just that much more interesting. Entire spaces (such as the Clockwork Mansion) are filled with puzzles and prizes, as well as different varieties of enemies and dangers.
Enemies and NPCs are present in nearly every facet of the game, giving it a more realistic feel, as you are hardly ever alone in even the darkest corners. This makes an undetected stealth campaign extremely difficult, because you’re easily spotted by the many guards, mechs, beasts, and civilians wandering the streets and buildings (many of whom would just as soon rat you out to the nearby authorities than run away). If you’re able navigate around them, however, plenty of excellent loot can be taken from an unconscious body.
The music and sounds of the game give it a very Sherlock Holmes-ish feel, which meshes perfectly with the steampunk theme of the game. Tight violins and eerie piano maintain a feeling of propriety and pre-modernism, but urgency is created by the real star of the game’s audio: the background noises. While wandering through streets occupied by guards, looking through keyholes, or exploring dank alleys, an ever-present cacophony of screams, chimes, footsteps and buzzing keep you on edge. These noises, combined with the natural conversation of the NPCs and the sound effects assigned to your accessories, create an immersive and stressful environment in which being careful is a priority.
There are, naturally, a few bugs and glitches in the game that can shake the mood or cause an otherwise serious situation to be funny. Bodies being flung by unknown forces and misbehaving background graphics aren’t necessarily uncommon, but they’re certainly not game-breaking, either. If anything, they provide a moment of humorous relief during an otherwise very intense game.
Dishonored 2 not only outshines my expectations, it delivers a game I’m actually excited to play over and over again. Both graphics and sounds are as unique as they are beautiful. Gameplay is intense, natural, and varied enough to stay exciting. The main story is complex and intriguing, and side-quests are rewarding instead of tedious. While combat can be obnoxiously difficult, it hardly ruins the appeal of the game, as it’s often entirely avoidable. Dishonored 2 is a polished, entertaining, and intricate sequel, and a must-play for any Action/RPG fan.
A PS4 Review Code for Dishonored 2 was provided by Bethesda Softworks for the purpose of this review
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