I loved my first visit to Dunwall in 2012, so much it got me over a bit of a fall out with first person games. So to come back now, albeit a bit later after a technical issue, I was more than ready for more. As I went into my Dishonored 2 review I was expecting something really special from Arkane and Bethesda and that’s what I got for the most part.
But the legacy of the Original Game(Review) was a tough one to beat. Something Arkane didn’t manage to do in all departments, but did it where it counts.
My thoughts are detailed below which will give you an idea where you may sit with Dishonored 2. How good you believe this game really is will depend on your personal priorities in a game like this. Don’t get me wrong, it’s one of the best games of 2016 so far, but you’ll have to work past a shaky start to really enjoy it.
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Right, back to Dunwall we go.
Look and Feel – Like a Fine Wine
Both Corvo and Emily are looking better with age. This game is very striking for a few reasons. The first being its generally great graphical performance. But it’s the slightly odd, steampunk art style that really shines here once again.
Characters faces, the detail in the locations around Karnaca and Dunwall create this amazing world of Dishonored. One that is uniquely beautiful and downright nasty at the same time.
What always got me about the original game was the mixture of different elements. The dark magic infused world mixed with steampunk style technology and more 19th century weaponry. It was something very unique and special as it released back in 2012.
Here they capture it once again but in a new location with a much more detailed presentation.
The power of the new consoles makes a big difference here as I played through on my Xbox One. It all feels that same mixture of elements but even more intense at times, especially with the supernatural elements getting nice and creepy as you get deeper into the game.
The music, sound effects and great voice acting all add to the atmosphere too. While early on, the game may have been disrupted by some bugs but recent patches have really tightened it up. It was all very smooth but for the odd dropped frame here and there.
My biggest problem with the games design is the masses of time needed to load. It really does get tiresome and breaks the immersion. Between levels can be forgiven, although they are overly long for this generation of gaming.
But the between death ones are the worst. And considering even on reasonable difficulty you die a lot here, it does get frustrating waiting around… just to then die again.
While the game is loaded and gets you playing it’s a beautiful, eerie work of genius. The levels are stunning with so many options which I’ll discuss in the gameplay section. The sounds and details everywhere make this a world one you simply don’t want to leave.
Story – “I’ll Cast You In Stone! But Not You, You stay In That Room… With The Window Open!”
One thing that I’ve always remembered from the numerous times I’ve heard it. Your first impression is the most important and stays with a person for a long time. While it means less in gaming now, more on that later this week, it still is massive in any story.
So before I talk if Dishonored 2, I’ll go back to the original game. After a nice sequence building a relationship with Emily, then a child. And meeting the empress, the lady you love, a magical powered Assassin kills her in front of you. His associates take your daughter and leave you framed for it all.
Fuelled by the need to rescue Emily and avenge Jessamine’s death, you set about your mission however you want to.
Even writing that out I feel motivated!
So Dishonored 2 starts and the tutorial is just that, a separate mode wrapped up as a “memories of training with Father” from Emily’s point of view. It could have been part of the introduction again, but wasn’t so it was disjointed if you decide to play it.
Then we are Emily for a while and see the villainous Delilah claim your throne and you choose your character. The other is frozen in stone before your eyes with such amazing power. You on the other hand, which ever one you choose, are taken away with a guard and put in a room (not even tied up) with the window open…
Its bugged me, why did Delilah not just freeze us both? Job done, throne is hers and no resistance? Why not imprison me and make it hard to escape? Why not have her try and freeze me in stone but the Outsider arrive and help me get away?
I was thinking this and other questions for a while at the start and it really sucked any motivation out of the game for me early on.
Also, while you can play this game with both characters and enjoy it. The game is written for playing as Emily. She is the lead here and Corvo has been made to fit. It’s not as specific to each character as I’d expected and more often whoever you play is referred to as “You” a lot in conversation, with certain sentences more specific.
All that said, and out of the way, the game gets much better the more you play it. And the gameplay really will keep you going once you get past the poor start. more on that shorty.
Where it really hits its stride is the characters you meet along your way. The Duke of Serkonos, played by Daredevil actor Vincent D’Onofrio is outstanding. So is captain Megan Foster played by Rosario Dawson who helps you escape and on your missions.
Your main protagonist Emily is really well acted too, as is Corvo plus the supporting characters all add to this slightly surreal world. The people you meet along this journey really do make up for the poor start, particularly when you are faced with choices of how to deal with them.
The ending was satisfying too with a really good conclusion that made me forget about the poor start somewhat. Even if the overall story is very similar the first game, but not quite as good.
If any part of Dishonored 2 is a let down it really is in the plot, not the characters or some of the missions but the spine that holds them all together is very weak. Thankfully the gameplay will make you forget all of that after the first few hours.
Gameplay – Far Out Of Reach
After that criticism, something that I didn’t expect to be having to do to be honest, it’s time to switch to the ultimate praise. Here we’re into the reason to play Dishonored 2 since it’s action meets stealth gameplay is a work of pure genius and masterful from Arkane.
Because once you get going, get your flow with Far Reach or Blink. You are in for some exceptional, highly addictive gameplay. Possibly the best of its kind all year.
Options are everywhere and your first choice is to be Corvo and go classic Dishonored or Emily and get some new powers. Now I’ve already stated this but I will again. The main lead here is Emily, the game is for her and adapted to for Corvo in terms of story.
Both are really fun to play however and play very differently. Their totally different set of powers do manage to make them feel like individuals. And Emily’s new powers are awesome but Corvo brings back that classic feeling of the original.
As such the game really does practically force you to play the game twice, to see it from the perspective of both characters.
But there is more choice too since you don’t even have to have powers if you want to go all human with your game. Plus the main choice of how to play, high chaos (kill as many as you can) or low chaos (spare as many lives as you can). You can even not kill a single person in the game if you are patient enough.
The general gameplay puts you in small sandbox areas with a target. Whether that be knowledge to find, a person to rescue or a villain to eliminate. These again come with choices and branching options that see you finding whatever way works best for you to complete the objectives.
All targets can be taken down non lethality and enemies can be choked out or killed mercilessly. It’s all up to you.
Some of the non lethal methods however are the most rewarding and enjoyable to do. Since many are quite clever in their design, particularly the Duke mission late in the game.
Everything in the gameplay is just right for me. The stealth is fantastic with very solid enemies AI too that makes it a challenge. And while a super powered band ass you may be, you’ll die a lot trying to do things a particular way.
On the Podcast recently I spoke about when a game really makes you feel your own mistakes. Like your character is just not to be messed with and, if left to themselves would come out of most situations without a scratch.
Arkane have done that perfectly with Dishonored 2.
I never once felt I died cheaply or it was something about Corvo and Emily that was lacking. Even earlier on with only a small amount of powers at my disposal, I still felt they were practically untouchable. Any death was me letting them down, rushing my way rather than planning my attack.
Everything you have at your disposal makes you feel truly like a super powered assassin. Your actions, choices and mistakes make the game your own and that is something special.
More to come
One of the few bits of gameplay criticism I was going to bring here was the lockdown at the end of a game. It seemed strange that through the game itself there were masses of choice but at the end, it was start again or nothing.
An update now gives you a new game plus that is certainly something I was going to suggest in this review. Not only will you keep all things you’ve found like Runes for power upgrades and Bonecharms, you can actually customise a mix of both Corvo’s and Emily’s powers.
This is something I like the sound of!
There is also a custom difficulty setting too which sounds interesting given even on standard the game can be quite the challenge. This addition drops in January 2017 with more DLC likely to be coming after.
When you consider this, it’s really hard to criticise this game in terms of gameplay at all.
I loved Dishonored 2, eventually. Where the original Dishonored was love at first sight, this was more an awkward date that got better after 2 or 3 more. The poor start really didn’t do anything to show Dishonored 2’s true quality which is a shame given how it feels a few hours into the game.
From a gameplay point of view it’s an absolute masterpiece of first-person action. You feel like a super assassin, you flow around with ease and when you get it right it feels so good. When you get it wrong you feel like Emily or Corvo are facepalming you for being so useless.
Its such a shame the story really lets it down, particularly early on. The characters do a lot to make it better as do all the choices and missions.
Ultimately it’s a joy to play and a wonderful game. And while the gameplay is masterful, as a package the original is still the best game. This is an amazing game still and a must play this year. With more content on the way, it’ll definitely be one to return to.
Oh, and let’s not forget Arkane are working on Prey. This quality gameplay in that setting has me even more excited for that game in 2017.
Check out my scores below and leave me a Disqus Comment with your thoughts on Dishonored 2.
About This Dishonored 2 Review
Developers & Publishers: Arkane, Bethesda
Gaming Platform: PC Games, PS4, Xbox One
Genre: Action Adventure
Game Name Review
Graphics - 9.5/10
Story & Characters - 7/10
Gameplay - 10/10
Fun Factor - 9/10
I really enjoyed Dishonored 2 and this is easily one of the best games for pure gameplay of the year 2016. I can't ignore that poor start however and the fact that this game based on two characters is actually one story about Emily, modified to work for Corvo. Outside of the plot everything is amazing after the first hour or so and you'll be most satisfied towards the end of the game. Choices make you come back for more but it just misses being the classic the original game was.