It is very seldom that we get a good sequel to a game that has been successful as a new IP, one that builds upon its predecessor in every way while delivering a fresh experience. Dishonored was my favorite game back in 2012 and still remains as one of favorites of all time. Thankfully, Dishonored 2 doesn’t just prove itself as an amazing sequel, but also delivers a whole new sense of verticality to the franchise, making it one of the best games of 2016.
Dishonored 2 is set 15 years after the events of its prequel, where Emily Kaldwin rules the city of Dunwall alongside her father Corvo Attano. Events take an ugly turn when Emily finds out that her mother Jessamine Kaldwin’ sister Delilah Kaldwin decides to show up and take over the throne. In term’s of story, Arkane Studios seems to have played it very safe, keeping it a simple revenge plot just like its prequel. But both the games’ stories just aren’t the once narrated, but also the ones you create as you play the game. Dishonored 2 does this right, by delivering a whole new experience each time you play it differently, proving that stories can be told via gameplay, a method that most games fail to adopt.
Dishonored 2 starts off with a uniquely presented tutorial where you play as Emily Kaldwin who is training with her father Corvo Attano. The tutorial is short and apt, and feels very different as compared to those in other games, simply because it adds an emotional angle to it via some well written dialogues. What follows is a nine mission campaign that is not short for game like its kind. The very first mission has you choosing between Emily and Corvo, both possessing different skills and powers, and tells a slightly different story. Apart from this, the game has a severe impact if you play it in low or high chaos, which further extends the game’s replayability. There’s even an option to play the entire game without using any superpowers, which adds yet another experience to the already available array of choices in terms of how you choose to play. All these layered choices result in game that can’t be explored to completion until you play it 7-8 times, making Dishonored 2 all that worth its price.
Despite all these choices, Dishonored 2’s main story remains pretty much the same, which while may feel mediocre at best, is beautifully told through two distinct types of cutscenes. It features amazing voice acting of some very interesting new and returning characters, and lore found in various books and notes scattered throughout the game. What’s even more impressive is how the story sheds a lot from the previous game. This can become a problem for those who haven’t played the prequel, and I would strongly recommend you do so before jumping into Dishonored 2, as understanding these small moments is quite important if you want to grasp all that Dishonored 2 has to offer.
When it comes to gameplay, Dishonored 2 once again plays it safe, but also builds upon what it offered in its prequel. While Corvo’s powers remain exactly the same as the ones we had in the prequel, it is Emily’s powers that feel fresh and in some aspect, even better that her father’s. Far Reach, for example, allows Emily to grab out of reach enemies and bring them close for a quick assassination while even allowing her to reach far distances quickly, whether they are horizontal or vertical. There are some other powers as well like Shadow Walk that allow you to navigate an area without being seen, Domino that allow you to take out multiple targets at the same time, and Doppelganger that creates a clone of Emily which you can use for misdirection or even for taking out targets. All these powers are really fun to use and it can take you a while to decide how to approach each encounter in the best possible way. Combat pretty much remains the same as it was in Dishonored. Whether it is sword fights, pistols, grenades, crossbows or traps, each of them feel as though they have been simply picked up from the first game and put into the sequel, which actually doesn’t seem all that bad, considering that it was quite perfect already. Arkane Studios once again seems to have played it safe in terms of combat, and honestly, I didn’t have a problem with it. This is because Dishonored’s main strength lies in beating the game stealthily without killing anyone. Traversing each level without being seen is the greatest challenge Dishonored delivered, and this is where Dishonored 2 succeeds, thanks to its brilliantly crafted level design.
Dishonored 2, for the most part, is set in the city of Karnaca, which not only looks amazing but also is filled with life-like NPCs. The entire world created feels very alive, with NPCs always doing something even if you choose not to interact with them. And if you choose to do so, you’re presented with either a small backstory of theirs, or with some tips that aid you in the game. For example, speaking to a bartender and you’ll learn about his backstory and what he’s doing in Karnaca, or speak to a beggar and give him some coin and you’ll learn of a location that may contain health potions or grenades. Such intricate details made me immerse in the world of Dishonored 2, diverting me from my main objective and make me wander around the city more, looking for more of such experiences.
Dishonored 2’s main strength lies in its level design, which is perhaps the best I’ve seen in any game to date. Each mission offers too many options for pathing out your next objective, and this made me go back and discover each route before actually moving forward. This sense of open-world intensifies even more if you choose to play the game in complete stealth, without getting detected and killing anyone, as finding the best route feels like a good challenge that once completed, leaves you with a lot of satisfaction. Some of these missions even offer unique level design and gameplay, which shines out the best of Dishonored 2. In one particular mission, I was faced with a locked door, for which I required a certain combination.
The choice offered to me was to either help capture a particular NPC to get the code, or to solve it for myself by decrypting a text puzzle. I chose to do the later and even though this took me almost 30 minutes, it left me feeling smart about myself. What’s even more amazing is that the puzzle changes every time you play a new game, so you really can’t look it up on the web and find it solved for you. In another mission, you are asked to manipulate time, by travelling between the present and the past and navigate through a Manor to achieve your objective. Each time you travel through time, the entire scenario changes. What maybe an empty room in the present becomes a room full of guards in the past. This kind of time manipulation in a game has never been seen before, and by the time I was done with the mission, I was quite convinced that not only was it the best one of the Dishonored franchise, but also the best mission I’d ever seen in a stealth action game to date.
Dishonored 2 introduces us to a new type of enemy called Clockwork Soldiers, machines that inhibit human behavior. Apart from the standard enemy types like soldiers, dogs and witches, which were present in the prequel, it was quite interesting and refreshing to tackle these Clockwork Soldiers. The downside, however, is that they feel quite underutilized and maybe Arkane Studios could have found ways to implement them more throughout the game, as beating them in combat or going past them in stealth can be quite a fun challenge. Dishonored 2 challenges players in each mission to neutralize an enemy target without killing them, which while may have been a tactic carried forward from the previous game, feels very different and more even challenging from its predecessor. Figuring out each enemy’s weakness to shut them down without having to kill them, becomes like a rubik’s cube puzzle which by no means is easy to solve, especially when it comes to the final mission. It can get frustrating, and can force you to reload to the last checkpoint multiple times, but when achieved, feels extremely satisfying.
The amazing world of Dishonored 2, its level design, the NPCs all get supported with jaw-dropping graphics the game presents. Running the game on ultra settings on a high end PC, I was absolutely baffled by how good the game looked. The environments in particular are very well detailed and completely immerse you in the game. I found myself just lost in the city of Karnaca way too often, looking at things through my spyglass to zoom in and admire the level of detail the developers had put into the game. Technically, the game runs smooth for most parts, but has some severe frame rate drops when looking at a street of Karnaca which is full of NPCs. While these frame drops went as low as 30 fps, they weren’t that frequent to break my immersion from the game. There are reports on the web, however, that the game struggles to perform in such areas on mid-range PCs, but I’m sure Bethesda will patch that problem soon.
While Arkane studios plays it very safe by bringing in familiar combat, level upgrades, powers for Corvo, and a story that once again is nothing but a revenge plot, it also brings in some new key elements to the game like Emily’s powers, crafting bone charms that provide small gameplay changes, and a completely fresh take on level design that delivers a very unique experience never seen before in a video game. When all these things come together with graphics that look mesmerizing, Dishonored 2 feels like the perfect sequel, one that you’d want to play again and again, just to experience everything that game’s got to offer. It’s the huge variety of carefully layered options the game presents that makes Dishonored 2 such a brilliant and satisfying game, proving that this is one franchise that should continue to exist for a long time to come.
Amazing and detailed visuals
Brilliant level design
Huge variety of gameplay options
Interesting NPCs supported by good voice acting
Emily Kaldwin’s Powers
Karnaca feels alive all the time
Severe but few frame rate drops
Underutilization of Clockwork Soldiers
- Arkane Studios