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Game Review: Dishonored 2
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Dishonored 2

Dishonored 2
Xbox One l PS4 l PC
DEVELOPER: Arkane Studios
PUBLISHER: Bethesda Softworks
RELEASE DATE: November 11, 2016

The sequel to 2012’s Dishonored arrived last week and I, quite excitedly, got to check it out and am here to share some thoughts for those on the fence about buying it.

In Dishonored 2, once again developed by Arkane Studios, you’re able to choose between playing as Corvo Attano, who everyone who played the first game played as; and young Empress Emily Kaldwin, who was a child caught in the middle of a nasty situation during the events of the original. It also takes you away from the city of Dunwall and into the coastal city of Karnaca, the capital of Serkonos known as “The Jewel of the South at the Edge of the World.”

The story picks up 15 years after the events of the first game, and Emily Kaldwin is now older and trying her best to be a good empress while still being young and wanting to escape the inescapable pressure that comes with her position. But she does have her father Corvo by her side, and he’s been training her to better protect herself so that she doesn’t meet the same fate her mother did.

Then everything changes when someone named Delilah shows up claiming to be the older half-sister of Emily’s mother, which would make her the rightful heir to the Dunwall throne. With the help of the Duke of Serkonos, Luca Abele, and some of the inventor Kirin Jindosh’s Clockwork Soldiers, Delilah quickly takes control. And no one really complains, because a serial killer known as the “Crown Killer” has been taking out those who oppose Emily Kaldwin, leading many to assume that she or someone close to her is involved in the murders.

This all leads you to escape Dunwall as quickly as possible with the help of Meagan Foster, who was sent there by old friend Anton Sokolov to warn you, on her ship the Dreadful Whale, and head off to Karnaca in search of answers to the many questions that have quickly piled up.

If you don’t have the patience to read a full review, I’ll save you a little time: I could not be much happier with how Dishonored 2 turned out. Simply put, I was a huge fan of the original and this is a great sequel. I love a game which lets you play how you want to play—whether it be loud and violent or silent and unseen—and not many do that better than Dishonored.

My first big question heading in, knowing that you could play as either Emily or Corvo, was how the character you don’t play as would be involved, if at all. I won’t spoil it, but thankfully the character isn’t just left out of the story completely. They do have a way to cover who you don’t play as.

Personally, I was always planning on playing as Corvo, because, well…that’s my guy! We’ve been through so much together. But the more and more we saw of the game, and especially of Emily’s much different (and bad ass) set of supernatural abilities, the more I leaned toward playing as her. A couple of trailers and the game’s tutorial—which is optional but is worth playing and adds more to the father/daughter relationship between Corvo and Emily—made it pretty clear: this was Emily’s story. So that is who I ultimately played as.

And while I’m happy with that decision, I’m also looking forward to giving Dishonored 2 another go as Corvo. The game will still be pretty much the same, but there’s a lot of little things I expect will be different, such as audiographs (basically voice messages left by various characters). Plus, this time around your character reacts with spoken dialogue to a lot of things you see and find in the game, so those will change playing as the character you didn’t play as the first time.

That’s not to mention all the options. Oh, the options! It’s overwhelming sometimes how many ways it feels like you can approach every little thing you do. Each area you visit is its own mini open world map, and you can travel many different paths to get to your objectives, with plenty to see no matter where you go. The city is alive, and there’s almost always something going on or conversations being had—some leading you to other things to find while exploring (of which there are lots). And that’s just getting to those objectives; there’s also multiple ways to complete the objectives depending on how you choose to play. Instead of worrying about the best possible path, I like just kind of going with where the game takes me, dealing with each little situation as it arises, carving my path. Then I can later explore all the different ways I could have gone. Again, it can be overwhelming! But in a very good way.

In addition to the audiographs mentioned above, there’s also a ton of notes, book excerpts, and more to find which add a great deal to not only the overall story, but also the small stories you’ll uncover in each area. It’s a lot of reading, which might be a turn off to some, but I can appreciate lots of extra lore adding layers to the game worlds I’m hanging out in.

While Dishonored 2 is a different story set mostly in a different location, there’s some elements that mirror the first game. One such things is infestation. In the first game the city of Dunwall is dealing with a major rat plague, which can get much worse the more you kill. The rats were certainly an unsettling obstacle to work around, but in Karnaca they’re dealing with a bloodfly infestation, which can also get worse the more you kill. They’re not too much of a problem to deal with, but there is something intimidating about coming around a corner to see a swarm of them angrily buzzing around their giant red nests because you’re too close. You also won’t soon forget what they do to human bodies, much like with the rats, which is sure to cause a nightmare or two.

I also need to praise the voice cast Arkane put together. It features bigger names such as Daredevil co-stars Rosario Dawson as Meagan Foster and Vincent D’Onofrio as Duke Abele, Sam Rockwell (Moon) as Mortimer Ramsey, Robin Lord Taylor (Gotham) as The Outsider, and Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones) as Paolo.

The two leads aren’t voiced by big names, but if you play a lot of games there’s a good chance you’ve heard them before. Emily is voiced by Erica Luttrell, who has voiced Darla, Fahrenheit, and Kendra in Fallout 4 and Keili, Nerav Helmi, and Valena in Dragon Age: Origins, among others. Corvo voice actor Stephen Russell will really blow your mind if you’re not already familiar with him. He was Garrett in the first three Thief games; Andy, Mister Buckingham, and Harold in Fallout 3; Mercer Frey, Clavicus Vile, Barbas, and about 30 other voices in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim; and Nick Valentine, Codsworth, and about 30 other voices in Fallout 4.

As far as complaints go, I do not have many. It could be just me, but I feel like enemies are sometimes being alerted for no reason. This could be a huge problem for those who want to play as a pure ghost, never spotted by anyone. In one particular level, I had a dog appear to detect me despite being behind a solid wall. And in another area of that same level, I walked into a large upper room to hear a commotion below, which resulted in multiple alarmed symbols appearing above hostile heads despite my having been nowhere near whatever happened. As it turned out, a pair of guards had somehow lit themselves on fire, which made things quite tricky for me.

Without doing anything at all, these guards were dead, and the living guards nearby kept re-finding their bodies and going into alert mode and looking for little old confused me, watching on from above. I thank Arkane for allowing us to save whenever we want, because I required many attempts to figure out how to clear this obstacle. For those curious I was able to use my Domino ability to link three of the guards to each other, and then hit one with a sleeping dart when all were out of sight of others nearby, sending all of them to dreamy time and allowing me to move them to a quiet location for a well-deserved nap. You can play the game however you like, and I prefer to be as unseen as possible. I lean toward the low chaos, stealthy approach, with as little death as possible. Though if a character clearly deserves my blade, they shall have it.

Part of me also wishes the game could read save files, similar to what the Mass Effect games did. There’s some…canonical complications, if you will. Your Dishonored game could have played out a variety of different ways, and it would have been nice to feel those decisions you made have an impact on the story of Dishonored 2. I heard an Overseer talking about a High Overseer who was marked with the Heretic’s Brand. This was a quest in the first game and I, despite leaning toward the stealthy and non-lethal, definitely took that target down permanently. So it was a bit awkward to hear people talking about him being branded instead of him being deceased. That said, I get that it would have taken a crazy amount of work to have it all adjust depending on how the first game was played. I mean, major characters can die in the first game. The sequel wouldn’t even function for people whose first game had certain outcomes. But for the smaller characters like the above mentioned High Overseer, I definitely would have liked it to fit how the story was unfolding for me personally.

Other than that Dishonored 2, for me, is pretty much the perfect sequel. It keeps a lot of what made the original great, but also improves upon some things. The big stars of an all-around great effort are those who worked on the art and level design. It’s truly a beautiful achievement in gamemaking, and I constantly found myself being distracted by the world they crafted.

Dishonored was a great first game in a new IP. Dishonored 2 is an equally great—if not better—sequel which solidifies the property as a franchise with a bright future, if Arkane and Bethesda Softworks wish to keep it going.

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