Developed by Arkane Studios
Published by Bethesda Softworks
Reviewed on the PS4
The misadventures of Corvo Attano and Emily Kaldwin were, in my eyes, perfectly encapsulated in the first entry in the now newly titled Dishonored franchise. Dishonored took the weaker aspects of the newly rebooted Deus Ex franchise, at the time Human Revolution, and placed into a refreshing and unique palette that both enthralled and terrified me. A world whose only reliable energy source comes from the blubber of whales. It’s fascinating and enriching to unravel the onionlike quality of the world through the lens of a tightly woven stealth game. The first Dishonored was like lightning in a bottle, was Dishonored 2 able to successfully integrate all the aspects that made Dishonored so unique and still improve upon them to make the game feel like a true sequel to, what I would consider, one of the most outstanding stealth games of the decade?
When it comes to what made Dishonored so successful, I’d have to start with the fact that the game created a compelling, elaborate, and dynamic world to explore. A world that reacted to your actions and allowed you to sit and ruminate hefty decision before executing them. Dishonored 2 carries forth the series’ obsession with the minutia. Small clues and details on the state of the world are scattered throughout the game world. While they provide very little in terms of advancing the plot, they are excellent at presenting the world of Karnaca as a living, breathing locale. I will also add that this change of scenery from Dunwall to Karnaca is refreshing even with the fact that the same tonal drabness is consistent. The plot in itself is straight forward and generally unexciting when taken at face value yet it is its implicit morality and choice system that makes the narrative feel as if you have control.
Within the opening moments of the game, the sister of the now long dead Queen has staged a coup and presented the player with the first pivotal decision of the game: who will I play? For anyone that hasn’t seen the extensive marketing campaigns for Dishonored 2 the playable character decision was the point that Arkane liked to harp upon the loudest and most frequently. My playthrough was done as Corvo as I felt he had more stories to tell after his adventure in Dishonored. He was also an interesting and complex enough character that I felt compelled to listen to his dialogue, read his extensive notes, and generally enjoy crawling around in the headspace of the Royal Protector. My biggest gripe against the game’s narrative is the lack of interesting villains, specifically Jessamine, who is about as interesting as a wet rag. She provides nothing of substance to the story and brings down the quality of a middling story to begin with. The villains who assist Jessamine in rising to power are each unique and interesting in their own way that they make up for Jessamine’s fault. The supporting characters of Anton Sokolov and Meagan are each cool and inspired although slightly generic. And, a particular twist involving Meagan falls so horribly flat that you can’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness and melodrama of the situation.
I’ll definitely be going back in for a second playthrough as Emily, which I feel speaks volumes on the overall quality and consistency of the product. No one playthrough will feel the same depending on the choices you’ve made. I played through as a Ghost, killing only when necessary and usually clinging to the cold embrace of the silky shadows, lying in wait for the perfect opportunity to quickly and quietly dispatch of the target before anyone realizes they’re gone. Almost every playstyle is accounted for with regards to the plot. If you’d prefer to play Dishonored 2 as an action-adventure hack and slash (however silly that may be) there are definite opportunities for you to do so. If you prefer sticking to the shadows then that playstyle is also accounted for.
The powers in Dishonored have always been fascinating little trickery’s. In almost every aspect they are identical to powers that can be found in other high-profile stealth games. What makes them different, and in turn better, is Arkane’s ability to seamlessly weave their existence into the universe without making it feel ham-fisted or foolish. Everything has a place and was placed where it was for a reason. The Dishonored series has achieved a particular status within the annals of gaming history that allows it to, in my eyes, stand toe-to-toe with giants like Deus Ex and Hitman.
This version of Dishonored 2 was played on PC after the release of Patch 1.3 which added sweeping changes and bug fixes, essentially making the game playable. I did encounter a few stutters and frame drops on occasion, especially around the more complexly designed maze like levels, yet those issues were few and far between.
Dishonored 2 has allotted itself as the premier stealth game of the year. It hits all the right marks when it comes to story, gameplay, and world-building in such a stupendous fashion that I can’t help but feel giddy when discussing it. As a gamer who absolutely loves deep, richly-crafted worlds and environments the very idea of Dishonored 2 gets me excited. Also, it only helps that Dishonored 2 is one of the most beautiful and stylistically intricate games of the year. If there is a stealth game, or game for that matter, that you absolutely must buy this year then I can’t recommend Dishonored 2 enough.