Corvo returns, and his daughter Emily is now all grown up and in line for the throne. With her body-guard father beside her, what could possibly go wrong?
For anyone who missed the original game, Dishonored was a smash hit, offering plenty of freedom along a fairly linear path. It immediately became its own rare breed where gamers are given choices without forcing them to travel a gigantic open world in search of the next task.
I was a big fan of the original, and while some progress felt a little scripted and many decisions where effectively made for you (limiting the need for choice); it was still an amazing game which caught much of the industry off guard, in a world of major hype and yearly franchises.
In the original, Corvo returned home to tend to a rat problem. However after a brief meeting with his daughter, he was soon framed for the murder of her mother, the Empress. Roll forward 15 years, and that little girl is now a young woman, and Emily has enlisted the help of her father Corvo as her body guard. While attending a memorial for her mother, Emily is interrupted by her aunt Delilah who swiftly snatches the throne and drains Corvo’s power. The cut-scene stops, and you get to choose who you’ll play as: the experienced assassin or his daughter Emily.
In a story not too dissimilar to the first game, your job is to catch up with the power-hungry antagonist and clear your name; but it’s obviously not quite that easy. The rats aren’t such a problem, but after escaping Dunwall, you’re taken to a new city, Karnaca, where Delilah began her rise to power. Rats aren’t so much of a problem here, but there’s a familiar feel to the bloodfly infestation. Karnaca is a vast, varied and beautiful city, which continues the trend of walls of light that still prove an adequate pointer when searching for an alternate route.
Similarities continue especially on Corvo’s storyline, partly due to the vast majority of abilities making a return. For this reason I went with Emily on my first play-through, as her skill set certainly sounded like a preference towards stealth. Sure enough, quickly jumping short distances with far reach is a good start and an effective way of evading combat. But you soon learn that only the very best will stay in the shadows long.
Just about every situation once again has plenty of choices for how you approach it. In the first game this would usually be pretty straight forward, but with Dishonored 2, the easier alternate path isn’t always obvious; and when you do come across it, you’ll often find there’s another handful of ways to get past the current obstacle. They’re not all that easy either.
Sometimes dying multiple times is a clear sign that you should try another approach, and I lost count how many times I found a much easier route that hadn’t even crossed my mind the first time around. Dishonored 2 doesn’t just promote exploration and thinking outside the box, it also gives a great sense of reward when you slip a group of enemies unnoticed, especially when getting a beat down from them was the only reason your stealth approach was discovered.
It’s difficult to explain the sheer amount of choices you’ll get. With your average goal there’s probably half a dozen routes, and each one of those has a variety of ways you can make the journey.
It’s great to see the variety of choices hasn’t just returned, it’s more diverse than ever. Jumping through an apartment window won’t always be the best way to be stealthy, and likewise, walking straight through the front door doesn’t always mean you’ll end up in a fight with every guard nearby.
Graphically, Dishonored 2 looks nice, very nice to be exact. There’s a great selection of locations, and very little back tracking to be done. Characters are clear and well drawn, although there’s a few faces I wont cry about if I never see again. Overall it’s aesthetically consistent, and whether you’re pulling numerous enemies off a roof, or running away from pursuers leaping from point to point, you’re unlikely to see any slow down or glitches. You will have to endure a few lengthily loading screens between missions, but there’s every chance you’ll be working your way through that mission for close to an hour, so the occasional loading delay really isn’t a problem.
There’s an impressive level of voice acting both from the main characters as well as the guards, as they wander around minding their business. You will find they’re a little more apt at spotting something fishy, especially on higher difficulties where they seem to have eagle vision. But on the flip side, it seems they’re all on a diet of pies, and won’t be quite as eager to give chase, meaning once you disappear from their line of sight, they’ll stroll over for a look, but soon give up searching.
Various aspects of Dishonored 2 might sound like an easy approach of, ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’, and to some extent that’s right. Arkane clearly didn’t want to stray too far from the path that brought them so much success, but it’s safe to say improvements have been made across the board, and many of those help to stop it feeling like a mere update. Controls are fluent and responsive, Emily brings her own skill set making a second play through a must, and regardless of how much you think a specific character is geared towards as specific approach, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out both are more than capable meaning neither is a poor choice. So when you try stealth and inevitably turn to killing everything in sight, at least you know you’ll be covered.
For longevity the base campaign will last you little over ten hours which isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but you can double that by doing a second play through; and if you start searching for all of the runes and bone charms you can easily add the same again making this great value for money.
Some people may feel that being forced to replay the same story isn’t the best stretch, but the variation between the two characters certainly does ease the burden.