Dishonored 2 was one of E3 2016’s biggest surprises. From the improved graphics to the brand new setting of Karnaca, it already looked great. Imagine the surprise fans got when they learned that Emily Kaldwin would be the new protagonist.
During E3, Arkane Studios’ Harvey Smith revealed the big news. At the start, players will have to make a decision between Corvo and Emily. The focus this time around, however, has been placed on Emily. Over on the official Bethblog, Global Content Lead, Gary Steinman, wrote up quite a lengthy post on the evolution of Emily and Corvo.
Emily was a very popular character of Dishonored, even though she was only seen during the intermediary sections between missions. The first game had a simple “chaos” system that dictated how other characters turned out during the course of the game. For Emily, this meant that anything “morally wrong” or “evil” that Corvo did, would affect Emily’s character in potentially disturbing ways.
“We got contacted by so many players who told us that they literally changed the way they played after they came back from a particularly violent mission and saw that Emily had posted up these disturbed drawings in black crayon”, Smith stated.
As the Empress, Emily has had to adjust to her new lifestyle quite quickly. Corvo, now officially revealed to be her father, acts as both the Royal Protector and Royal Spymaster. Due to the past happenings of the first game, Corvo has trained Emily in case her enemies return.
Just like in the first game, Dishonored 2 started with then-current, now-former, Empress Jessamine Kaldwin. Corvo and Emily play tribute to the former Empress in the opening sequence. It is also during this sequence that players will choose their playable character going forward.
Steinman explains that the team at Arkane obsessed over who Emily would be fifteen years down the line from the first game. They asked questions like how she would rule and how the loss of her mother would affect her later on. Most importantly, how would Emily turn out when raised by the royal protector, Corvo Atano.
The post continues to talk about the big differences between Emily and Corvo. Emily is designed around three core pillars: Dunwall, Empress, Assassin. Throughout the game, those three pillars will shine through her demeanour, her powers and “even her clothes”. The post explains that Emily has the finest tailors and smiths in the Isles. As such, her clothing and weapons will look the part.
Even her powers, which Arkane Studios emphasises are entirely different from Corvo’s, reflect her character. “In a way, you can say the Outsider marks people according to their personalities”, said Dinga Bakaba, Lead Designer on Dishonored 2. He continued, “She’s an Empress. She’s younger. She has a different personality. So her powers reflect that. She has a lot of powers that allow her to subdue the will of others.”
Bakaba also mentioned that players who choose Corvo will not be left in the dark. His powers from the first game will return since that is essentially who he is, but they will be fleshed out. Corvo now has an entire power tree and additional upgrades to his powers. Bakaba also stated that players would probably want to play the game through twice. Emily and Corvo are so different from one another, that it would basically be a brand new game the second time through.
The post also briefly mentions the studio’s decision to give Corvo a voice. “I’m super excited about our choice for Corvo”, Smith said. “We were lucky to get Stephen Russell, who was the voice of Garrett in the first Thief. It’s 15 years later, and he’s going out to protect Emily one more time. Stephen just nailed it”.
The main reason for the voice is to give players a solid reason to play the game twice. In a way, players will be experiencing the new setting along with the characters. For Corvo, it is a return to where he grew up; whereas Emily is new to Karnaca. Players will get to experience the story as well as the setting in entirely different ways.
The post explores the evolution of Emily and Corvo and the decisions that went into creating them. It is a small peak into the world of Arkane Studio’s character design choices.
Dishonored 2 is set for release on 11 November 2016 and will release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.