Dishonored is one of my all-time favourite games. It offers an exemplary first-person stealth experience for those who prefer slower, methodical gameplay; and a fast-paced, all-out guns-blazing experience for people who could care less for stealth. Great gameplay, accompanied with an engrossing story, made Dishonored a true classic. Now, the original masterpiece has a sequel in Dishonored 2… and it is exactly what I hoped it would be!
Going into Dishonored 2 is an immediate treat. Right from the get-go, it puts you in the shoes of Empress Emily Kaldwin. She is a young ruler trained only by the best: her father, and Royal Protector to the Throne, Corvo Attano. Those who have played Dishonored will immediately recognise both of those names.
The Curious case of Emily and Corvo
Where Dishonored put you squarely in the shoes of a man, wrongly accused of killing his Empress, the sequel has you running away and into temporary exile as either Emily or Corvo – the choice is yours. The choice of playing as either Emily or Corvo can only be made once, so players are advised do think about the choice and then select it carefully! The character that you choose will be the only one you get to play as until the end of the game. As with most games, Dishonored 2 has a tutorial mission to remind veteran players of the controls and to introduce them to new players. Having played the original game more than a couple of years ago, I decided to play the tutorial before starting the main game. The tutorial sees gamers take control of Emily, and it was such a strange feeling versus what I could remember playing as Corvo!
The thing is, had there been no voices overs for the protagonists, I would never have known the difference. However, you know you are playing as Emily in the tutorial because right as you start moving, she speaks. Now, I am not one to mind giving previously mute characters voices, but my point stands.
With this in mind, I chose to continue Corvo’s story in Dishonored 2. I did this because I identified with him in the first game and really felt like I was living in his shoes. Going into the sequel, I wanted to experience more of Corvo’s story. Sure, it may have been the boring option, but it is the option I chose. In my 17 hours of playing the game, however, the only reason I knew that I was playing Corvo is thanks to his voice and set of powers.
The supernatural powers bestowed upon Corvo came from an omnipresent entity known as The Outsider. This mysterious, dark figure sees Corvo in a strange light — like a puppet that he bends to act out his own will. The Outsider is a supernatural being that rules the realm beyond death, the Void. It is essentially a parallel universe that exists along the reality of Dishonored 2. Where Dishonored had the Outsider visit you at seldom intervals, and only if certain criteria were met, the Outsider of Dishonored 2 is a bigger part of the narrative. I speak more of that below.
Playing through Dishonored 2 as Corvo was a treat. Not only did I get to reprise the role of the Royal Protector, but I also had a chance to play around with his signature skill again: Blink. Of course, as soon as I finished the game with Corvo, I played a bit as Emily as well — I was genuinely bummed that so much of the game felt exactly the same! If it were not for the powers I used, and the constant vocal reminder that I was playing Emily, I would have no idea that the characters were different. In fact, Emily and Corvo both made exactly the same remarks; spoke exactly the same lines of dialogue; even said it in the same tones of voice! Here and there, however, I noticed that Emily had slightly different dialogue.
This was most prominent when I managed to get to paintings (collectable items of value within the explorable zones), and the character would comment on the subject of it. For instance, whereas Corvo would comment about a character he met from the previous game, Emily would merely say that the name sounded familiar. Similarly, the cutscenes that play in-between missions are also different. Emily and Corvo had their own views on the various enemies that they had, and in my few hours playing as Emily, I was pleased to watch these scenes with different eyes.
Leading up to release, the game was also touted for having an ‘infinite replay’ value whereby no playthrough would be the same. The similarities between the characters mentioned above aside, this still remained true. There are so many different ways that missions can be completed, keeping the game fresh and exciting on multiple play-throughs.
TLDR; Dishonored 2 takes everything Corvo had in the first game, enhances it, and gives it to two protagonists. Players can choose to play as either Emily or Corvo. The overall feel of the game and playing as these characters stays largely the same. However, there are slight nuances and changes that make enough differences to keep gamers engaged for a second play-through. The added voices for the chosen character is also a nice addition, but also only one of two ways to tell that you are playing a different character.
There’s a patch of old void in a corner… exploring the narrative of Dishonored 2
One of my many playthroughs of the first game consisted of only using the most basic version of Blink. This, called a “no powers” play, is a true test for all Dishonored players. It opened up a brand new realm of possibilities that I had no idea even existed, using all the Outsider powers. This option returns once more in Dishonored 2 — only, this time the player can actively choose to play through the game this way. Upon meeting with the Outsider again, he offers you a choice to accept his powers once more or to play through the game without it. It goes without saying that this makes the game a lot more fun than you might think… but I digress.
The reason I mention a “no powers” playthrough is because it pertains so much to the fact that you can play through the entire game, exactly as you wish. You enter each zone with the intent to eliminate a target, but how you do it is up to you. Want to stick your sword in their throats? Go ahead. Want to find another way, and remove them from the world non-lethally? With a bit of effort, you totally can! Even if you would rather opt to just stick a very sharp blade through their eyes, merely exploring the world is a treat. Karnaca is a vibrant hub filled with various locales that all have their own little quirks. After every mission, you go back to the Dreadful Wale, a headquarters of sorts for your chosen assassin and their posse.
Now, to get back to the Outsider: Dishonored portrayed the Outsider as a mysterious figure with ulterior motives, most of which are never made clear. This created an air of mystery and slight paranoia around his character. As a player, you never knew if you could really trust the guy that gave you those magnificent powers. Dishonored 2, however, portrays the Outsider as a much more straight forward being. He might still be a powerful and omnipotent, but he is also a character that has a clear goal: ending Delilah. It is clear from the start that Delilah is an evil person that has powers equal to that of the Outsider. As such, The Outsider bestows his abilities onto you once more, so that you can end her once and for all.
Sadly, The Outsider is a lot more shallow in the sequel, and so are many of the other characters in Dishonored 2. About a quarter way through the game, you once again meet up with the grand inventor himself, Anton Sokolov. Although he has a lot more character than the Sokolov from the first game, I went into it expecting a lot more.
This is by no means a bad thing. Rather, what Arkane Studios did was create a world filled with clear-cut characters. Characters that you know to either trust or distrust right from the start. They then filled the world with intricate little things that tell you more about the characters.
By exploring, you can find out just about every single thing you want to know about every one of your targets. You should not expect, however, that these characters will change as the game continues. This is a lot more “real”, and I felt in no way that this was a bad choice from a gameplay perspective. Instead of focusing on character development, something the first game had plenty of, Dishonored 2 rather focuses on fleshing out the characters as they are. This results in an Outsider that feels a bit more shallow but has a lot more heart. Similarly, it results in a much clearer, and more understandable cast of characters, whether good or bad.
TLDR; The game introduces clear-cut characters that can either be trusted, or not, right from the start. Characters do, however, have a heck of a lot more meat to add to their beings by means of exploration. This creates incentive to explore an otherwise amazing world — various locales each of their own nuances that make you either love or hate it. No two missions are the same, and that is where the game’s strength lies. Go through the game the way you want to, and never look back.
An aesthetically pleasing game… The colours and textures in Dishonored 2
I mentioned before that the game is nice to look at. Whereas Dunwall from the first game had a decidedly grey palate, with neutral colours prevailing throughout the entire game; Karnaca is the opposite. Instead of the bland walls dotted across most zones, we now have sand, and sandstone yellows all over. This goes perfectly with various cloths draped along many of the walls; flags and banners hanging from tower tops; and various building interiors that inhabit the open world.
The thing is, it never gets old! One of my biggest gripes about the first game is that all locales ended up looking the same. Not only that, but the game ends up taking you to the same places more than once. This can get tiring on the eyes, and can induce rushing through, even if the maps are filled with new enemies and treasures to find. In Dishonored 2, this is not the case at all. Every locale, even the ones that you get sent to more than once, are entirely different. From the incredibly awesome Dust District to the vibrant colours of the Duke’s Palace, you hardly ever feel like you get to see the same things twice.
Similarly, the two times that you do get to explore Dunwall is at both the start and end of the game. Thing is, each time does not even look the same – save for the actual layout of the city!
Just like every locale is different, it is clear that Dishonored 2 has upped its number of graphical assets considerably. Things that should look the same (such as walls) look slightly different when long stretches are considered. This is likely due to an increase in texture maps for all items. Thanks to this, it was a visual treat to infiltrate the Duke’s Grand Palace and experiment with ways to get inside. I ended up going in through the roof (and getting a sweet achievement in the process).
Continuing on with the fact that everything looks better, note that even the animations have significantly improved. In the first game, all characters ended up walking and behaving the same way.
In Dishonored 2, however, different characters have distinctly different behaviours. Normal foot soldiers and grunts, for instance, have different ways of walking depending on their factions. Moreover, when a guard used to spot you even slightly, they ran over without looking left or right. In Dishonored 2, this was reworked completely. Instead, guards will slowly make their way towards the location they think they might have seen something. They will methodically make sure to check their surroundings as they make their way across, and only then decide if the walk is worth their effort or not. Depending on how filled the red bar was, they might even stay at their original location.
TLDR; Dishonored 2 is a real sight for sore eyes. It looks amazing and plays even better. The various missions take you to various locales, all with their own incredible aesthetics. All character models and behaviour have been enhanced and reworked to be more varied and real when compared to the original game.
Now close the game and hush all the feels… Conclusions and realisations
With two very unique sets of skills, to the extremely varied locales that keep things fresh and new for every minute of playtime, Dishonored 2 offers a lot. It gives off a world that is worthy of exploring and one that is both grim and beautiful, in all senses of those words.
The differences between Corvo and Emily are few in practice. This is due to both characters playing exactly the same before their supernatural abilities come into play. One would think that Emily, at least, is a lot more nimble than her bigger, older, and much stronger father. That is not the case. Instead, what sets the two apart is the clear difference in powers. The game cleverly reminds you, every now and then, who you are playing as thanks to vocal queues, and all cutscenes are different between the two characters. Even if most dialogue ends up being the same, there is still enough of a difference between the two to warrant that additional full play-through of the game. Even better, each play through will feel different because of the sandbox nature of the game – keeping things fresh.
Personally, for me, Dishonored 2 was an amazing trip back into the world of Dishonored. Every character had their own little nuances that made you either love or hate them. Similarly, the world around them contains small tidbits that help flesh out their characters accordingly.
I spent roughly 18 hours, split over 10 hours of story completion with Corvo; around 5 hours of exploration, and 3 hours of Emily so far. Of those 18 hours, I would not take a single second back. Instead, I am looking forward to completing the game a few more times in the coming months.
|Time Played||10 hours|
|Acquisition||Review copy courtesy of Ster-Kinekor Entertainment|