Published on December 15th, 2016 | by Peter Freeman0
Dishonored 2 Review
Summary: Overall Dishonored 2 is a disappointing follow up to a game that attempted to break genre convention.
Dishonored 2 is the sequel to the Dishonored, a game that brought about a fun new age of stealth gaming. Combined with your strange powers, you were able to decide the fate of Dunwall and save the Empress. Dishonored 2 aims to accomplish the same kind of power fantasy. This time, allowing you to take control of either original game protagonist Corvo Attano (now voiced, by the way), or his daughter, Empress Emily Kaldwin.
Both have varying styles of play. Emily is more stealthy, good for a low chaos approach (chaos level being a measurement of how many people you have or haven’t killed. There are different endings depending on if you have low or high chaos by the end of the game). While Corvo has more combat focused powers, allowing for a more brutal approach to things. That said, either can be stealthy or combative with enough thought. The difference between the two is decent, but I wouldn’t say that there are two entirely different experiences waiting to be played.
While the setup for this game isn’t the exact same as the first – no assassinations or anything – the general structure is the same. Fifteen years later, Emily Kaldwin and Corvo (her father) are honoring the anniversary of her mother’s death. In the middle of the ceremony, a long lost aunt shows up and claims the throne for herself.
Like the original game, the goal is to find several targets that support your enemy and take them out. You can do this the simple way: killing them, or you can be more creative and find a non-lethal way of removing them from the picture. In traditional Dishonored style, the non-lethal options aren’t always the more merciful ones. But they are usually the more exciting ones, as the game clearly wants to you spend more time being calculated and precise.
The game is spread out over nine missions. Throughout which you’ll maneuver through the southern city of Karnaca. The Empress Emily is no friend of the people in the south, and her ruminations of how good a ruler she’d been are part of the more interesting aspects of the story. The issue is that the story is a bunch of loose strands that act as excuses for these missions to exist. There are hints of something great. Was Emily a bad ruler? Is Delilah truly her aunt, treated poorly by her mother’s family? Why does the Outsider keep sticking his nose in their lives?
All interesting questions that are posed by the game, but never answered. Even potentially interesting side characters like Meagan Foster are left alone for most of the game, only to have a story revelation forced upon them before the final mission. None of it really matters, and that’s unfortunate because Dishonored 2 tries. It tries hard, in fact. But it misses the landing on more than one occasion.
Now, you might be saying that the story doesn’t matter, and that what does matter are your powers, the non-lethal takedowns, and the fun of the gameplay. To that I would say, you’re partially right. The powers are fun. Emily’s Far Reach and Shadow Walk are useful throughout the game. The same cannot be said for any of the other powers. Even the famed Domino power is fairly useless – in fact I couldn’t even get it to work properly in my playthrough.
The reason this might be is because you can outright refuse the Outsider’s power. That includes blink/far reach, which you would have kept in the original game. Due to this, all the levels can be completed without the use of your powers and the game had to be designed around this approach as well. Sure, the powers make them more fun, but they also make them easier. I died very little throughout the game, once was during a cutscene too, which was fun.
Even the most “exciting” level in the game strips you of your powers, instead giving you a different ability all together. You’ll be hearing a lot about this level, because it’s the one that stands out the most. But the fact that it was so good without the main crux of the gameplay, speaks volumes as to how useful that stuff ultimately is.
There are moments where Dishonored 2 shines. The clockwork mansion is one of the best missions in the game and presented me with easily my favorite moment in the game. I was going through the game non-lethally and had accidentally gotten scene by a guard and a mechanical clockwork soldier. The clockwork soldiers have large swords, which they swing violently around when they attack you. Thing is, if anyone dies in the game, by your fault or another’s, it still counts against you. So here I am, fending off a robot with giant swords, and a mansion guard, while trying to protect myself and the guard from getting killed. It was only a minute-long fight, but it was thrilling, especially since I succeeded.
There were other fun moments along the way, like far reaching into an enemy and knocking him out in one fell swoop. Dishonored 2’s toolset is great for creating your own little stories. I just wish there was a bit more glue to hold it all together. By the end of my nine hour with the game, I felt more than done with Dishonored 2.
If you have a couple of days to kill, Dishonored 2 is a good distraction before diving into other games. If nothing else, it will serve as a good rental.
Note: The review is based on the performance of the PlayStation 4 version, after the 1.1 update.