Thinking back on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 generation of consoles and the games that originated there, few games or franchises really stick out in my mind as some of my all-time favorites. The obvious answers like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Assassin’s Creed, etc. will always come up in people’s minds when they ponder the same question. But one little gem of a game stood out to me so much that I still think back on it and remember vividly my time spent with it. I’m talking about the original Dishonored, released back in 2012 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Dishonored really took people on a journey as they followed Corvo Attano’s quest to get revenge on those who assassinated the Empress, Jessamine Kaldwin, Emily’s mother. Throughout the course of the first game, you come to find out that Corvo is actually Emily’s father. Dishonored 2 picks up the story fifteen years after these events, and sucks players right back into this fictional world. Read on for our full review of Dishonored 2.
Title: Dishonored 2
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Arkane Studios
Available On: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
Release Date: November 11, 2016
Copy provided by the Publisher for the sake of this review
Dishonored 2 is an extremely clever title, offering up an insane amount of choice and the freedom to really play however you see fit. Do you want to be a cold blooded assassin, out for revenge against an Empire that has overthrown you? Or a master of stealth, sticking to the shadows, finding alternate paths around every obstacle and for every objective? You can do either of those two things, or a nice combination of both. You can also make it through the entire campaign, killing everyone in sight, or you can spare every single person you come across, effectively staying nonlethal the entire time.
However you choose to play, know that the world and its citizens are going to react to it and the choices that you make. If you go through and create a lot of destruction and chaos, earning you a High Chaos playthrough, people will be afraid of you, and the world will be a much darker place than it could have otherwise been. Going through and remaining undetected, allowing others to live will earn you a Low Chaos playthrough, and this is where people will sing your praise and the entire land will be in a much better state of affairs.
The story that is told throughout the campaign of Dishonored 2 was compelling enough to keep me engaged, never losing interest, as I wanted to see what would happen to this cast of characters next. The game begins with Emily Kaldwin, the young girl from the first Dishonored who watched her mother get assassinated, and her father Corvo Attano, seated at the Throne in Dunwall. Emily has become the new Empress, and the kingdom is doing fairly well. That is, until a long lost relative, Delilah Copperspoon, crashes through the gates and takes the Throne for herself, claiming that it was rightfully hers in the first place as the sister to Jessamine, Emily’s mother.
It’s at this point where you get to decide who you want to play as throughout the campaign. Whomever you choose, the other will get frozen in time as a statue, and rescuing them becomes just as important as retaking back the Empire. The story doesn’t offer up anything truly unique or ground breaking as far as gaming goes, but what it does in terms of gameplay, it does very well. Along the way, you’ll meet an eclectic cast of characters that really help bring this world alive through their individual personalities and different ways of helping Emily or Corvo. Keep in mind that you may not actually get to meet some of them if you kill them during certain parts of the game.
It isn’t very often that I feel compelled to immediately start playing through a game again after the initial playthrough, but that’s exactly what I did here. The way I was playing the game, I had experienced Emily Kaldwin’s revenge scenario, carrying it out exactly as I felt she would have, taking down anyone that stood in her path. Now, after seeing how the world reacted to my decisions and realizing that the ending to the game could have been very different, I wanted to run through as Corvo Attano and be as hidden and stealthy as possible, as that was the way I had made him out to be in the original game.
One of the key elements I wanted to explore with this second playthrough was how you are able to defeat certain bosses throughout the story. Dishonored 2 gives you options when confronting a target that is a key figure in the campaign. You can, of course, go straight for the kill and assassinate them, effectively taking them out. There’s also another choice that the game will lay out in front of you if you want to pursue it, which is the nonlethal route. These are super fun to explore and set up, and allow the player to take out these key figures in unique ways. Some of them are a bit longer to set up than others, but they were so worth it, in my opinion, as it made the levels more fun and challenging at the same time.
Making your way around the nine different stages can be as rewarding as you want it to be. Emily or Corvo can simply walk from one area to another, taking as direct of a route as possible. Or, if you’re trying to remain undetected and a ghost, there are a ton of hidden passageways, alcoves, windows, rat tunnels, and ledges to explore and use at your disposal. One of the great things about Dishonored 2 is that you can literally make it from the beginning of the game to the credits without being detected once. That is an accomplishment I’d like to complete one day. The game itself doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, clocking in at around eleven hours or so for an average playthrough. Depending on how much time you take if you are remaining stealthy, or if you just run in laying waste to whomever you see, you may see your actual playtime slightly different from ours.
The world that Arkane Studios has crafted with Dunwall and Karnaca feels more alive than it ever has before. There is a lot more going on than in the first Dishonored game, which is to be expected. But it is the characters present that truly make this a great story worth experiencing. Emily Kaldwin, Corvo Attano, Delilah Copperspoon, Meagan Foster, Alexandra Hypatia, and Anton Sokolov are all truly compelling and worth getting to know. We spent as much time as we could learning about all of their individual back stories through journals, notes, and by physically speaking with them. Arkane Studios did a fine job creating characters that we truly wanted to learn more about.
There’s plenty to do and see that doesn’t involve sneaking around and potentially killing off others. Pull out the Heart item, and you’ll see a world of collectibles at your fingertips. Runes, Bonecharms, Outsider Shrines… all there for you to explore and have a ball finding. The Runes will allow you to upgrade either Emily or Corvo, learning crucial new abilities that make the game much easier in the later stages. Certain abilities are more designed for a stealthy playthrough, while others would be better suited for a “guns blazing” mentality, so keep that in mind before deciding on where to spend your Runes, since there is a limited amount available to you.
Bonecharms will give you slight advantages here and there, like taking a little less damage from enemies, or having your grenades cause more damage upon explosion. These are by no means as important as the Runes, but they are rather fun to find and can offer some slight gameplay differences from one person to the next. Unlocking the crafting ability with a Rune will eventually allow you to create your own bonecharms, destroying ones you find in order to get the traits off of them, and then creating something entirely new. This is a great way to splice two, three, or even four bonecharms together so you aren’t taking up so many of your slots.
Dishonored 2 is an amazing sequel that fans of the original game should absolutely play, and cements this as a (hopefully) permanent franchise for Bethesda and Arkane Studios. Being able to play a number of different ways, changing the world and story on a whim, and having the ultimate freedom at your fingertips, it’ll keep fans of the series coming back for more for quite some time.