The original Dishonored was a bold step forward for Arkane Studios and Bethesda, with the introduction of a new franchise that offered a bevy of options to the player. Do we go through and kill everyone to prove that you're not a murderer? (Yes, that sentence makes no sense.) Or do we sneak around in the name of justice? Whatever the case, the game was a wide-open playground for those seeking a little something different from the steampunk style of adventure.
And I'm happy to report that the sequel follows suit, even if the blueprint stays on the narrow path of "hey, let's get revenge against X person." Dishonored 2 takes place 15 years after the events of the original game, with young Emily Kaldwin, with her father (and main Dishonored hero) Corvo Attano at her side, set to take her place on the throne, like her mother before her.
But hold the phone – a nasty force emerges and soon engages in a military coup, freezing up one of the heroes and forcing the other to go on the bloody path of revenge. Here's where Dishonored 2 differs from the original game, as you can choose from either Emily or Corvo, both of which are very capable at delivering a timely blow to this powerful new villain.
Like the first game, Dishonored 2 lets you earn a number of your powers over the course of the game, and isn't always perfect when it comes to avoiding detection, as sometimes the enemy has this great ability of seeing through walls (but not often enough to really annoy). But once the game really opens up and gives you access to a number of abilities (such as taking down someone from above or teleporting to another spot to avoid being seen), you'll see the true scope of the gameplay open up.
Again, like the original, you can play any way you see fit, so if you want to be all stealth-like, these abilities are truly helpful in that regard. Likewise, if you're up for a little swordplay and spilling blood for the sake of regaining your country, you can do that as well, and the gameplay also works well here, too. Being able to fend off enemy attacks and deliver the finishing touch to each one is nice, though, yeah, you're in for a hell of an ambush if you end up being surrounded. (A good time to make a getaway, if you ask me.)
What's great about the way Dishonored 2's gameplay evolves is with the choices you make, as you can select upgrades that take effect almost immediately over the course of your journey. Some abilities work better than others – nothing seems to beat rat summoning – but it's up to you how you want to progress. And some of these abilities are simply fantastic, like the shadow walk, making it ideal to get past heavy patrols when your neck is on the line. (And it usually is.)
The game gets real creative later on, as you can chain together abilities and really put the hurt on foes, and even do fantastic things like throw a target over a ledge, teleport to the ground, and then safely capture them before they're dead. For that matter, you can take out whole squads with timely attacks, once you master abilities, and watch everyone fall at your feet. It's really something.
On top of that, bone charm customization and the ability to play through the game with no powers (the equivalent of a more challenging mode until New Game + eventually arrives next month) really add some replay value to Dishonored 2, and learning new abilities each time around makes each time you play a little different. Sure, the basics are there, but learning these new techniques could help you master a new degree of the game that you didn't see beforehand. It's really something.
Dishonored 2 probably won't be for everyone, as it can be quite foreboding to those who lacked the genuine skills to get through the first game. Even on the easiest setting, you may find yourself surrounded by enemy guards sooner than expected. But with a little practice, you're likely to get the hang of it. Be sure to experiment a bit, too. If the direct approach doesn't work, you have plenty of room to sneak around until you're prepared.
The game's honor system really plays a part in Dishonored 2 as well, just as it did for the first game. Sure, you could spill a lot of blood, but you'll see it take effect with morale towards the game's ending. However, don't let that stop you from having a good time – play your way and see how things unfold. You'll still like the adventure.
Aside from strong gameplay, Dishonored 2 also has a remarkable presentation. While the graphics aren't always perfect (some guards fall to the ground in a hilariously deformed manner), the city of Kanaca looks stunning, packing even more detail than what the original game provided. The animations are pretty sharp as well, and little things – like a steam ship in the distance or little rats scurrying about – really add to the overall ambience. This game is definitely a good looking title, and we have a feeling it's only going to get better as Bethesda continues to make improvements.
The audio is great as well, as the voice actors involved with the production really get the heft of the story and deliver on all fronts. I enjoyed some of the ambient sound effects as well, and the little music cues.
While not all players are easily going to embrace Dishonored 2's world – mainly due to difficulty and a story that isn't quite as smoothly laid out as the first – many will find joy from what Arkane Studios has done with the franchise. There's a much bigger place to explore here, and a lot more options available as you proceed into it. The gameplay really opens up over time, based on the decisions you make; and the fantastic results that come from a well-coordinated attack can't be beat. Corvo and Emily have returned to steal our hearts once more, and fans are sure to love it.
RATING: Four out of five stars.
(Disclosure: A copy of the game was provided by Bethesda for review purposes.)