Played on Windows
Also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Dishonored was an interesting sleeper hit of 2012, it might not be a traditional choice for a sleeper hit but arrived with a little fanfare and left a huge impact on fans, so it’s unsurprising that a sequel was made. Four years later, and we return to Dunwall, but will we enjoy a second trip?
The first game was good, but Dishonored was set in Dunwall, and it’s not exactly a prime tourist destination after the Empress was brutally murdered and her royal protector, Corvo Attano, led a potentially bloody campaign to capture those responsible. It appears the Low Chaos ending of Dishonored is the canonical ending of the first game, but Dunwall still hasn’t recovered.
This time around though we have Corvo and his biological daughter, the new Empress, Emily are in the citadel. Of course, things will quickly turn sour, but let’s take a moment before we get there.
Dishonored 2 looks rather good. If there’s one thing Arkane Studios should be known for is the level design. Every level in Dishonored 2 is interesting, and while colorful might not be the best word for the downtrodden world that the player finds himself in, each level has a lot of character and interesting flow.
The player is often given free rein, and the levels are not only well designed but give minor options to the player. While a player might just explore at the street level, a quick look above or below the street offers almost as many choices. Not only will there be special pathways the player can figure out, but the level almost seems to offer them when the player is looking. A fence might be bent in just the right place. A gap might appear in a facade that the player can target.
Characters look good, but the entire world looks interesting and filled with stuff to see.
This goes beyond simple level design. The game doesn’t require these paths, nor really offer them, but if a player wants to leap from a ledge to another ledge, potentially using an ability, the game seems to offer the most effective way to make that path. It’s not the only way, but at least one that will take minimal effort. I will go much more into this idea in the gameplay as well.
Each level is also filled with content. If a player wishes to scavenge items, Dishonored 2 offers so many options and locations that even people who plumb the depth of most games may find too much here. Almost every room has an interesting purpose. Though the game doesn’t always make it clear what’s valuable, players will be able to find quite a bit to read, interact with, steal, or use in their missions.
Most players will usually only see a few parts of the many paths through the level but the person who wants even more to explore will likely continue to find interesting locations and objects.
The one place that Dishonored 2 does seem to skimp on is the opponents that Corvo or Emily will face. While there are a few new choices here, almost every enemy is familiar to players of the previous game. There’s a new hazard in the bloodflies, and the new clockwork robot does make a rather major appearance in one level. There’s one more group that creates an interesting challenge for the player. The fact is, in most of Dishonored 2 you’re facing the same enemies as you faced in the original Dishonored, and this creates similar challenges to the first game.
Overall though, Dishonored 2 looks amazing and the levels really make it worth playing through the entire game, which is a good reason to continue pushing forward. Which might be necessary due to a bigger flaw.
Dishonored 2 follows a very strong story from the original Dishonored. As mentioned, the Empress was murdered, and Corvo works to uncover those responsible, even finding a large conspiracy and ultimately ending it. It was a solid story and a good experience.
Corvo is back, and both are together at the beginning of the game.
Dishonored 2 seems more comfortable to rest on what has already been developed than to really test the limits of its world-building team. The game starts with a simple tutorial for Emily, teaching the player how to move through the world, and showing that Corvo has spent the 15 years between games in teaching Emily how to defend herself.
The game then shows Emily and Corvo arriving at the throne room and an invited guest shows up with a mysterious woman in tow. It’s a Duke and a woman named Delilah who claims to be the rightful Empress and is there to take it by force. A quick scene plays out and the player is forced to choose between Emily and Corvo as their playable character. The other becomes frozen in stone by Delilah’s power and the player is taken away and left alone in a room for what can only be explained as “gameplay reasons”.
This sets the chosen character on a path of revenge. To be honest, both characters play well from what I’ve seen. I chose Emily but played through three missions with Corvo as well, and both have interesting thoughts and comments as they play. Neither character feels cheated, though I think it’s clear Emily is the expected protagonist, there’s nothing wrong with playing as Corvo, the Royal Protector, again.
I felt like there was something off about Delilah as if I had seen her before, and the fact is I had. If you played both of Dishonored DLC, there are a couple of major links to the story, links that are a little too firm to ignore and feel like the team lacked creativity. Delilah is the boss of the Brigmore Witches expansion in which Daud challenged her and apparently sealed her away. Again that’s the canonical ending but the fact that the major villain of this game was already a villain in the series after only one previous game feels a bit cheap.
What’s worse is that most of the rest of the villains are uninteresting. In the original game, the targets for Corvo are clearly given and they’re major conspirators. Dishonored 2 tries the same thing, but I don’t feel that the conspiracy is as believable. It just feels like the player is chasing down random enemies in different locations.
About halfway through the game, the player finally sees the conspiracy but there’s only really a single scene related to this directly and by that point, the player has already taken down many of the co-conspirators.
Delilah gets a grand entrance but this is one of the only non-interactive cutscenes in the game.
There are a few interesting points where the player does something interesting and eagle-eyed players have noticed an important change to a major character, but the game itself ignores this change, and it makes very little sense as the player’s character would call it out. There’s also a second major connection between the DLC and Dishonored 2, but it doesn’t feel right and just feels like the developers wanted to tightly connect the two games, but doing so didn’t make for a better experience.
The real problem is it feels like Arkane Studios wasn’t sure if Dishonored 2 would be able to stand on its own and needed connections to the original story, such as a major character from the original game returning. The problem is that both Corvo and Emily are the strong connection they are looking for and it feels like the developer ignored them to try to connect the worlds or the environments.
The world itself doesn’t feel very connected as well. The player revisits a major hub world multiple times, and while the world does change a bit, Dishonored 2 does very little with it. In the original Dishonored game, one of the major subquests involved two characters, one an old woman named Granny Rags and a thug named SlackJaw that were set at odds with each other.
The Granny Rags and SlackJaw missions were one of the most impressive parts of Dishonored, and the fact that Dishonored 2 really doesn’t have anything that reaches the heights of the first game is a little disappointing, but sadly much of the game has a similar feeling. Dishonored 2 just doesn’t reach the level of storytelling from the first game.
If Dishonored 2 story is flawed, Dishonored 2 definitely tries to make up for it with strong gameplay that fans have come to expect from the series. Dishonored 2 clearly feels like a step up from the original game, while still being very similar.
The biggest change that I noticed was that most levels in Dishonored 2 are created to have very large open spaces. The first couple of levels focus on a single map, though these maps tend to be far larger than I remember from the original game. There is usually a progression between the different maps, and each location has a large amount to explore as mentioned.
In addition, almost every level is open. This isn’t a true open world game, where the player is able to backtrack as necessary, but there are huge areas to explore and almost any approach is available here. There’s a large amount of loot, portraits, items and locations to find, and mission elements in many places that aren’t required but will assist the player.
Guards are constantly patrolling and it’s up to the player to take them out or avoid them.
As mentioned, the level design is exceptional, and the fact is the levels have good flows, but support level breaking if the player pushes the limits too far. I often would teleport up buildings, and go over them in unexpected ways, and yet the game seems to handle those situations as if they expected the player to do so.
Another time I believe I clearly sequence broke a major part of the game, and yet the game handled it with such grace, I almost felt like it was winking at me as if to tell me it already had found that path. The ability for the game to almost anticipate any path through its levels is an impressive feat given how many possible paths players can come up with.
There’s a number of different approaches that work. Players might have to find a way to another area, but can find a path in the sewers, disabling a grid, or going through a building infested with dangerous bloodfly. The wealth of these choices make for a more interesting game where the player can choose how they want to approach the game.
At the same time, sometimes different methods are harder, which means the player tends to need to guess what the designer was thinking and when the game forgets to give the player different options in how to proceed.
There are a number of great levels in Dishonored 2 adding in new and unique twists. The first major level is a fantastic Insanitarium with a number of floors and levels to explore, there’s also a level focused on time travel between two time periods which work but can be a bit awkward as it removes the power and abilities that are at the core of the Dishonored series.
I love the look of the Insanitarium as you approach it.
I enjoyed almost every level in Dishonored 2 with the exception of the last level. The developers clearly wanted to give players a feeling of returning to the original game, but the level was more interesting in the original game, and… well, I don’t wish to give spoilers, it just was a weak ending for a great game.
The stealth in Dishonored 2 does take a bit to get used to. The maps have adequate hiding places, but it feels like the guards in the game are a little too observant and react entirely too quickly to Corvo’s presence making the stealth harder than it should be. This may be due to higher difficulties, but even on normal or easy enemy reaction times are quite fast for stealth games. There’s no ability to peek out and see what NPCs are doing, so players are forced to guess, or abuse the quicksave system.
In addition, Dishonored 2 likes to talk about Neutral territories and Hostile Territories but the line between the two locations are not clear and a step over it can bring any neighboring guard down on Corvo or Emily’s head without a warning. It would be like stepping into a secure area and immediately getting shot even if you walked back to the crowd.
There are only 9 missions in Dishonored 2 but, as mentioned, many of these missions have a large amount to see. The player is able to see multiple locations in each area and explore as they want. This is actually one of the main reasons I prefer the Dishonored series to the developer, Arkane’s later game, Prey. It feels like almost every build or method is supported in Dishonored 2, and they work in different ways. Dishonored 2 doesn’t rely on a single method to open up most of its secrets.
With only 9 missions, Dishonored 2 might sound short, but most missions will require some level of trial and error as well as a couple of hours per mission. Even focusing mostly on the story and progression I spent a decent time in each level, but the fact is I left entire floors of levels untouched. On the Insanitarium mission I mentioned previous, there is an office at the top of the building that I never entered, nor did I reach the basement. While I didn’t require either, it offers more to see the next time around.
Well there are limits to how well you can sneak, when you are hiding, the game does a great job at keeping the tension up.
I’ve mentioned teleportation and abilities a few times. These are similar to the abilities in the original game, though a bit different. Corvo loses his power in the opening cinematic and whichever player is chosen meets the mysterious Outsider after the first mission who grants either player similar powers as the original game. However, the player is also given the option to reject the powers and try to play Dishonored 2 as a normal human. This second option is definitely made for more hardcore players, but it’s an interesting twist in the game, though I would say that it’s meant for a special challenge, as the powers given by the Outsider is what really makes Dishonored stand out.
At the same time, with two characters, Dishonored 2 gives each character a unique set of skills. and Dishonored 2 uses that to the full extent it can. Emily and Corvo have different powers that seem tailored made to the character. Though when doing a stealth run for Emily, I found that I didn’t have many powers that I was excited to earn. Similarly, Corvo didn’t have anything that really stood out to me as must-own as I tried a violent run with him. This might be because Emily’s powers are more geared towards violence, but I didn’t really see much on either tree that spoke to me. While I’m glad I never felt like I was forced to make purchases, I would have liked abilities which I was looking forward to earning.
Though, for people who can’t choose, the game has a new game plus after beating the final missions that allow the players to use either character’s power list, which grants the full freedom to experiment.
In addition similar to the first game, there is High Chaos and Low Chaos playthroughs based on how many people the player kills. I stuck to a Low Chaos playthrough and found it rewarding, though a number of the major characters do have far harder neutralized endings rather than the simple assassination for each character, I find the story to be more interesting that way. The option to be a murderous means of vengeance though is still here and still entertaining.
Dishonored 2 also has three save “files”, while the game allows multiple save files per character, the player can choose three different playthroughs which allow the player to focus on a high or low chaos run in a separate manner, or try a different character, along with a slot for a no power run if the player prefers, the choice is up to the player how he uses the slots, but having separate Auto Saves per save slot, as well as a unique list of save files, is appreciated.
I usually like to list minor problems with games or talk about the smaller pieces, but I don’t really have a list of positives or negatives outside of what was already written, which is a bit of a problem for me. The stealth can be annoying, the story is lacking, but those are the major problems that I have with Dishonored 2. Similarly Dishonored 2 does very little to be more than a sequel to the first game. Even the new characters and story doesn’t really stack up that well.
Ultimately, I like Dishonored 2, but it’s mostly because it’s a sequel to Dishonored 1. If you wanted more of the series from the same developer, Dishonored 2 delivers that. But sadly it doesn’t deliver enough more to stand out. If you’re considering Dishonored 2, the best question I could ask is did you want to play more Dishonored for the gameplay alone? If so, here it is.
I give Dishonored 2 a
Final Thoughts: A Solid follow up to the gameplay of Dishonored, but lacks a great story. The experience is enjoyable though for fans of the series and definitely provides interesting new locations.
Stats: 17 hours played, 19/50