Following on from the events of Dishonored 15 year prior. Emily is now the Empress due to her mothers murder. A hate campaign against the people that had wronged the family is done by an unknown third party generally referred to as the “Crown killer” whilst appearing to be the work of Corvo and Emily. Initially for reasons unknown. Emily’s aunt Delilah visits the city to take her apparently rightful place as the new Empress of Dunwall. Emily is banished as a prisoner in a guarded room whilst Corvo is transformed into stone from a magic spell cast by Emily’s aunt. Note: These events unfold after choosing to play the game as Emily.
Emily is forced to leave Dunwall as a fugitive on the run. Heading for the docks to seek safety elsewhere and investigate Delilah’s previous whereabouts. Emily arrives at the city of Karnaca the birthplace of her father, reminiscent of Southern Europe in architecture and scenery. A lush and exotic location plagued with problems. There are multiple endings based on whether the player caused high chaos by killing or achieved low chaos by taking a non-lethal approach. High chaos provides an ending as a tyrant emperor/empress with Kanarca falling into anarchy and lawlessness. Low-lethal is much more diplomatic with Kanarca thriving and restored with an honest ruler.
After the opening cinematic outlining the basic plot and story players are provided with a choice to play as Corvo (the protagonist from the first game) or his daughter Emily who’s now all grown up. They each have their own unique supernatural abilities, for instance Emily can kill multiple targets with a single shot using the “Domino” ability and Corvo can freeze time. Mixing the supernatural abilities with combat and weapons allows for some creative and explosive moments. There’s also a choice of difficulty setting which includes easy, medium, hard, very hard and a custom option. The difficulty setting can be adjusted at any time from the options menu.
A tutorial is provided for new players or for those wishing to brush up on the controls since the original Dishonored game. The tutorial isn’t long but certainly a worthwhile exercise as it introduces players to the games mechanics such as running, hiding, sliding, jumping and performing take-downs.
Early on in the game Emily experiences a strange dream giving her (the player) the choice whether to gain special powers or continue without them. Upon accepting, the “Far Reach” ability unlocks allowing you to rapidly propel in the direction of a target location. Ideal for avoiding enemies and can be used to move through glass which will smash upon impact. At the end of the dream Emily grabs the heart of her mother which allows her mother to speak to her and locate runes and other collectibles. Runes are used to unlock special abilities and upgrades.
It’s immediately apparent just like the first game that stealth is a hugely important gameplay feature and the enemy AI are extremely alert. At the start of the game Ramsey Mortimer stole Emily’s ring which is rare and used to unlock rooms such as the safe room and vault. Tracking him down and performing the takedown to retrieve the ring was rather easy though it did provide an early opportunity to hone those stealth skills. The gameplay and controls are fluid and responsive.
Health elixirs, notes & journals, coins, bullets and other items of interest can be found in rooms on desks or hidden in cupboards. Fruit can be eaten to incrementally regenerate health. Empty bottles can be thrown to distract guards and help evade their attention. Flammable bottles can also be found which are perfect for destroying blood sucking bloat-fly infestations found around the city of Karnaca. They make nests in corpses so lethal-force takedowns without disposing of bodies can be detrimental.
Takedowns consist of two options; lethal and non-lethal. Non-lethal renders the enemy temporarily incapacitated for a while sleeping. It’s best to leave the area as soon as possible to avoid being there when they awake. Corpses and sleeping enemies can be dragged or carried out of view or into a different room to avoid arousing suspension from any remaining guard patrols. Aerial takedowns are also possible to take guards by surprise when a ground attack isn’t possible.
Valuables can be collected such as paintings which are immediately transferred into credited coins. Way-points mark the objective and display the distance from it.
Dishonored 2 allows for various play-styles depending on the players preference. Gung-ho killing combatants, stealth undetected staying out of sight, utilize powers to overcome situations or defeat enemies using non-lethal force. Depending on the situation all of these styles will be easier to utilize for specific missions. For instance my attempts to remain hidden early on in the game were thwarted when I accidentally pressed the “ctrl” button which is “block”. I didn’t realize the mistake so I thought I was hidden but not doing a good job I faced an onslaught of five enemies on heightened alert chasing me down. Resorting to combat I managed to block and hit the first few. After taking a few hits I finished the remaining guards with close up shots to the face with the gun.
This wasn’t my preferred route to escaping the area however with all the enemies within that area defeated it allowed me the freedom to explore the surrounding buildings and overhear a conversation with a high-ranked guard threatening a news editor to publish an article denouncing former Empress Emily. It’s these nuisances and random moments of happenstance which really makes Dishonored 2 stand out.
It really is a joy to play. Switching between crouch, running, sliding and performing takedowns is simple in execution. A selection of weapons can be found along the journey such as a crossbow, guns, sword and dagger along with other useful equipment such as a spyglass for long distance scoping which also amplifies sound when zoomed onto a target. Enemies can be grabbed and held hostage as a human shield then eliminated or discarded by throwing or kicking to the ground. I personally enjoyed grabbing someone and throwing them from a cliff to their demise rather than the longer procedure of choke holds.
The city of Karnaca is alive bustling with life. People go about their daily lives performing jobs or are deep in conversation. Alleyways and buildings are a plenty with guards located throughout the city. Stumbling upon people willing to chat and offer opportunities in return for your assistance. Optional objectives can be completed. Often the location of these objectives provide various supplies. A performance summary displays after each completed mission. Displaying time duration and feedback on the play-styles you utilized and whether you managed to remain undetected, not harm anyone and how many collectibles were discovered.
The sea is extremely dangerous with ferocious fish hunting in packs. It doesn’t take long for them to devour their prey so swimming fast and efficiently to hidden Rune locations is vital. Trespassing tenant buildings and business premises results in being asked to leave and will result in dwellers raising the alarm with the guards. Walking on train lines negatively impacts health dramatically due to electrocution as well as the risk of being hit by an oncoming train.
Dishonored 2 continues the impressive art style of the original incorporating gorgeous visuals inside buildings. Unfortunately even on the highest “Ultra” graphics settings there’s a lack of detail outside. A shame considering the interesting art-style. Distant objects appear blurry. One can only hope for a HD texture pack to release at a later date but at this moment in time some of the scenery is really disappointing visually. The menus ooze class with styled fonts and artwork.
It’s worth noting at the time of release and even up to and including my experience playing Dishonored 2 a lot of players have encountered performance issues with the game. After hearing of the issues at launch I decided to wait for a few patches before committing to the game. Suffice to say I played through the game on “Update 2” which released mid-January 2017. I didn’t encounter many performance issues whilst playing on ultra settings, though there was a 10 fps drop in the city of Karnaca and the Addermire Institute dropped to 30 fps. The performance drops didn’t last long or hinder the gameplay significantly and for the most part it was a smooth 60 fps throughout. System specs are shown at the top of the article.
Depth / Replayability
A single play-through of the campaign should take most players around 12hrs to complete depending on how much exploring is done between missions. With plenty of collectibles likely to be missed on the first play-through and the opportunity to play as a different character compared to the first play gamers can expect to get a good 30hrs or more out of the game if your a completionist.
A brilliant sequel to the equally impressive Dishonored. The stealth genre is lacking and Dishonored 2 brings it to the fore. If only there was more games in the genre with as much substance and quality. A masterpiece in every way!
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