Game Review: Dishonored 2 (Xbox One)
Fifteen years after Corvo Attano restored Emily Kaldwin to the throne, after being framed for her mother’s assassination, Dunwall has prospered under the reign of Emily, who has been training with Corvo to protect herself from assassins. However, all is not well as a serial murderer dubbed the “Crown Killer” has been brutally murdering Emily’s enemies, leading many to believe that Emily and Corvo are responsible for the murders. During a ceremony in remembrance of Jessamine Kaldwin’s assassination, Duke Luca Abele of Serkonos arrives with the witch Delilah Copperspoon, who claims to be Jessamine’s older half-sister and the true heir to the throne. The Duke’s men then attack, killing Emily’s loyal guards. Delilah manages to subdue Corvo and steal his powers. At this point, the player chooses whether to continue as Emily or Corvo.
Emily and Corvo employ their own array of supernatural abilities. They can alternatively decide to forfeit them altogether. There is a multitude of ways to succeed in each given mission, from stealth to open violent conflict.
Unlike the first game, the upgrading system has been changed to a skill tree with multiple paths and more possible upgrades. For example, a power may have a lethal or non-lethal upgrade. Each character has unique powers. “Dark Vision”, the power that more easily identifies the player’s surroundings, is available to both characters.
Corvo retains many of the powers available in the first game, though his progress in them has been reset. “Blink” still teleports him to a chosen location, but in addition can be upgraded to freeze time or impart damage on impact with the momentum gained from teleportation.
Emily has powers new to the series, including “Far Reach” which allows her to pull objects and enemies toward her and travel without physical movement by clasping onto something to propel herself forward. She can use “Mesmerize” to distract her enemies, moving them into a state of sedation. “Domino” permits Emily to connect several of her enemies together so that they share the same outcome. With “Shadow Walk”, she is turned into a shadowy cloud that moves swiftly and changes tangibility at will. “Doppelganger” is useful for conjuring a clone of Emily in order to misdirect her opponents.
While players begin and end the game in Dunwall. Much of the story takes place in the coastal city of Karnaca, the capital of Serkonos. This lies along the southern region of the Empire of the Isles. Unlike Dunwall, which relied on whale oil for power, Karnaca is powered by wind. The winds that blow over and into the city cause it to be rife with dust storms, most notably within its mining district which is known as the “Dust District”.
If I were to compile a list of the things that I enjoyed about the first game. Then compared it with a list of positives on this sequel, I imagine both lists would come out fairly similar. It isn’t exactly a negative but I felt that Dishonoured 2 played it quite safe as a whole. However, there are just enough tweaks to the gameplay that it feels improved.
Much like the first game you have the option of stealthily making your way through the entire experience without being seen or killing a single enemy. You can of course go in all guns blazing which inevitably leads to some extremely chaotic moments. The thing that impressed me the most about the level design was the variety of ways you are able to go from one side of the map to the other. The amount of different well thought out routes there are to choose from is something that really helps to personalize the experience. I’ve seen a couple of gameplay videos where the person took completely different avenues that I had no idea even existed. Along these paths is an abundance of coin and loot to grab which you can use to buy items, upgrades or consumables at the black market.
If you played the first Dishonoured then you’ll know what to expect when it comes to gameplay. Emily does have a couple of new abilities. If you decide to use her on your stealth run you may not end up using most of them. Shadow walk is probably my favourite. Although it can make things a little bit too easy when it’s fully upgraded.
Visually, Dishonoured 2 is right up there as one of the most picturesque games I’ve played. The style used is often compared to that of a painting and it’s easy to see why. There is some really great depth to the landscapes, simply staring out to sea as the fiery sun sets in the distance can be quite breath-taking. The combination of drab environments with striking colours is really delightful.
For me, another strong aspect of the game is the diversity in level design. I have two favourites with the first being a mind-bending clockwork mansion that shifts and changes at the pull of a lever. This level has to considered an absolute triumph; it’s unlike anything I have ever played before in any game. The second sees you switching between two different timelines at the press of a button with certain actions you take in one timeline having ramifications in the other, its fantastic fun.
The gameplay, visuals and level design are great. So, what’s the problem? It’s quite simple; the biggest thing that hurts the game is the story. The narrative feels far too straightforward and lacks any real big twist or reveal. Everything goes pretty much exactly as you would expect it to. Obviously, with the exception of how you decide to tackle things. Delilah is an intriguing antagonist but she’s given far too little screen time. I found her to be very dull as a whole. That’s the word I would choose to describe the story in Dishonoured 2, dull. Emily is fine but she lacks edge. It’s funny to me that Corvo seemed to have more personality when he didn’t speak. I just didn’t feel particularly excited by the whole thing. Then it ends far too neatly.
Too much of the narrative is lost within documents, audio logs and plot points that take place off screen.
The Final Score - 8/10