Dishonored 2 Review- A Cut Above

When we last left Corvo Altano at the end of Arkane Studios splendid 2012 action adventure game Dishonored he had defeated his enemies, avenged the death of Empress Jessamine Kaldwin and placed his daughter, Emily, on the throne in Dunwall. Now, years later he has been training Emily in the ways of combat, which turns out is a good thing. A new threat to the throne has arisen in the form of Delilah, who claims to be Jessamine’s half sister. And once again, Corvo must escape and defend his daughter and the throne.

Except in this sequel, Emily can defend her own throne. And try to save her father this time.

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And so begins Dishonored 2, Arkane Studios follow up to their 2012 title. The sequel begins in the familiar environs of Dunwall, but soon moves us to the south in Serkonos, to the birthplace of Corvo, Karnaca. Players can choose to complete the task of defending the throne in the well worn boots of Corvo, the Royal Protector, or you can play as Emily, who proves to be every bit as capable as her father. After escaping Dunwall, each one encounters The Outsider, the mysterious supernatural figure who can bestow great power by leaving his mark on you. You’re given a choice- proceed with your own abilities, or accept The Outsider’s mark and gain same wonderfully helpful abilities. Naturally, even if you’re a veteran from the first game, you’re going to want to take advantage of these powers. After all, they do add to the fun.

Corvo gets all his familiar powers back from the first game, should you find the runes to help unlock them. Once again you get Blink to access higher places or move rapidly across an area. You can possess others or call a rat swarm to devour your foes. In addition to his supernatural abilities, Corvo also has a pistol and crossbow at his disposal, along with grenades and different types of mines. All can be combined in multiple ways to take out your enemies. Blink in behind them, plant a stun mine, then Blink out again to render them unconscious. Or plant a sticky grenade and turn them into a bloody goo. The choice is yours, and Arkane Studios makes it a point to let you know you can play the game your own way.

Emily gets her own unique set of powers. Her Far Reach ability is similar to Corvo’s Blink, and both have the ability to see enemies through walls. She can mesmerize her enemies, or link them together with Domino. Using Domino in conjunction with Emily’s crossbow or pistol helps save on ammunition, as you can shoot one person and those linked to that person all suffer the same fate. Need to be stealthy and put a group to sleep? Upgrade your Domino ability and hit the first one with a sleep dart, and the rest will fall into blissful slumber allowing you to explore an area or simply pass through. Or you can kill a group with one crossbow bolt. Again, it’s all up to you.

It’s that freedom that makes Dishonored 2 and is predecessor so special, and allows players to be as creative as they wish to be. Once again, the nine missions that make up the game can be completed on Low Chaos (the stealthy route) or High Chaos (killing most everything in sight). The choice is yours, but know that however you choose to accomplish your task reflects in the world around you and affects the ending you receive. In both, hiding the bodies is a good thing, so as not to alarm any other guards or civilians. Doing things quietly, whether it be by knocking an enemy out or using a sleep dart, keeps the world around you in a much calmer state. Guards and civilians relax, and bloodflies (deadly stinging insects attracted to corpses) are less prevalent. Leave dead bodies lying around makes everyone far more nervous and on high alert. You can be in for more trouble this way, and you’ll need to outfit yourself properly, with both weapons and abilities.

Exploration plays a large part in the game, and completionists will find themselves spending hours searching every nook and cranny. There are plenty of coins and other valuables you can use for money at black market shops. But you can’t buy everything there. Runes for the most part need to be sought out, using the Heart to guide you. The Heart can also lead you to bone charms, talismans that add additional perks such as swifter movement or gaining extra health by eating food you find in homes and guard outposts. There are also corrupted bone charms that you can find, though be warned that using these can be unpredictable. Black bone charms offer unique perks of their own, such as turning an enemy’s initial projectile attack into a swarm of bloodflies, which in turn attack your attacker. You can also build up your own ability to make your own bone charms, infusing them with their own special properties. Finding an Outsider shrine gains you two Runes and additional insight into what is happening around you. You can also find blueprints which can enhance your weapons, give you armor, or increase your ammo capacity. Exploring can also lead you to multiple ways through an area, as well as some side tasks with other characters that can be beneficial for you to undertake.

The environments themselves, as in the first game, are varied and all have multiple routes to your objective. And while some are standard routes through buildings or across rooftops, other areas are wonderfully unique and inventive. The Clockwork Mansion, with its mechanical soldiers, has levers that can manipulate the layout, raising or lowering floors and walls. Using the levers can help you evade enemies, or gain access to other areas in the mansion. The Dust District is beset by dust storms which obscure the environment around you, but also can hide you from enemies. The Stilton Manor has a unique trick to it, but that one is best discovered by the player. Each environment is fun to explore, and holds their own unique treasures to find.

The characters you come across can also be interacted in different ways, and in one section you can choose to align yourself with one faction or another. Who you ally with does impact your ending. Even main targets you can choose to kill or simply find an alternative means to remove them from play. The characters are pretty well done, especially the main villain, Delilah. She’s a nuanced villain, one that can make you wonder if she’s more victim than not at times. This fleshes her out instead of just making her straight up evil, and helps gain some insight into her actions. All of the characters are decently voiced, especially Corvo (Stephen Russell, who has also provided voices for Nick Valentine in Fallout 4 and various characters in Skyrim) and Emily (Erica Luttrell, who has appeared in shows like Rosewood, Lost Girl, and iZombie). You also have Rosario Dawson (Daredevil, Sin City) giving voice to Meagan Foster, captain of the Dreadful Wale and your helper in spiriting you out of Dunwall. Fellow Daredevil cast member Vincent D’Onofrio also makes an appearance as does Sam Rockwell (Moon, Iron Man 2, Poltergeist) and Robin Lord Taylor (Oswald Cobblepot in Gotham). It’s a great voice cast that brings the world of Dishonored 2 to lie, along with a great musical score by Daniel Licht (who also scored the first game as well as episodes of the show Dexter).

Though the story begins with a well worn but well done premise, it does take the story in some interesting directions, including a mini mystery involving a serial killer. How Delilah rose to power is nicely done, and finding out the motivations of other key characters keeps you engaged throughout the eighteen hours or so it will take for one playthrough (your time will vary depending on the amount of exploring you do and as to whether you are making a Low Chaos or a High Chaos run). Multiple endings and so much to see, do, and find offer plenty of incentive for multiple playthroughs. I’ve done two (a Low Chaos run with Emily and a High Chaos run with Corvo) and I still haven’t seen everything the game has to show me. There always seems to be that one room you missed or that one NPC you didn’t engage with. This keeps the game interesting, and makes Dishonored 2 a game you’ll want to revisit again and again.

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In all, Arkane Studios has another winner on their hands with Dishonored 2. It’s a fantastic sequel to an excellent game, raising the bar of stealth action to a new level. The only issues I encountered on my playthroughs on the PS4 were a couple of technical glitches (one time I got stuck inside a rock and had to reload a save, other rare instances had NPCs stuck in the environment). These glitches were rare and didn’t impact my enjoyment of the game. Some have reported issues on the PC version, so keep that in mind when choosing a platform on which to play the game (Xbox One seems to be performing as well as the PS4). The couple of technical issues may keep the game from a perfect score, but otherwise it’s an outstanding title that anyone who enjoys action stealth games should play. Fans of the first game will definitely want to own this (as a bonus, early additions come with a digital copy of Dishonored: The Definitive Edition), and for others, this is an easy recommendation to make. The voice acting, music, and inventive environments all combine to create a truly engaging and fun experience. This is a cut above your average action game, and is one the best titles released this year.

 

9.5/10

Thomas Juretus

Born in 1963. Enjoy videogames, movies, comics- anything that tells a story. Have written three novels (The Zarchler Chronicles Book One: The Cassandra Crisis, Shalgroth The Zarchler Chronicles: Book Two, Madman's War The Zarchler Chronicles: Book Three) all published and available through PublishAmerica. Currently working on my fourth book, a sci-fi/murder mystery.

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