The ageing assassin Corvo Attano returns following a four-year hiatus and supposedly hanging up his retractable sword and unsettling mask for good. He has reclaimed his role as Lord Protector and now stands guard over his daughter, Lord Empress Emily Kaldwin, as she rules the Empire of the Isles.
Apart from the silver streaks running across his temples and his newly-developed grizzled voice very little has changed about the former assassin. His strong sense of nobility is still prominent and firmly instilled in Emily.
Set fifteen years after the original, Emily and Corvo receive a surprise visit from the witch Delilah Copperspoon -a familiar name for the seasoned player- who claims to be Emily’s aunt and the true heir to the throne.
What ensues is a series of fiendish twists, which sets up the plot for the next 20+ hours of gameplay. Depending on your preferred protagonist, both are tasked with the same incentive: reclaim the throne and rescue a loved one.
Again players are given the choice between the ‘High’ and ‘Low’ Chaos play styles. For the unfamiliar, ‘Low Chaos’ involves the hold-your-breath tension of landing behind a guard, who is completely unaware of your position and performing that hard-earned, silent takedown.
The ‘High Chaos’ option, however, allows you to perform some of the most hilarious and elaborate executions on your enemies.
Kicking people through skylights, blasting them off seaside cliffs or watching them become red, meaty chunks when they stumble across a carefully-placed shrapnel mine. Sadistic? Most definitely, but the satisfaction it brings from a gameplay standpoint is undeniable.
Going for the sneaky approach is the most obvious tactic, but be prepared to save and reload after most, if not all, of your decisions. After all, Arkane Studios added a ‘Quick Save’ and ‘Quick Load’ option for a reason.
People will argue Dishonored 2 is essentially the original game but on a grander scale. But isn’t that what we wanted? Dishonored was incredibly short and the environments were somewhat restrictive.
In the sequel, however, we are finally given the freedom we so desperately craved during 2012. Freely interacting with NPCs, exploring derelict buildings, unearthing hidden narratives, and exploiting Corvo’s and Emily’s supernatural abilities; the folks at Arkane have created a giant playground for us to frolic in.
Among those nifty powers and gadgets, some old favourites return, but the new additions are particularly enjoyable. Classic Corvo returns with his original powers such as freezing time and possessing rats and insects. Emily, on the other hand, offers some new, exciting and devastating options.
Most notably, is her Domino ability. This is where Emily will target several enemies at once and simultaneously knock them unconscious or brutally execute them. The young Empress can also hypnotise enemies with Mesmerize and become a moving shadow with Shadow Walk. She even has her own variation of her father’s signature teleportation ability.
Part of what makes Dishonored 2 so much fun is its mix of risk and reward. The enemies are so threatening and aware that when you finally get rid of them, you feel genuinely empowered. Simply mashing the attack button isn’t enough. They parry, dodge, counter, they even throw rocks at you as you try to slink away. They’re unrelenting.
If you opt for stealth, the enemies are even more infuriating, often posing a real challenge to sneak by. They frequently break from their preset routes and purposely try to catch you out. Tossing glasses, or any kind of breakable for that matter, will alert them to your position. Oh, how I miss Metal Gear’s knock on the wall function.
While the lethal option is glorious, the non-lethal option can be quite demanding. Playing the original clearly helps in understanding how to play the sequel. But for the first few hours, it is basically trial and error. Once you’ve mastered the mechanics and your particular play style, you’re set. The campaign doesn’t really grow in difficulty as you progress.
Like most modern games, you’d expect the enemies to adapt and develop new ways to thwart the super-powered duo, but they don’t. The guards’ arsenal is never upgraded and the scenarios you face never become too intricate. When new enemy types do emerge, they are restricted to certain areas and levels.
The same complaint about the previous game is still present here, sadly. Arkane does such an amazing job of consistently adding new gameplay options; it’s such a shame they never culminate into a grand set piece, encompassing everything you’ve learned.
In the latter stages, you feel overpowered, especially if you’re grabbing every rune and bone charm along the way.
The world of Dishonoured is truly fascinating, mainly due to it subtle steampunk aesthetic and its untold narratives. The expansive areas you visit feel more believable and lived-in.
The characters you encounter are well-acted and morally flawed. Uncovering their motives and backstory is another reason to stall with story progression. The individual missions linked with each character offers a unique gameplay hook.
The amount of enjoyment you gain from Dishonored 2 is essentially down to your own creativity. You can run through the story in over 10 hours, or take your time discovering new narratives, reading notes, gathering collectables and dispatching your enemies in the most wicked of ways.
At times, it may lack a challenge, but with two playable characters, there’s a lot of longevity cemented in Dishonored 2. Arkane definitely missed a trick by not implementing an NG+ option, though. Starting again with a fully upgraded Corvo or Emily would have added so much more value to the title. At least the option is there to mess around with various difficulties and playstyles, including a no-powers run. *shivers*