Game Review

Dishonored 2 Review (2016)

Dishonored 2, the sequel to the smash hit original game, released on all major consoles and PC in November 2016. Arkane Studios have become a sort of standout developer for single player narrative focused games in the past couple of months, with their other newly released game, Prey, also receiving highly positive reviews from critics across the board.

A witch, by the name of Delilah Copperspoon overthrows the Empress Emily Kaldwin. This is when the player gets to choose to either start the game as Emily or her father Corvo Attano as they try and reclaim the throne. The start of the story takes place in Dunwall, the location of the previous game, but much of the narrative and gameplay takes place in a coastal city by the name of Karnaca, which is located south of the Empire of Isles.  Much of the story was interesting and it flowed well right up until the end, and fans of Dishonored lore will find plenty of it to explore and delve deep into.

Newcomers to the series will still be able to enjoy the narrative, even though there are some callbacks to the previous game. None of these call backs are crucial to the overall plot of the second game, but the first game was so objectively good there is no reason not to go back and play it anyway!

The conclusion of the story left me wanting even more from the Dishonored universe, much like the first game. The recent announcement of a further DLC pack will be released will scratch that itch nicely though.

The original game became well-known for it’s Steampunk art style. Sebastian Mitton, the art director from the first game returned for Dishonored 2. Mitton said during development that he wanted the game to be a “visual journey to a new city”, which was partly the reason behind shifting the focus away from Dunwall, to the new city of Kanaca, the “Jewel of the South”. The city itself is based on southern European countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy, and the inspiration really shines through. It’s a much sunnier, and brighter environment (in parts) when compared to Dunwall.

Being set in this different environment, it gave the feeling of a fresh look, but still having that overarching style of a Dishonored game. The IdTech 5 engine (or Void) was used to create Dishonored 2, which has also been used in The Evil Within, the two recent Wolfenstein games, and Rage. It is a particularly impressive looking title, with plenty of high-resolution textures, and special effects on show. A lot of work has gone into improving animation too, as you can really feel the impact of some movements by characters. Dropping from the rooftop of a building to an unsuspecting guard and slicing his head-off never felt so real and devastating as they do in Dishonored 2. As you would expect from a Stealth orientated game, lighting effects are not only an important aspect from a visual standpoint, but also from a game play view too. The lighting is done brilliantly and will add to the immersive experience the game is trying to create.

When the game launched at the back end of last year, it was a complete mess from a technical standpoint on the PC. Many people were getting poor performance and drastic frame drops no matter how powerful their system or how low the settings were. Due to a few major patches over the past couple of months, the game is in a much more stable condition, although a few technical hitches still exist here and there. These problems did detract from the actual game play and story it self on launch which is a shame because it is actually on par with the first game, but these problems shouldn’t be a problem for a huge release like this nowadays.

Voice acting is done well, and most importantly, believable emotion comes through in the dialog. The sound effects are brilliant too. Touching on the same scenario from above, dropping down on an enemy really makes you feel like you are doing it, with the visual side and the audio side. The audible thuds and slices as the player takes down enemies adds to the atmosphere and ultimately makes it a much more immersive experience overall.

At the start of the game, you get the choice of whom to play as. The two characters have two different sets of abilities. Many of Corvo’s abilities from the first game return here, but Emily has new powers which will aid her in combat and movement around the game world. Much of the game play remains the same compared to the first game too. Players will be wielding swords, pistols and crossbows. Each mission that you are assigned is able to be completed in multiple different ways. The different approaches can be opened up by completing side missions, allowing for non-lethal or silent take downs of your targets.

Being able to customise the characters with specialised talent builds will allow for some interesting combinations. Players can choose not to accept the use of the powers, like they could do in the first game. Doing so will reward an achievement, but nothing more. The use of powers will unlock pathways which would be otherwise unreachable. Some abilities are passive, such as being able to run faster or jump higher, whilst others will require activating, such as allowing the player to identify surroundings by indicating where enemies are looking and their gaze of view length.

If the thought of sneaking in the shadows appeals, then most of the one on one combat will be missed, which isn’t a bad thing as the reactive combat system felt a little bit sluggish and off sync with the otherwise silky smooth animations elsewhere. It is a more enjoyable and realistic experience when taking down enemies in stealth, as the pre-animated take downs felt superior over the real time combat.

Whilst stealth is one viable option, going completely gung-ho and murdering everyone in sight is just as viable too. Each different approach will have pros and cons, but it will be up to the player to choose which they prefer. Murdering everyone in your path will allow for easier exploration, but creating more noise and leaving dead bodies around may award you with unwanted attention from further guard

AI was intuitive in the first game, and is much improved even more in the second. Being able to interact with guards movements and actions by distracting them makes the silent approach much more enjoyable. The guards react how you think they should to movement and sound allowing the player to act in a more predictable manner.

The story takes just under twenty hours to complete, along with a good portion of the side objectives and missions thrown into the mix as well. After one play through, there is still room for a second with the second of the two characters, and maybe even room for a third if a high chaos or silent run is appetising. It’s not hard to think that Dishonored 2 could easily be a fifty hour game if playing for a full completion experience.  

Dishonored 2 can be played with keyboard and mouse or game-pad. Player preference is always preferred but being a first person game it played much better using keyboard and mouse. Allowing for much more precise movement and targeting.

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