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Dishonored 2 Review

Dishonored 2 Review

The original Dishonored released back in 2012 was amongst the most impressive and
excellently well-crafted titles of that year. It also became one of my favorite titles since BioShock. It didn't follow conventional design, it didn't force you to follow a needless linear path, neither did it instruct you to kill or destroy anyone and anything in your path. No, Dishonored let you decide the fate of others, and in a video game, that offers you massive amounts of power.

Now, four years later we have our sequel and Arkane Studios have pulled out all the stops in not only crafting a sequel that builds upon the foundation of the first but also introduces a new playable character and game engine. Eager as I can be, it was time again to unsheathe my blade and Blink through the shadows as I ventured into Dishonored 2.

Taking place 15 years later, Dishonored 2 echoes the past by placing you into a false sense of security and a predicament that crumbles the world beneath you. Following from the events of the first game, Dunwall has changed. Corvo Attano, our protagonist from the first, got his vengeance and restored order. The rat plague from before has been wiped and his daughter, Emily Kaldwin, is all grown up and, after her mother, is now Empress of Dunwall. And for a while Dunwall prospered, but it’s short-lived, as during a ceremony of remembrance treachery strikes with the arrival of Daliah Kaldwin who claims the throne is theirs.

Joined by a coup from Karnaca, a bordered region to the south of Dunwall, Dahlia using her powers of witchcraft spends no time in overthrowing the young empress and accusing Corvo of being the “Crown Killer”- a serial killer taking down those who opposed Emily reign. It is at this point where the story becomes a tale of two.

With the guards bearing down upon them, Emily and Corvo are surrounded and it's here you choose how to proceed. Dishonored 2 allows you to play as either Emily or Corvo. From my time playing as both, their story plays out the same; the difference being of course, is how the story is told. The interactions with NPC's, their internal monologues and the use of each of the characters distinctive powers. It's a good choice in design and it doesn't feel like I need to playthrough multiple times to get both sides the story. Although that’s entirely up to you, but as before Dishonored does encourage multiple runs, so it is worth it even if it is to experience both characters unique powers.

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Whomever you choose, you must escape from capture leaving the palace behind and the city of Dunwall altogether. Just off the shores, you reach a ship, the Dreadful Wale manned by Megan Foster, an ally of Anton Sokolov. It’s all rather convenient, but once onboard everything swings into action and you travel to Karnaca for answers, the origins of the coup and vengeance.

Upon your arrival, you'll be basked in the sunlight of the beautiful city of Kanacka. Known as the Jewel of the south, it is unlike the dreary steampunk victorian-inspired aesthetics of Dunwall. Karnaca is bright and colourful, with the sun shining across its Caribbean style landscape. It certainly stands out and is quite the opposite to Dunwall, but appearances are deceiving as the oppression spreads far south and you’ll start seeing the cracks and dust filed remnants as you delve deeper into the city. The city is in turmoil of a dictatorship and infestation of Bloodflies, mosquitos type insects that are as annoying as they are dangerous, much like the rat infestation from Dunwall.

Everything executed very much on point, and while it might a little close to rehashing the first, it’s still a continuation, after all you can’t have a vengeance story without betrayal. But what doesn’t do is deviate from much else and even if you do get some optional missions or tasks, they still revolves around the events from the beginning. Nonetheless, in the world of Dishonored, it’s all about the gameplay.

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This is where the real depth comes in. Everything taken from the first is refined and perfected, making it a substantial improvement. It isn’t open world and levels are still entirely mission based, but whether you play as Emily or Corvo, you get the freedom to explore, take your time and strategies. This is where your friend quick-save and quick-load come in very handy. The Outsider returns, an unknown god-like being from the void, granting you powers with the mark. If you’re brave enough you can reject them for a more challenging no powers playthrough.

With a rich range of arcane powers at your disposable allows for a real experience that affects players differently. And what powers you choose to unlock, upgrade and use is up to you whether you are going in lethal or nonlethal. Emily stands out with variety of new powers. She can latch onto objects for movement like a grappling hook using Far Reach, become a shadow and stealthy move through the environment, create a distracting doppelganger or chain together enemies so that their lives are linked; so if one dies or falls unconscious the rest fall like dominos. Corvo’s powers remains unchanged. He can teleport short distances with Blink, posses rats and enemies for kills or to stealthily move through environment, manipulate time by slowing it down or freezing all together or if wanted, send a horde of rats to devour your enemies.

Dishonored 2 just like the first, encourages the use of different playstyles. You can either go stealthly, be unseen and take down your targets without killing or you could go on a frenzy, killing anyone in the way. Whether it be from within the shadows or confronted in a clash of swords and firearms. I mostly favored the latter, but similarly to how I play Deus Ex, I always try the stealthy approach, but if things don’t go to plan I improvise or fight back - it might not be the best tactic. But for those dedicated enough for a no kill, no seen playthrough will be tested.

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This is all backed by well-crafted level design, there is a lot of attention to detail and it’s up to you to seek out the best advantages and abuse the environment as much as possible. Multiple paths are available and taking the most unorthodox route might just be the best option. Whether it be within a city full of downtrodden apartments filled with infested bloodflies, or through an intricately designed mansion running by clockwork that moves and reshapes itself. Each area stands out and the exquisite and puzzle like level design will have you searching further. Especially if you’re tracking deviously placed runes and bone charms to upgrade your character.

As you play you feel like you are in control and have a force of power behind you as you navigate the areas, guards unaware of what’s coming, you can pickpocket keys and loot from guards or slit their throats one by one or link their fates for a group dispatch. In other situations you could avoid confrontation altogether and become ghost and use rewiring tools against electrified gates and different types of distractions to lure away guards from their posts. It’s never feels straightforward and playing imaginatively and experimenting only adds to the enjoyment.

The real focus on missions is taking down your target. Dishonored 2 is full of people high and mighty who are needed to be brought down, the world is full of power and corruption and how you go about removing them is up to you. Life and death is in your hands. Throughout my time I decided to go down the more interesting route, instead of just killing my target I chose to deal with them differently and the results can have leave you with a moral dilemma. Sometimes it can be for the good, but for others it results in a fate worse than death. In doing so, I saved the life of a cursed killer, destroyed the mind of a genius and killed off a rivaling leader. It’s these choices that will inevitably have an impact on the end of the 8-10 hour story. A low chaos, stealthy conclusion is more meaningful, but you’ll still gain same satisfaction if you went out all death dealing.

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Performance wise, this is Dishonored 2’s biggest downfall. Playing on PC the performance was terrible, it was playable, but not to an acceptable standard. Running on a Windows 10 system, i7 3770k, 16GB with a GTX 1070. I’d expect to playing maxed out, but due to the massive drops in many areas, I’ve had to drop settings and even then I couldn’t maintain 60FPS and averaged around 40-50, it didn't feel smooth at all. It’s unfortunate and while there are plentiful graphical options and support for 21:9, the game itself, built on a custom id Tech engine (Void Engine) is poorly optimised.

Nonetheless, the gameplay experience I had was exactly what I wanted. Dishonored 2 is a substantial improvement over its predecessor, but don’t let that discourage you from playing the original. It is an expertly crafted continuation and if anything made me want to revisit the first title. With a plethora of choices, wonderful architectural puzzle design, Dishonored 2 is truly an immersive experience. There is enough challenge, memorable moments and freedom that will keep you coming back.

Update on PC performance: Unfortunately, due to the performance issue on PC, I can not recommend this title in its state right now. They recently released two beta patches (18/11 and 21/11) to try and improve, but even then the performance is not what I had hoped. The second patch aimed to optimise has added a few more options; adaptive resolution/scaling and quality adjustments. This perhaps will benefit some players more so than before and I've noticed some improvements in closed areas. However, it's not enough and the engine is still unoptimised and as such I have scored Dishonored 2 accordingly. It’s shame and it doesn’t bode well for future PC titles from Bethesda under their review guidelines.

7.00/10 7

Dishonored 2 (Reviewed on Windows)

This game is good, with a few negatives.

Dishonored 2 is a substantial improvement over its predecessor and is an expertly crafted continuation from the first. With a plethora of choices and wonderful architectural puzzle design, Dishonored 2 is truly an immersive experience. It's just a shame it's held back by terrible and unfortunate PC performance.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Calum Parry

Calum Parry

Staff Writer

A bearded fellow whom spends most days gaming and looking at tech he can never afford. Has a keen eye for news and owns a dog that's a bear.

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