October 19, 2016 by Paul Curtin
Coming out of nowhere back in 2012, Dishonored became an instant classic after surprising gamers with a brilliant mix of BioShock-inspired art and choose-your-own-way stealth gameplay. Arkane Studios’ genre-bending action/stealth experiment made for a unique experience that stood out from most games at the time and made it one of Bethesda’s most memorable new flagship titles.
Now, four years later, Arkane is back to improve upon the original’s success that made it one of the best stealth games of the previous console generation — a feat which explained to us by game director, Harvey Smith, is “not as easy as you think” now that the developers are trying to find the perfect balance between not changing too much of what the fans love while still finding new ways to innovate and stand out from the original.
Although not a massive open world game, the amount of freedom that the level designs of the first game allowed for was what helped it resonate with fans of the stealth genre and those just looking to cause a little chaos. The idea of giving the player the ability to make their way through levels without killing enemies or running in guns-blazing is now synonymous with the name “Dishonored” and the sequel looks to be once again crafting the right formula to please fans who enjoy playing on both ends of the spectrum.
Getting our hands on the game at a recent Dishonored 2 event in Los Angeles, we got to check out some new features and some returning features that newcomers, fans of the story, and hardcore stealth-oriented players will all enjoy.
The biggest change you’ll find right away is how you can now choose to play as two different characters: the previous game’s lead protagonist, Corvo Attano, or his daughter, Emily Kaldwin. Since the first game gave players the ability to choose how they dealt with enemies while making their way through each level, Arkane is now going one step further and giving players the ability to also choose between two different characters with two different sets of abilities and skills.
In the hour we spent playing, we took turns completing the same level as both Corvo and Emily. Placed about midway through the game that is said to be a little bit longer than the first story, our mission as both Corvo and Emily was the same: Infiltrate the estate of Kirin Jindosh, a high profile inventor in Karnaca, and take him out. Of course, this was much easier said than done and the path to Jindosh through his luxurious clockwork mansion was filled with many traps, twists, and turns – both literally and figuratively.
Starting out playing as Corvo, we were able to use returning abilities such as Disguise and Blink to make our way through the multi-tiered mansion and complete our primary objective. Playing as Emily gives the player the same story and experience, however, she allows for a different set of abilities to be used involving a shadow grappling hook, transforming into an invisible creature to get behind enemies, and even linking foes together so that taking out one chains together an instant multi-kill.
Emily’s abilities weren’t drastically different than Corvo’s, however, hardcore fans looking for high replay value should be pleased to experiment with all the various outcomes created from so many different options. We only got a short time to play, so we didn’t get to really dive into the skill tree and invest in unlocking even more powerful combos.
How you play Dishonored 2 will once again be your own choice. As Corvo in my first playthough, after making my way past all the puzzles, I simply rushed Jindosh and his team of blade-wielding robot guards to execute him from behind in simple stealth fashion. However, knowing the layout in my second playthrough as Emily allowed me to take a much more strategic approach. Rather than backstabbing Jindosh for a quick kill, I found that decapitating his armed bots would cause them to go into a blade-whirling frenzy and accidentally kill Jindosh in the process – a much more rewarding outcome that the developers said goes towards creating a more “passive” ending to the campaign.
Of course, just taking out Jindosh wasn’t the only objective and there was also a completely optional side quest that involved first rescuing returning character, Anton Sokolov. There were also returning items such as the Heart which aids in searching for hidden items scattered throughout levels that go towards powering up Corvo and Emily. But what made Dishonored 2’s gameplay stand out of the most was the evolution of the franchise’s spectacular level design and how these quests fit together seamlessly in Jindosh’s mansion.
As with the previous game and other beloved stealth games, players can find a multitude of ways to get from point A to point B and complete objectives — but the twist with Jindosh’s mansion was the way in which the level itself literally transformed multiple times during gameplay. Throughout the mansion, there were levers that could be pulled to trigger walls to turn, floors to flip, and entire levels to lower and rise in real time, granting different access to different areas when not just getting lost in the beauty of all the moving parts.
Not only was the mechanical level design incorporated well with Dishonored’s beloved stealth formula, but it also worked perfectly with the storytelling and helped shed more light on the target’s backstory as a famous inventor. The amount of detail in the level design was certainly impressive to say the least and after getting our hands-on time with the game we’re most excited to see what else Dishonored 2 has left to offer with the developers teasing more themed missions and other levels that incorporate weather effects and even time travel.
Dishonored 2 is set for release on November 11, 2016 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.