November 25, 2016

Dishonored 2 - Review

When Bethesda announced a sequel to Dishonored, I was interested, but not excited, having played through the game, I can see why others were excited for it.

The game starts out with the anniversary of the death of the former empress, Jessamine Kaldwin and while a sombre affair, events to take a turn when Delilah Kaldwin enters and decideds to claim the throne for herself as the elder sister of the former empress. She is aided by the Duke of Serkonos, Luca Abele and the clockwork soldiers. After Emily and Corvo are taken down by the coup that takes place, you get to choose whom to play as, for myself it was Corvo, continuing as him made sense, but playing as Emily will offer up different gameplay and story options.

As Corvo, forced to flee the city, he makes his way to Karnaca in order to discover the events that led to the coup, as well as finding out who Delilah is and just what can be done to take back the throne. Helping Corvo along the way is old friend Meagan Foster, who takes Corvo to and from the locations he needs to go and once you rescue him, old friend and inventor, Anton Sokolov. Between the three of them, you can start to unravel the mystery of just what is happening and depending on your choices, impact the final story the game has to tell.

If you have played the first game, then not a lot is going to feel all that new here, sure there are new powers to use, like Domino and such, but the core of the game is still the same and that is ok with me. You are able to approach any obstacle or challenge in anyway that you want, you can charge in, sword drawn and engage in open combat, or you can crouch down and avoid a fight at all costs. Or you can play like I do, start off in stealth, avoiding fights where possible and then once spotted kill every bad guy in sight. Combat is not the only part of the game that allows you to play as you want, you can also navigate around the world as you want, need to get into a room that is locked, well you can try and find the key, or maybe if you make your way up to the roof you can drop down through the skylight, how you approach every part of the game is up to you.

While combat and navigation are important, there is also the world itself to explore, with hidden things to discover that help shape it and the people with in it. Once you arrive in Karnaca, people are questioning the coup, Delilah and even the crown killer, you can learn about it by listening to people working at the docks, or find newspapers. While they are not required to advance the game in any way, its small touches that help shape the world and your understanding of it. Perhaps the biggest change for here is that you can save people and have them join your crew back aboard the boat, not everyone will fit that bill, but its an option you can explore, if you desire to do that, for me it always came down to if I could save them without a fight being a pain, if so they were saved, if not then they died.

The game does also support a very distinct visual style, somewhere of a mix between 1930’s art deco and comic characterization and while the two looks are as far apart as you can get, the do blend together extremely well. The city of Karnaca and its various districts are fun to explore, from the docks where you first arrive, with the bloated whales awaiting harvesting, to the apartments of the citizens filled with blood flies and everything in between. While the citizens are not too distinctive, the players are, Corvo has a very worn look, like age has really hit him hard, where as Emily has a more defined royal look, at least at the beginning. The villains and secondary characters all look great as well, the clockwork soldiers perhaps have one of the best designs I have seen in a while, the problem is the engine that runs the game has some odd hiccups, which caused some very strange lighting issues to pop up for me.

From a sound design standpoint, the game mixes the sound well enough, music plays a key role, but never forces itself to the front, letting the lack of noise be centre stage. There is nice mix of performances from the actors, sadly though, playing as Corvo does not give any sort of satisfaction there, every single line is delivered with a sense of meh, while the voice is gravely enough, hinting at a gruffer man than you might think, the lack of any sort of emotional connection hurts. The citizens of Karnaca are ok enough, with conversations between them, as well as the guards helping to provide context to the thoughts of the people. Perhaps the weakest link are the Howlers, a gang that is trying to seize power in Karnaca, they never come off as more than just two bit thugs, which is a shame as their leader Paolo does have a presence that rivals the main antagonists.

Dishonored 2 is a great sequel, it improves upon most parts of the original game, but keeps things open for players who never played the first. While the new powers are fun, there is never a push to use them, truly letting players experience the game and the story in any way they choose.

Thanks to Bethesda for supplying the game for review

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