Like Father, Like Daughter
Fifteen years after the events of the original Corvo Attano (or his daughter, Emily Kaldwin) has to clear his name once again. The resulting journey is just as spectacular as the last one.
Dishonored opened with main protagonist Corvo being framed for the assassination of his country’s empress. This led to him, as the title implies, being dishonored. So how would something like that happen to the same man again without it feeling a little repetitive? I had this worry when going into Dishonored 2 and was happily surprised by the solution.
The solution was to bring back Delilah Copperspoon, the main antagonist of The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches, the two story expansions of Dishonored. She had already been established as wanting to take over Dunwall (the fictional country from the first game), and had the power to do it. Now, do not get me wrong, the rest of the story is about taking down key figures to get at the overthrower just like the last one. But I found the initial coup to be easier to accept than if it was perpetrated by just another random group of conspirators.
It was nice to see how much of The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches informed Dishonored 2. Corvo was a silent protagonist in the original, and thus a character who was hard to care about. Daud, the protagonist of the expansions, was given a voice and the story benefited greatly from it. This time around, Corvo and Emily get voices, and provide a nice dose of character into the core gameplay. They have slightly different worldviews, and that is reflected by their comments in certain situations. Corvo is jaded and familiar with the sights presented to him throughout the game, whereas Emily has lived a comfortable life and is horrified by it.
I was disappointed by the fact that whichever character is not chosen as the playable one, they get locked away for almost the entirety of the game. Corvo and Emily get very little screentime together and as I enjoyed their chemistry for those brief scenes, I wanted to see more of it.
Like I said earlier, the rest of the story is pretty paint-by-the-numbers. I do not have many complaints about it, but nothing besides the beginning stands out for me.
The gameplay however, is spectacular. The basic movement and sneaking around feels fantastic. There is a greater variety of tools at your disposal than the first game. Because of this, it fixes the main problem I had with the original: the game stressed non-lethal play in its instructions but the tools given were mainly lethal. Of course, all of the lethal options remain the same, so both ways are now equal in gameplay.
Emily’s powers are brand new and also offer a better split of non-lethal and lethal than Corvo’s powers. Her movement power, Far Reach, operates a bit differently than Corvo’s Blink. Blink is basically teleportation, whereas Far Reach is a grappling hook. Because of this, there is some forward momentum that occurs after grappling. If applied carefully, Emily can traverse farther than Corvo. However, she is not faster, so she can be spotted if she uses Far Reach in the sightline of an enemy. I would prefer the power to Blink, if its aim were not so finicky. Often times, it seemed to favor bottoms of ledges even if I was pointing right on top. Other times it would aim exactly like I wanted it to. This inconsistency added some frustration to moments that should have made me feel cool.
While the rest of her powers are useful, most of them felt a little generic. The standout one is Domino. Domino allows multiple enemies to be linked together, so that what happens to one happens to all. For instance, a single sleeping dart can hit just one of the enemies, but put up to three others to sleep. Finding out different ways to utilize this power was incredibly fun. My personal favorite was combining it with Far Reach’s grab move. I had a lot of fun watching four enemies come flying up in the air towards me, and then watching them plummet back down to the ground.
Corvo’s arsenal of powers is basically the same as the first game. This means that he keeps the favoring of lethality that hurt the last game, but his powers are unique enough that I am glad not much was changed. Emily is easily the way to go for returning players, but either are great options in the end.
Dishonored always valued itself in the numerous ways to play. One of the most popular ways to spice things up a bit in the first game was to not use the powers at all. To accommodate anyone wishing to play like this, the option to play without powers is baked into the game this time. Even if only a fraction of players utilize it, I believe it is a very smart inclusion.
Stealth games are not fun if the enemies are as dumb as a sack of bricks. Dishonored 2’s enemies hit a good sweet spot; they are perceptive and smart (they actually look around a bit if they briefly spot you instead of just going back to patrol) but never so much so that it feels like the game is screwing you over. I think the biggest problem with their intelligence is that they seem to be somewhat oblivious of other enemies. For instance, I threw a guard off a building and watched as half a dozen others came running to look, and they kept running into each other and eventually clumped together. (I took advantage of this by throwing a grenade into the middle of the group and laughed manically as their various severed limbs flew through the air.)
There is also a nice variety of them. The two enemy types that debuted in The Brigmore Witches are back and one new one is added. This means that not all powers or tools can be used the same way against enemies. The best levels of the game all include sections with different enemy types close by, so the stealth is more than distract dude and run by.
Speaking of the levels, the level design is absolutely fantastic. They are huge and offer many different routes to get to the objective, and most impressively, built for two different characters, with or without using powers. If that was not enough, there are two levels in the game that are kind of mindblowing. I will not spoil anything, as they need to be experienced blind. Which levels I am talking about will be very clear when played and I highly encourage tracking down all the collectibles in the levels, as they showcase the brilliance of the level design most.
The Verdict: 9.3 out of 10
I think the worst thing to say about this game is that it does not feel as special as the original Dishonored did. However, I also think that it is a better overall game, and one certainly worth playing for veterans and newcomers alike. It is a really unique game and I do not think that there is anything quite like it.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.
Riley Berry is an Associate Writer for MONG and may be somewhat of a maniac. You can follow him on Twitter.