Review: Dishonored 2 (PS4)
Return once again to the Empire of the Isles, but this time we head South to Karnaca, the capital of Serkonos in a quest to reclaim the throne and your honour.
Stick with the old, or indulge in the new
In Dishonored 2, you play as either Corvo Attano, the protagonist for the previous game, or Emily Kaldwin, his daughter and Empress of the Isles. The character you choose is the one you’re stuck with for that playthrough, and has an impact on how the game plays out. Due to the game having multiple endings, you are encouraged to play it multiple times. The concept works, and it immediately gives you a sense of purpose as you set out on your adventure. You do play the same missions though, but the way you go about the missions will be different.
I chose to play as Emily, and I was not disappointed. Emily’s voice acting, and every one else you come across, is spectacular. This alone already makes her a very likable character. Her powers also felt refreshing, fun and fluid, which added to the enjoyment of playing as her. I did play a bit as Corvo in another playthrough, and he felt a bit heavier and slower, but I don’t know if that was just my imagination.
Welcome to Karnaca
The first thing you do in Dishonored 2 is escape Dunwall and head to Karnaca with a few allies, the place where the coup of the throne was apparently planned. The city of Karnana feels less depressing than Dunwall, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its own problems. The areas you explore feel alive and lived in, and the maps you traverse have a great sense of verticality. Each chapter of the game introduces you to a new area of the city, each offering a new and different look at Karnaca. Each of the maps or areas have neutral zones, were most of the NPCs won’t attack or report you, unless you do something that you shouldn’t. Guards in these areas will always be suspicious however, so its advised to avoid them anyway. You obviously have to move out of these safer areas, and into more hostile grounds to complete your mission. It gets a lot more dangerous, and enemies and guards seem to be a bit more alert in these areas.
Having different areas for each chapter was, in my opinion, great. While it had a bit of a sandbox feel to each district, with added optional quests and collectibles scattered around and a plethora options and approaches, it still resembled a linear experience – and that is a good thing. You never got too distracted from your main goal, and the sense of urgency is always there, which sometimes goes lost in these massive open-world games that litter today’s gaming market. It never felt like things were getting stale or boring as it’s constantly changing things up. This is especially true for one level in particular, which completely throws everything in the game on its head. The overall game and level design is perfectly executed to move the rather good plot along.
A stealthy approach, or a cold-hearted killer
When it comes to gameplay it is all about choice. Each of your main objectives gives you alternatives, which impacts the overall outcome of the game. You also have choices when it comes to taking out normal guards and enemies, as you’ll have an option to kill or spare them.
As stated before, Dishonored 2 offers a great sense of variety and verticality, and once you acquire your special powers, and you learn to use them properly, it becomes a lot of fun to traverse the environment to either get the drop on your enemies or avoid them altogether. The AI is also surprisingly clever, unlike the usual stupid guards and enemies we’re used to in stealth-based games. The game is not easy, as staying hidden becomes a real challenge sometimes, and when you do get spotted, you are forced to flee or engage in combat, which once again, is not easy.
That is probably the biggest flaw in Dishonored 2, combat is repetitive and hard, especially when you get ganged up against and have multiple enemies attacking you. The controls for combat feel clunky, and it mostly comprises of parrying and counter attacking. This is not really Dishonored 2’s fault, as the same issue crops up in most FPS games with sword fighting.
The powers you have at your disposal however is where the game shines. Your powers range from teleportation, to mind influencing to a power that causes a domino affect on all targets. I loved taking out three guards with a single sleep dart, by simply having them linked, and what happens to the one, happens to them all. My favourite power with Emily was Shadow Walk, which allowed you to quickly get past a heavily guarded area by sneaking around in a shadowy form. It also has some of the coolest-looking takedowns in the game.
Throughout the game, you will find both Runes and Bonecharms, relics and collectibles that you use to improve certain stats or upgrade your powers. Runes upgrades your powers, and add some new abilities, while Bonecharms adds some extra buffs and stats that impact you in a more passive way. It’s a simple upgrade system, but it works, and it encourages you to explore the world a bit in order to upgrade and become stronger.
Style over Realism
Something that has to be said about Dishonored 2 is that it looks amazing. It has a certain unique art style to it that fits with the world and lore of the story very well. It is something I usually appreciate in games, as photo realism is not always the correct way to go. You see this throughout the game, from the buildings, to the character design, to certain facial features being over-exaggerated in both males and females.
Having good audio in stealth games is also very important, and luckily, Dishonored 2 doesn’t disappoint in that department either. It’s not perfect, since footsteps do sometimes sound louder than it should, which can be a bit distracting, but overall the sound design is very well done.
Dishonored 2 is a great game, and it offers a lot of value. It took me just shy of 17 hours to complete the campaign once, but you can probably double that if you play it again with the other protagonist, and go for each and every collectible the game has to offer. It’s definitely worth considering if you’re into stealth games, and looking for something with a lot of replay value.