Arkane Studios’ Dishonored was more than a smash hit. It delivered an incredibly immersive story populated with memorable characters, a unique artistic presentation, and a range of powers that let players tackle each mission in an array of ways. You could sneak, you could stab, you could teleport from place to place… the sense of freedom offered in the game was unsurpassed.
Which makes developing a sequel a challenge of the highest order, but so far, Arkane seems on the money.
Dishonored 2 advances the story a few years, and introduces a new playable character alongside the first game’s Corvo Atano. You can choose to play as him, or as the deposed Empress, Emily Kaldwin. Each character brings an array of different skills to the game, which means that a second play-through is almost a must, and it’s certainly good to see a game of this calibre offer both male and female protagonists. Take that Ubisoft!
As of writing the game is unreleased, but we have played through – twice! -one of the game’s levels, the impressively complex and appropriately named Clockwork Mansion. Here, you’re tasked with rescuing an ally, and eliminating the mansion’s builder and main occupant, a rather mad engineer with a penchant for deadly automata.
And the mansion itself is also quite the challenge – walls and entire rooms are controlling by levers and pulleys, able to re-arrange around you into any number of configurations.
Although it doesn’t come into play in our single level, the first game’s Chaos system – whereby the world changes according to how bloodthirsty you are – returns, as does some of the powers and weaponry from the first game. Again, how you play is up to you; in the Clockwork Mansion level it’s even possible to ‘eliminate’ your target without killing him – though killing the jerk, after he’s taunted you all through the level, is certainly satisfying.
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Equally satisfying are some of the new powers, especially Emily’s. We had three to play with for time with the game, and they’re dramatically different from Corvo’s. Far Reach is arguably the most similar, as it allows Emily to move distances in much the same way as the old Blink power. However, since it works by grabbing onto things, it can also grab distant objects to bring them to you – handy for grabbing potions. Shadow Walk turns Emily into a spectral figure, greatly enhancing her ability to sneak about, while Domino is particularly cool – this power lets you link enemies, so that what you do to one, happens to all. Link five guards, shoot one, and they all fall down dead.
Or asleep if you’re using poisoned darts from your crossbow.
The Clockwork Mansion also highlighted some new enemies. Alongside familiar human guards were fearsomely large Clockwork Soldiers, spindly steampunk apparitions that kind of look like General Grievous from the crappy Star Wars movies – but much scarier. They’re hard to kill, unless you go for certain spots, and can survive the loss of limbs and even their heads – though then they rely on movement to track you.
Thankfully new gear makes short work of them.
The level itself is also incredible, and not just because of its ever-changing design. It’s possible to slip behind the moving walls and into the grimy interior of the mansion’s mechanisms, and sneak about unseen. The sheer detail on display, from forgotten meals left behind by servants, to the incidental conversations of guests in a waiting room, bring the world of Dishonored 2 alive.
It all comes together for some unforgettable gaming. In the level’s finale, as Emily, I was being stalked by two of the Clockwork Soldiers. So I set up three stun mines on pillars, and lured them after me – they obediently ran for me, I ran past the mines, and then ZAP! Two piles of twitching parts. This just left the main target – I’d already rescued his prisoner, dragging him to a safe spot in the mansion that I’d already cleared – so I Far Reached up to his balcony, and Slowed Time (I was playing as Corvo) and so was able to get behind him easily enough to take him down non-lethally.
Suffice to say that of all the big releases for the end of 2016, Dishonored 2 is looking like the game to be excited for.
New characters, new powers, a whole new city to explore in this fascinating steampunk world, and the same great design and voice acting. Even without playing the game, we can happily say that if you liked Dishonored, you’re going to love Dishonored 2.