Rosario Dawson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Sam Rockwell
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“…one of the best games of 2016 and absolutely unmissable for fans of stealth titles…”
It’s my first playthrough as deposed empress, Emily Kaldwin and I’m sneaking through the dingy depths of a sub-basement in an abandoned asylum. Guards patrol the main floors so I sneak through the back rooms where bloated corpses and nests of parasitic blood flies ooze with filth and disease. Suddenly I turn a corner too quickly and a guard spots me. Before he can say a word I sprint over and knock him unconscious. I hide his sleeping body behind a torn up couch and keep on creeping.
It’s my second playthrough as protector of the crown, Corvo Attano. I swagger through the so-called Dust Distract and slow time with ancient magic. I send explosive crossbow bolts at four guards who are standing close to one another. The bolts hang in the air like a promise. I unfreeze time and make good on that promise: the bolts blasting into them and sending burning bodies and scorched limbs everywhere. More guards are alerted but that’s fine. I have plenty of magic, explosives and steel for everyone.
Dishonored 2 is the sequel to Arkane Studio’s 2012 sleeper hit, Dishonored. The action is set fifteen years after the events of the first game with Emily Kaldwin now ruling as empress. However, before you can say “how do we justify the name of this sequel?” she is deposed by alleged “rightful heir to the throne” Delilah, who orchestrates a bloody coup and, depending on the player’s choice, leaves it up to either Emily or Corvo to make things right. This early choice is important because you’ll be playing that one character throughout your entire first run. Personally I chose Emily because of her ability to turn into a stealthy shadow beast that can suck the air out of a foe’s lungs, but it’s ultimately up to you. Both choices are good and incredibly varied in terms of unlockable magical powers and weapon usage.
Do a low chaos (minimal kills, stealthy) and a high chaos (burn it all down) run and you’ll really see how strong the gameplay mechanics in Dishonored 2 are. My first run was low chaos as Emily and I found myself sweating every encounter, as I was powerful but weak. A couple of sword blows and I’d go down, and it’s actually harder not to kill your targets. This resulted in a 15 hour plus initial run that was tense, exciting and ultimately very fulfilling. My second run, as Corvo was high chaos and I played the game like Jason Voorhees: all would fall to my malevolently creative murder traps.
Dishonored 2 works precisely because it gives you so many options for play and the level design has never been better. The Addermire Institute, The Clockwork Mansion and The Royal Conservatory are three of the best levels in Dishonored’s history and brimming with replayability. You’ll love spending time searching the various back alleys and hidden rooms for runes to upgrade your powers and become a magical assassin. The downside to this is by the end of the game you’re such a bad ass that the challenge factor goes down. Experienced players would do well to play on one of the two harder difficulties otherwise the last third of the game tends to feel a little breezy.
Ultimately Dishonored 2 is a little let down by a predictable story and a slightly underwhelming ending, but the emergent storytelling, side quests and details within the levels more than make up for this shortfall. There’s such a vivid sense of rich history and detail to the proceedings that you’ll want to explore every nook and cranny and discover different ways to off your foes. Dishonored 2 is one of the best games of 2016 and absolutely unmissable for fans of stealth titles but even players who’d rather kill creatively and noisily are served well by the incredibly rewarding gameplay on offer here.
Check out Anthony’s stabby/slashy Dishonored 2 highlight reel, put together by the mighty Grizwords.