Dishonored 2 Game Play - Dishonored 2 Reviews

Dishonored 2 Game Play – Dishonored 2 Reviews

Dishonored 2 Game Play

In Dishonored 2 ’s case this is both the dilapidated warren of Dunwall -all grime and Victorian industry- and the sun-kissed but no less dangerous streets of coastal Karnaca. The game begins in the former, re-joining magical assassin Corvo Attano 15 years after the events of the first game. His daughter Emily Kaldwin (rescued by Corvo after he was framed for her mother’s murder) sits on the throne as Empress of Dunwall, reigning over its rat-infested sprawl.

Dishonored 2 Reviews

That is until she is overthrown in a bloody coup masterminded by her twisted aunt Delilah and the tyrannical Duke Abele of Serkonos. You can choose to play as the deposed Emily or the grizzled father that secretly trained her as an assassin, each with their own suite of mystically-acquired powers. What follows is a simple, sparingly told tale of revenge and restitution, as you pursue Delilah’s cabal of miscreants to Karnaca and seek to take them down one-by-one in order to restore Emily to the throne.

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The game rattles through its narrative setup with barely a breath, shunting you through the streets of Dunwall without much care as to your well-being. It is a clumsily paced opening that comes to be at odds with the rest of the game’s elegance. Its pace can be excused as keenness to get you to the meat of the game, as you soon find yourself aboard The Dreadful Whale, a rickety steamboat that serves as your base and hub in between missions. Your ally Meagan (a melancholic Rosario Dawson) whisks you to your objectives on a skiff, slipping into coastal nooks on Karnaca’s edge before you venture further into the city.

Dishonored 2
Members of the Royal Guard are your most ubiquitous obstacles.
And what a city it is. Karnaca is a glorious creation. On the surface its bright open spaces and Mediterranean architecture is the opposite of Dunwall’s smoke-stacks and misery, but blood still runs in its streets and pestilence hides in its corners. Instead of a rat plague, Karnaca is infested with Bloodflies, buzzing pests that must be swatted and become more numerous the more kills you make. The city is also technologically superior to Dunwall, with the clockwork contraptions of inventor Kirin Jindosh distributed throughout; wind turbines powering electrified barriers, traps and gates locked by riddles.

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As ever, your main obstacles are the enemies that prowl the streets. The square-jawed Royal Guard are the most ubiquitous; buffonish pack animals always on the lookout for the missing rebel from Dunwall. But they are joined by even more dangerous foes; Delilah’s coven of screeching witches, the zealous Overseers and, most terrifyingly, Jindosh’s spindly clockwork soldiers.

How you deal with these foes is down to you. Dishonored prides itself as a game that gives you choice both in mechanics and morality. You can role-play the game as a stealthy pacifist, not killing a soul, sneaking through each area’s peripheries to reach your target and administering the odd choke-hold or sleep dart to guards in your way. You can be the knife in the dark, silently slitting throats and setting traps as you make your way towards your quarry. Or you can go violence first, storming areas with pistol fire, explosives and reckless abandon.

The fundamental question remains the same: to kill or not to kill. But you are offered terrific variety whatever your approach. Stealth and restraint is most encouraged -with a more ‘optimistic’ ending offered in exchange for a low body count- but also the most challenging. Even the grunts are perceptive beyond most video game sentries, quick to spot an intruder and just as quick to investigate. A ragged white scar above an enemy’s head means they can see you, which quickly turns crimson before they yell for their comrades and rush to attack. Escaping an assault without reciprocating violence is not an easy task, particularly when being attacked by a pack, as a few sword swipes are enough to take you down. But Dishonored provides you with enough equipment and magical spells to give you an edge.

Both characters can teleport short distances, Corvo’s ‘Blink’ ability and Emily’s ‘Far Reach’ allowing you to whisk unseen between cover and hop across chandeliers, taking advantage of the splendid verticality of the game’s areas. Corvo can inhabit the local fauna like rats and fish, infiltrating areas by scurrying through vents or swimming into sewer pipes. Emily can link together the fates of up to four people with her Domino power; when one dies or is knocked unconscious, the others follow suit. She can summon a Doppelganger to distract guards as the real Emily slips by unseen. Or she can combine the spells, Domino linking a group of foes to her doppelganger before slitting its throat in a queasily bleak act of aggression.

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All out assault is just as well served and arguably more fun. With vicious executions via sword, a roaring pistol and trip mines made of razor blades. While Dishonored 2 often feels like it is discouraging violence, it is still exceedingly good at it.

Dishonored 2
The twisted antagonist Delilah Copperspoon.
Like Jindosh’s creations, the mechanics fit like clockwork into Arkane’s superbly designed areas. As in the first game, Dishonored isn’t an open-world game, but its self-contained levels are fabulously layered sandboxes that task you with eliminating or neutralising one of Delilah’s skivvies with plenty of space to experiment. This approach to design brings a balance between player freedom, catering to any approach, and the developer’s authorial control.

The attention to detail is staggering at times; areas crammed with secrets, shortcuts and wonderful environmental story-telling. Each area casts a glimpse at different areas of Karnaca and the socio-political wrangles contained within, cast in shades of grey. Are the Howler gang that reside in the Dust District (an area buffeted by wind flares that you can use for cover) down-trodden soldiers of the people or conniving criminals? Is there more to the Overseers than their violent religious zealotry suggests? Exploring each area, hunting out scrawled messages and listening in to conversations brings depth to an otherwise simple tale for those that seek it.

And their variety means that this isn’t always a game just about sneaking around and snapping necks. The highlight is Jindosh’s Clockwork Mansion, an ever-shifting labyrinth that rearranges rooms as you pass through, its demented creator taunting you over radio as his creepily serene robot soldiers prowl the halls. The mansion level will likely be mentioned in the same breath as BioShock’s Fort Frolic and Thief’s Cradle, but it isn’t the only smart change of pace in a game that plays with weather, environment and even time.

Complaints? There are a few. Load times after death on PS4 feel just on the wrong side of lengthy for a game that thrives on experimentation (though offset by an essential quick-save system). And it feels uncharacteristically clunky for the game to exclusively base its upgrade system on items scattered around the level. If you want to power-up, you will need to equip the collectible hunting Heart (an icky, fascinating item that has more compelling powers than a glorified sat-nav) and dig out Runes and Bonecharms left in cupboards and squirrelled away in attic spaces. It should be noted that some collectibles are a pleasure to hunt out, but in many ways this feels like a transparent (if understandable) attempt at forcing people to explore, littering the screen with distracting icons rather than having faith that players will bury themselves in the world Arkane has created.

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This was true of the first game, and it’s true here as well, mainly because the sequel simply takes the original formula and builds on it. You’ll find more ways to engage enemies without killing them, like nonlethal drop attacks and parries that stun opponents momentarily, allowing you to grab them and choke them out. There are new weapons and gadgets, including crossbow bolts that blind enemies or send them sprinting in a chemical-induced madness. Weapons can be upgraded in new ways, so your starter pistol can eventually be modded into a semi-auto hand cannon with explosive, ricocheting rounds.

And most importantly, there’s an entirely new protagonist with her own set of powers. You can still play as classic hero Corvo and enjoy all his original supernatural abilities like pausing time and possessing rodents, but Empress Emily Kaldwin offers some exciting new choices, most notably Domino: All marked targets suffer the same fate, so knocking one unconscious puts them all out, for example. Emily can also hypnotize enemies with Mesmerize and become a moving shadow with Shadow Walk. She can even mimic Corvo’s signature teleportation ability with Far Reach. Much like the weaponry, the diverse and inventive mechanics inherent in these powers turn the gameplay in a joyful cycle of experimentation and reward. Nearly all can be used in a variety of ways–lethal and nonlethal, straightforward and unconventional–to accommodate whatever strategy you happen to hatch.

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Typically those who have played the game can’t help themselves but jump straight into another campaign straight away, though in most cases switching between the games two protagonists, Emily and Corvo. Now in the run up to Chirstmas developers Arkane Studio’s have a festive treat for fans in the shape of a new game plus mode. Interestingly Dishonored 2 players will be able to combine Emily’s abilities with Corvo’s powers to create custom combos never before possible in the game.

New Game Plus is unlocked once the player completes the game as either character, which lets face it most people would have done by now. The player starts the game with each hereo’s abilties plus, all the Bonecharm Traits and Runes collected from the previous playthrough. New game plus is currently available right now (in beta) for all PC Steam players, but PS4 and Xbox One console players have to wait slightly longer.

The Dishonored 2 new game plus update will be officially released on December 19 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

Part of what makes the experimentation fun is the fact that your enemies are genuinely threatening, which makes cleverly dispatching them feel that much more empowering. They parry, dodge, flank, kick you away, even throw rocks to keep you off balance, and they never relent. Rather than telegraphing their attacks or waiting patiently for you to strike them, they just come at you, which both gets your adrenaline pumping and makes your one-hit-kill counterattacks feel earned. Even if you ignore your supernatural assassin skills and focus purely on swordplay, Dishonored gives you plenty of options, including sprinting slide tackles and combo-driven executions.

Most impressively, individual missions frequently distinguish themselves by offering a unique gameplay hook. There’s a mission late in the game that involves time manipulation and might be one of the most unforgettable standalone missions in any game ever. It is masterpiece unto itself. There’s also the intricate, mind-bending clockwork mansion, which turns the entire level into a giant Rubik’s cube. And just like before, you can find elaborate, story-driven ways to “eliminate” every major target without actually killing them.

Because the world they have created is worth exploring. A grim, gorgeous milieu of societal depth and cunning design. That its mechanics slot so naturally into its environment, giving players the freedom and choice to explore, influence and infiltrate means that Dishonored 2 represents the very best gaming has to offer.

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