Dishonored 2 Review – Sneaking Around Has Never Been So Much Fun
I’m a huge fan of stealth games. I’m into covert ops so much that I usually play a thief class or some variation of it in my pen and paper role-playing gaming sessions. It’s no surprise then, that I was rather smitten by Thief: The Dark Project, way back in 1992. Its peerless blend of stealth, plus a highly immersive setting, placed the stealth genre bar high, daring other games to challenge its superiority.
There have been many stealth-based games since Thief: The Dark Project, including a rather disappointing reprisal of the series, 2014’s Thief. But no one has really captured the uniqueness of that timeless 1992 classic. The excellent Assassin’s Creed series came close, but its parkour-based hijinks and reliance on action made it miss the mark slightly. Another series, however, is challenging the medieval stealth crown. That burgeoning new franchise is the Dishonored series, by French developer, Arkane Studios.
It’s hard to believe that the first title, Dishonored, is already four years old. The 2012 game was a perfect blend of subterfuge and action, and gave the player the option of playing it whichever way suited their own individual playstyle. Unlike the Thief series, Dishonored’s storyline takes place in an alternate universe that is more or less based upon mid-nineteenth century Italy or Greece. The Empire of the Iles features lots of Grecian and Roman architecture, as well as many cultural similarities, although it does feature its own distinct steampunk aesthetic as well.
In Dishonored 2, Corvo Attano (the protagonist of the first game) and his daughter Emily must take back their kingdom’s throne, which has been usurped by a dastardly villain and her henchmen. Although the game’s well-produced and immersive prologue is initially played through from Emily’s perspective, once the game is set to begin, it may be played utilizing either Corvo or Emily. Corvo is a little more heavy-handed, while Emily employs a bit more stealth, and both can either choose to use supernatural abilities, or eschew them altogether.
What made the original Dishonored such a treat to play was that you could play it however you wanted to. Dishonored 2 increases this variance even further, allowing players to journey through the gilded city of Karnaca however they see fit. For those who are a little burnt out on games that focus on killing everything that moves, Dishonored 2 can be navigated as a pure stealth experience, without harming a single soul.
Conversely, Call of Duty fans can carve a blood-drenched swath through the various guards and other denizens within the game’s world, if they so please. As mentioned previously, you can even refuse to be imbued with supernatural powers, by the Outsider, at the game’s outset, and choose to play the game powerless (although I’m not sure why anyone would want to do that!).
Personally, being a fan of stealth and subterfuge, I navigated through Dishonored 2 in full-on sneak-mode. There were a few instances where I had to use violence, such as after getting discovered by nosey guards, but that wasn’t preferable. Dishonored 2 takes a page out of Thief’s book by offering players huge, sprawling levels, which are well-designed—much more so than in the original 2012 offering.
What I enjoyed about the expansive environments, much as I did in the original Thief, was that I was able to sneak around in the shadows and stalk my targets. When I’d sidle close enough to them, I was often able to eavesdrop in on their conversations. The tidbits of information that I gleaned using this method, afforded me important clues about other targets, or ways of more safely navigating through certain danger zones. In that regard, Dishonored 2 encourages stealthy gameplay as opposed to going in Rambo-style, since there is potentially a lot more to gain through being and remaining silent.
While Dishonored 2’s levels are not necessarily sandbox-oriented, in other words, you can’t access the entirety of the game’s map, it is much more open than say, the extremely linear 2014 Thief remake. The level design is also very imaginative, and you can tell that Arkane put a ton of work into creating each and every one.
Some Steam gamers have mentioned that they are having issues running the game, but I didn’t experience any hiccups at all while playing it on my high-end gaming laptop (GTX 1080 graphics card). In that regard, I believe that the only people experiencing problems with Dishonored 2 have lower spec computers. The game’s visuals are certainly gorgeous, with some of the most amazingly-crafted environments I’ve ever witnessed in a video game. The character models, including realistic hair and mouth movements, are also deftly handled, and really stood out as uber-impressive.
In all, Dishonored 2 is a brilliant follow-up to 2012’s original offering. It continues the series’ intriguing storyline, one fraught with danger around every corner. Arkane has forged a lovely and immersive world here, and you can tell that Dishonored 2 is a true labor of love. From the exceptionally-creative and intricately designed levels, to the polished presentation and fun gameplay, this is one of the best action/adventure games of the year so far, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it earns a multitude of gaming awards for 2016.