↵It's been a long road for Dishonored 2, Bethesda's now-embattled sequel. While a release on PS4 Pro is bound to help them along, the sequel to 2012's Stealth-action hit also had to face a questionable review policy change and early reports of shoddy PC performance. Could any game with that much baggage possibly hold up under scrutiny?
Well, with improved game mechanics, an intriguing story and the freedom of choice in playstyles (and we're just starting out, here), Dishonored 2 offers enough to make people forget about all of that, and then some. It proves that Arkane Studios hasn't lost the craft they used to make the original Dishonored so great.
A New Perspective
While Dishonored 2 gives you the choice to play as Corvo, the protagonist from the original game, the best character experience is best achieved through Corvo's daughter, Emily Kaldwin. This new perspective - someone born into royalty growing to resent it only to have her throne usurped in a coup - keeps Dishonored 2 fresh, despite the return of many familiar elements.
You'll find that Emily has more in-depth interactions with the main villain, having to face a potentially new reality, far different than the one to which she has grown up accustomed. Her journey is one of exploration and enlightenment, rather than merely revenge.
Even if it changed nothing, you have to applaud a game that offers you the choice to play a protagonist of either gender, something Arkane Studios has been praised for repeatedly, and shouldn't go without this praise.
The first thing you'll latch onto in Dishonored 2 is the ability to play the game how you'd like. This much was on display in the earlier gameplay demonstrations, showing the famous Clocktower mission completed in either low-chaos mode - emphasizing stealth and supernatural abilities on the way to not being detected - or high-chaos mode - relying on your ability to kill effectively and often regardless of the consequences.
Being a player who enjoys the challenge of the stealthy approach, I was delighted to see how well my desired playstyle was implemented. While I have in the past expressed regret that Dishonored 2, a game with such stealth potential, would essentially bail me out if I screwed up and got seen, they managed to let me have my cake and eat it, too. While playing the game without being seen or without killing people has always been an option, they made it official in Dishonored 2, keeping track of your Ghost or Merciful rating during and after each level. Even just a simple check mark showing that you were never detected is gratifying enough to spam the quicksave key and make sure you achieve it.
Dishonored 2 also doesn't pat you on the back for just blazing through the game arrows flying. High-chaos will net you a crummier ending and a less rich experience, all the while shortening your playthrough. You'll find that many missions will ask you to eliminate a target. If you elect to do so by lethal means, you simply find them, kill them and move on. But if you want to find a non-lethal means of elimination (incapacitation, usually), you'll have to take extra steps - talk to someone else, find an important item. Not only does this make the game longer, it gives you ample opportunity to explore and find valuable loot, which is always a bonus in games like these.
Electing to take a stealthier approach will also make it more natural to stumble upon side quests. Here's a tip for either strategy: if you overhear people talking about something, wait until they've finished talking before interrupting them. If I went in guns blazing at one point, I wouldn't have heard two hostile thieves talking about their heist plans - plans which I then made my own and pulled off a heist of a black market. While I felt like a bad person afterwards, I was also a rich bad person.
At any rate, the side quests in this game (billed as Special Actions that appear in-game as optional objectives) are probably the thing that makes it worth playing. Never mind the fact that you may not even encounter these objectives, they're simply really well done. Whether it's retrieving a body for unknown purposes, or simply finding a way into the a room filled with loads of money, they're all exciting and worthwhile.
A lot of these sidequests or other areas are infested with a new enemy - bloodflies. These creatures will gladly swarm and suck the life out of you if you give them a reason. You have to move slowly and avoid the nests. These act as obstacles to be traversed, adding a new layer of challenge to your everyday exploring.
A Powerful Change
Dishonored 2 takes a slightly different approach to special powers than its predecessor. Rather than just have your based abilities that are upgraded, you upgrade your abilities on a skill-tree-like basis. Emily will have her Shadow Walk ability, for example, but the upgrades for it will have you choose between three options.
With most abilities, you can bend them to suit your playstyle. If you're going for a Merciful playthrough, you can avoid any upgrade that makes it easier to kill. These upgrades can also change the way the skill is used or give it a whole other use entirely.
Dishonored 2 also added the ability to craft bone charms with items you find throughout the game. This boasts near-endless possibilities, but it may also lead to corrupted bone charms, if you're not careful. This all goes hand-in-hand with offering the game a truly unique experience for each playthrough, allowing you to play the game how you want and assisting you no matter what you choose.
Dishonored 2 will successfully function for both fans of the series and those who pick it up for the first time. With a robust side-quest system, you'll find the game has much to discover. That, and the ability to play the game how you want and rewarding you for taking a more challenging course, make Dishonored 2 a rousing success. This game isn't hard to pick up and play, but it will be almost impossible to put down.