In Dishonored 2 on the PlayStation 4, it's been 15 years since the Rat Plague swept through the city of Dunwall. The Lord Regent, whose cruel reign gnawed at the city’s citizens even more feverishly than the rodents that infested it, is gone. In his place, uncertainty and fear. An otherworldly intruder has claimed Emily Kaldwin’s place as the head of the city, leaving the fate of the Isles hanging in the balance.
Supported Video Output:
- Blu-ray Disc
Dishonored 2 is an action-adventure stealth video game developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. This title is the follow up to the original known as Dishonored, the game was released for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on November 11, 2016.
When I was growing up, the Thief games were always some of my favorites. No other game let you do everything that Thief would let you do. It was this huge sandbox where the developers just made a handful of sandcastles and then handed you some tools, allowing you to do whatever you wanted within their created space. But then, that kind of game went away, receding into the background in favor of more linear experiences that were more cinematic in nature. Thoughtful stealth gave way to bombastic explosions.
Then, in 2012, Bethesda published the first Dishonored game. Created by some of the same people that made those early Thief games, Dishonored was a return to form for the genre, an exciting new sandbox with awesome new tools to play around with. Thankfully, its brand new sequel, continues that trend. Dishonored 2 takes every gameplay mechanic, every scrap from its predecessor, and iterates on them thoroughly.
Perhaps the most immediately apparent of those many changes shows up very early in the game, when you're forced to choose a player character. Instead of just having one playable character, you have two. You can either play as the same character you played in the first game, Corvo Attano, or you can play as Empress Emily Kaldwin. Each of them has their own set of abilities, some of which are pulled straight from the first game, but many of which, especially the most interesting of the lot, are brand new.
My favorite of these new tools is probably Domino, which allows you to connect a number of enemies with magic, causing whatever you do to one of them to affect all of them in kind. As a stealth player, I find it extremely useful for saving sleep darts, or just clearing a tightly grouped bunch of enemies without being seen. Just like the first game, there are a ton of these sorts of tools, things that fit into anyone's play style, whether you sneak your way through missions without ever being seen like I do, or whether you take the opposite approach, sprinting through levels, slitting throats and throwing grenades as you go.
Of course, just like in the original Dishonored, everything you do has an effect on the world around you, as well as the game's story. Play violently, killing large numbers of people, and their dead bodies will spawn more bugs for you to deal with, people will look at you with horror, and even your own allies will begin to mistrust you. Play stealthily and non lethally, though, and people will respect you, the city around them becoming safer as you go instead of ever more deadly. The story itself, however, is a bit disappointing. It's not really particularly bad, but it also is eerily similar to that of the first game, wholly unoriginal for the most part.
The original game's story wasn't particularly fantastic either, but it made up for it with its environments, and with Dishonored 2, Arkane has once again proven that they very much know what they're doing when it comes to designing worlds. Not only do the environments give you ample opportunities to make use of all your tools, but they also convey a story. Each level of Dishonored 2 is every bit as important to the overall plot as the letters and books you read, or the cut scenes you watch between missions. Attention has been paid to every tiny little detail in every corner of the world, and it makes everything about that world just feel that little bit more real, which in turn makes it a sandbox that is extremely fun to engage with on just about every level.
Sadly, the expansion of Dishonored 2's sandbox world and its associated tool set comes with a downside in the vast improvement of the artificial intelligence that the enemies use. That might sound like a positive, but there has always been a fine line in games that require stealth. You don't actually want guards who are paying attention, who can pick you out and kill you at a moment's notice. What you want are guards that seem like they're smart, but kept dumb in a few important categories. For lack of a better term, guards with blinders on. Dishonored 2's guards have no blinders. They will see you from a mile away, and they will pounce on you immediately. It's annoying to say the least, and while I learned to work around it eventually, the game definitely would have benefited from just a slight bit more leniency.
Much like the game that came before it, Dishonored 2 is a perfect storm of environments, level design, and mechanics. While the game's artificial intelligence might be a bit more aggressive than it should ideally be, everything else about this game more than makes up for it.