It was as I beat Dishonored 2 that the full weight of how similar this games storyline is to the previous game hit me. As the final target was taken care of, I was left with a thought that hadn’t really coalesced until this point-“It took four years to make this game and we couldn’t get a new story?” I’m not the first one to voice that thought, but honestly it’s one I had pushed out until the final target was taken care of and the games credits rolled. There’s some good stuff in this game, enough that I won’t say it’s a bad game but I find that there’s also a lot of bad or subpar stuff that drags the game down for me. So allow me to walk through my thoughts, and give a full view of my opinion of the game.
Bugs and Bethesda’s review policy
First of all, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the issues that have plagued this game since the day it came out. I can’t speak to console versions, but I played on steam and the games in an embarrassing state-stuttering, graphics issues and the like make the game more unpleasant to play than it should be and it’s disgusting to see this sort of thing happen-especially when Bethesda wants to start not giving press pre-release code. It’s pretty obvious between this and Skyrim how cynical that move is and I think it’s a damn strong incentive for people to not buy their games till reviews are out-they’re always buggy and you shouldn’t anyway but now with their scummy new policy it’s more of a case against early purchase than it ever has been.
After two beta patches the game still has issues running and even while it does run better than after patch one, and I cannot recommend it to anyone in its current state. It’s a black mark on Bethesda and it’s a black mark on Arkane in my book for future titles.
Gameplay and level design
Unsurprisingly, the gameplay is still pretty good-considering how tight the original one is I think that this one functioning as it does is not a real surprise. There are some nice improvements-the heart for finding runes can now lock runes so you can get to them easily without having to constantly yank it out, improvements to blink and such (I played as Corvo first and probably last) have been taken from the Knife of Dunwall DLC and there’s more options for non-lethal playthroughs. You can now jump knock-out from above and during sword fights if you parry at the right time you can wail an enemy in the face and choke them unconscious. Climbing also looks a bit better and some of the sound design associated with movement seems to be better as well-a little tightening up is here and appreciated.
Additionally instead of upgrading gear and buying things between missions you can go to black market shops and do all that there, allowing you to adjust on the fly to suit your situation. I do think the switching between things to upgrade could be a little more visually clear-or I’m just stupid to be fair, because until the last Black Market I didn’t know I could upgrade gear other than my crossbow. I also find that perhaps it could be made a bit more visually apparent when you’re crouching as in the prior game-there are decent cues but more than once I would accidentally not be crouched and stumble into trouble. Additionally, making wall peeking something enemies can detect unlike the first game isn’t something I can say I find a good call, but it’s not a deal breaker.
There are some odd issues-elevator hatches and slightly small window openings sometimes are near impossible to wedge yourself through on your first attempt and sometimes if you quick save and have to reload the game reacts in bizarre ways, like a whale oil tank you set down exploding after you reload or a bunch of guards noticing you when they didn’t before.
Additionally there is one somewhat interesting level where you have to manipulate your environment using a certain tool to evade enemies while deprived of your powers. I find it somewhat impressive to imagine how it works and it creates an interesting puzzle of how to best get through an area on a stealthier run. Another level takes place in a clockwork mansion that has massive sections that can shift to allow movement or to allow new threats to emerge if you alert the guards-as well as tough clockwork guards that add a new threat to the mix in a similar way to tallboys. Seeing how it works inside the walls is also interesting, as is the lab the owner uses and its various shifting platforms allowing many different types of research in one lab. It’s pretty darn cool and it’s probably one of my preferred levels quality wise.
Overall I think the levels feel more packed with detail and stuff to do than some of Dishonored’s levels-even if some later levels kind of regress and are similar or lesser in scale. As a whole I do like most of the new areas design wise, and I feel like there’s good incentive to explore to try to find better upgrades, cash and runes/bone charms. The level design is really the star of the show here for me, and I find the game is generally better at countering certain strategies and forcing you to mess with different tactics to proceed.
Aesthetics and World
Dunwall is a great example of world design-a dilapidated city, infested with flesh eating rats and corrupt guardsman, creepy plague victims who will stumble towards you and spit flies at you-it’s a great design and the city design has some great elements to it. The steampunk tech, cobbled streets and brick buildings, the angles and design of most of the guard stuff and tallboys-it’s all great stuff from the gentlemen who designed City 17-Viktor Antonov. It’s some great design work and it makes the city visually arresting as you explore it in your quest to get revenge in Dishonored. The mask you wear, the sword you use-it all looks good and fits with the steampunk aesthetic. Tall boys on advanced stilts fire deadly explosive arrows as they lumber about, watchtowers twist and keep an eye out for you and walls of light cut imposing figures as you find your way around the dangerous things. Monstrous whales are bled for their oil, dangerous whale oil is cast about and commonplace and the city is in a state of chaos.
Karnaca by contrast is far less interesting visually, at least in my estimation. It’s modeled after Spain as far as I can tell, with some white buildings, some terrace roofs and some fancy wrought ironwork here or there as well as massive trees and wooden structures everywhere. Soldier design is fine, with short sleeves and attire more fit for a warmer environ and here or there you’ll see wind powered structures rather than traditional whale oil type things. The city is generally not in total chaos, even with bloodflies-but except for nest keepers they’re not felt all that much in terms of their impact like rats are.
They aren’t nearly as interesting as the rats I find, and they have far less of a story impact. They also are rumored to cause some disease, but again outside the nest keepers there’s little show of that so their impact is again lessened. To be fair that might have been seen as being too imitative of the previous game, and I can understand it even if it doesn’t change my feelings on them. While elements from Dishonored have returned, due to this being a different land it’s pretty different than Dunwall and while I don’t think it looks terrible or bad it’s not as visually arresting in my estimation.
I also find that I somewhat prefer the graphics of the original-someone mentioned to me it looks kind of like a painting in some ways, and I do like the way it looks. Yeah it looks somewhat odd and the new one looks more graphically appealing but I find the prior one looks a bit better due to its art style even if it’s not as graphically impressive persay. That is of course personal preference though-when the game works and isn’t having graphical issues it looks good.
Voice acting and sound design
First things first, the voice acting in this game for the most part is really mediocre. Both Emily and Corvos voice actors sound like they’re phoning it in and some of the writing is really weak. I can’t speak to Emily’s quality throughout the game, but Corvos voice actor confused the hell out of me. Stephen Russell-the original voice of Garret in the original Thief games-is his voice actor, so it was fitting he returned I found. Yet he gives a mediocre performance here, to the point I have to wonder what Arkane did to make him voice act like that. He’s a good voice actor and he’s done good work in other games, but in this one he’s so generic that I wonder how they coached him and why they wanted this performance.
Not all of the voice actors are bad, but some of the main characters have weaker voice actors than in the prior game. While he doesn’t do a terrible job, The Outsiders new voice actor just doesn’t have the same presence as the prior one-who bizarrely was in the reveal trailer but apparently got the cut for the game. As the game goes on I think he kind of starts grating worse, but that might just be me. NPC voice actors are generally pretty good, and a few of the main character voice actors-especially returning voice actors-do a good job. I don’t know why the main characters and some of the main enemies have such weak voice acting but it does hurt the experience for me to some degree.
The story of Dishonored 2 is the story of Dishonored and its DLC but told in a less interesting way. Perhaps that seems a bit blunt, but it really is an accurate descriptor of the story and I find it’s a detrimental part of the story overall. Basically you start playing as Emily Caldwell and then the mysterious Delilah comes to usurp your throne, claiming to be a lost aunt to Emily and forcing you to pick a character and escape to fight another day. Already I have issues with the set-up, as this happens so quickly that it’s hard to get invested. It feels like the games trying to get it over with rather than pace it out like the first did and it hurts my investment in the overall plot. Additionally Delilah steals Corvos mark of the outsider which I find is a bit much to swallow and something I find serves as a weak excuse to make Corvo powerless for the tutorial.
It also robs Emily and Corvos relationship of weight-I think a more interesting dynamic would have been to have them travel to Karnaca together and talk with each other as the game went on and one of the characters did the murderlating. Heck, having them travel there and having them stop an attempt at usurpation would feel far fresher and less like a retread than just having them lose the crown again. Without the set up some of the targets feel less personal when you go after them and I feel like the cast of villains is less interesting than the first game. There’s the lack of personification and personality before you get to them, and each of them feel less interesting than their respective counterparts in the previous game.
I also find there to be some gross missteps in the storytelling-they reveal the origin of the outsider for no real reason when, in my opinion, it should have remained a mystery to make the character more ominous and unknowable as I generally find he should be. There’s also a plot point mentioned during this point that is never addressed again, and the final motivations of Delilah are relatively uninteresting compared to her motivations in the first games DLC. Here they try to play the mystery card again, but unlike the DLC the ending answer is not really all that satisfying. I think overall it was an attempt to ape that DLC but I feel like maybe a new character would have created a more interesting or at least more unique story. Instead they tread basically the same ground as before, but do it in a less interesting way that makes one wonder why they chose to do the story this way.
At the end of the day, it’s not all unoriginal but comparatively I find the original story more endearing-rather than one or two people you have a cast of interesting characters working with you and all sorts of little things to discover as you go on, and you get a decent amount of information about your targets before heading out to deal with them as you see fit. I feel like this one just doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself from that one, and towards the end things start feeling more and more rushed to the conclusion of things. It doesn’t help that the ending is just atrocious-and to be clear I got the good ending so that’s not my issue. The issue I have is that-SPOILER-the ending is exactly the same as Dishonoreds main campaign and the DLC ending. Yeah there’s a small bit about Karnaca depending on how you handled that but for the most part its basically the first games ending and the way you deal with Delilah is nearly the same as how you dealt with her in the DLC but it feels way less satisfying than in that instance. It even ends on basically the same note and words to some degree as the first game making it feel entirely pointless. END SPOILERS.
When I started Dishonored 2 I was somewhat irritated by returning to Emily and Corvo but I was ready to swing with it. I went into Dishonored 2 wanting to like it, tempered expectations in hand to prevent the danger of overhype and such-even if I must confess I was excited to get my hands the game as soon as possible. And for a while I was having a lot of fun with the game, but upon beating it all the criticisms I could bear rushed in at once and forced me to reconsider the game I had been playing in a new light. It somewhat figures that in a year of unexpected delights, one of my anticipated games for this year turns out to be far less than I had hoped it would be. This game came out in such a horrid state techwise, and the story is so similar to the first game that it baffles me that this game had 4 years and the end result was this in terms of certain elements.
I’ve been pretty harsh, but I still think this is a solid game-I’d even say due to the good level design and a few excellent levels it’s a good game but overall it’s just so much weaker than the original that I can’t help but feel left down. If you haven’t played Dishonored yet, go buy the definitive edition-it is cheaper and includes the excellent Knife of Dunwall/Brigmore Witches DLC. As for this game, I would probably advise waiting until its fixed or its dropped to a price you feel comfortable chancing before biting.