STAFF REVIEW of Dishonored 2 (Xbox One)


Wednesday, November 23, 2016.
by Adam Dileva

Dishonored 2 Box art I feel I need to get this out of the way right off the bat: I never played the first Dishonored. I had every intention to, as I bought it on release, yet it’s still on my shelf sealed, most likely to never get touched with my amassing backlog of games. I’ve read tons of reviews of the original, from critics’ praises to friend’s asking me to play their GOTY choice, unfortunately I just simply never got around to it for one reason or another. That being said, I went into Dishonored 2 with a completely fresh point of view, without any love or hate bias. I wasn’t totally sure what to expect other than a stealth-like game with some supernatural abilities thrown in, and after playing I can say that I’m glad I got to experience it.

Dishonored was kind of a surprise when it released 2012. A new IP sometimes has a hard time of reaching an audience, but Arkane Studios did just that and now the franchise has quite the following. It a game known for its story, interesting characters, striking artwork, first person combat, and a stealthy based gameplay that allows you to tackle missions almost as you see fit with your supernatural powers. It won many Game of the Year awards, so it was only inevitable that people would get to experience more of Corvo’s legacy.

15 years have passed since the conclusion of the first game, but now a new threat looms and disturbs the peace that Emily Kaldwin has ruled with in the years after the assassination of her mother. There is a "Crown Killer" on the loose, framing Corvo and Emily making it look as if it’s them eliminating their enemies. Once again a coup plays out in the throne room, forcing Corvo and his daughter Emily to solve who’s behind the attack and get their revenge.


The attack is led by a woman named Delilah Copperspoon, claiming to be the true rightful heir to the throne. If you’ve managed to play the “Brigmore Witches” DLC for the first game, then this name will ring a bell, though if you have not like myself, then you’ll be left trying to put the pieces together until the narrative does so. With massive mechanical solders at her side, she attacks, turning one one of the two protagonists into stone (the one you don’t choose to play as). That’s right, you can choose to dawn Corvo’s Royal Protector mask once again or have a new and different viewpoint by playing as Emily throughout this adventure in the hopes to save the other. Whomever you’ve chosen must flee from Dunwall and travel to the southern region of Karnaca to figure out how to stop Delilah.

Even though Dishonored 2 was designed with a stealth base at its core, you can play it exactly how you want, just like the first game. I chose a violent and chaotic playthrough with Corvo on my first go, utilizing stealth to simply get the drop on my enemies or anyone who stood in my way. There’s a lot of challenge here for those that want it, as there are achievements tied to not killing anyone, playing the game without being seen by anyone, and more that will allow you to experiment in other ways and play outside your comfort zone. Having your supernatural powers plays a huge factor into your play style as well, depending on what skills you want to focus on and upgrade, and there’s even a decision early on in the game to play without being imbued with any powers at all, allowing for a completely different Dishonored experience.

While the first person combat and stealth does take some getting used to, enough good things can’t be said about the game's amazing level design. There are 9 core missions to play through, each lasting an hour or two based on your skill and style, but there’s also a handful of optional side quests that can pad some more hours into your playtime. Each area and level feels unique and distinct from everywhere else. Given that most missions have multiple ways to complete its main objective, this allows for some freedom and choice of how you want to tackle each mission. Given that I was playing a high chaos and straight forward aggressive style, I killed everyone I could, but there are other options that will require some thinking of how to complete it without an assassination.


The world is littered with papers to read and conversations to eavesdrop on, usually giving you more insight into people’s actions, and even possibly giving you safe combinations and/or hints of how to complete a mission differently. Even though the core progression is linear, how to get from point A to point B is almost completely up to you. The levels stand out, especially the mission “A Crack in the Slab” that has you utilizing an object to not only peer into the past, but travel between the past and present time. This time travel mechanic is utilized in a very compelling and unique way which I really enjoyed and will remember for some time. Can’t get past a blocked path of rubble? Go into the past where the mansion was inhabited and unbroken, but guarded heavily, allowing you to stealthily pass without obstruction. Another mission has you attempting to reach your foe, but his castle constantly shifts and transforms based on which levers you pull. The level design is some of the best I’ve experienced in recent memory.

Instead of leveling up via killing enemies, since complete stealth is an option, you are instead on the search for hidden bonecharms and runes scattered throughout the world which encourages exploration. Runes are collected and can be spent on unlocking new abilities or empowering your favorites even further. Corvo’s Blink ability is the most recognizable, allowing you to essentially blink from one area to another instantly in any direction. You can spend your runes on collecting many different abilities like pausing time, being able to utilize a wind blast, summoning rats, or you can simply upgrade the skills you tend to rely on often to make them more powerful.

While many of the upgrades seem like they cater to a very specific playstyle, that’s great news if that’s how you happen to play or desire to. While many abilities cross over regardless if you choose Corvo or Emily, they both have a few specific character only abilities, allowing for a unique playthrough. Emily has some really interesting abilities, such as being able to Shadow Walk, essentially allowing her to move undetected for a short period of time. She can also summon a doppelganger, allowing for an easy distraction as you slip your way past some guards. The Domino ability is without a doubt the most unique and fun to play with. This ability allows you to link 2 (and eventually up to 4 if upgraded) characters fates together, meaning if they are linked and you kill one, the other instantly dies as well. You can just start to see where the fun in this ability comes.


Emily plays very differently from Corvo, which is a great way to encourage multiple playthroughs, not just including their own unique perspective and dialogue. The voice acting quality from both the main protagonists is fantastic and very believable, my only complaint is that you’re stuck with your chosen character for the complete game. I would have liked to have been able to switch between the two or have varying missions rather than relying on two complete playthroughs at a bare minimum.

Even though I never got around to playing the first game, even just reading about it it’s easy to tell that Dishonored 2 improves on many facets and improves in many ways. Being able to play how you want, not just with navigation of the areas, but how you complete a mission as well, is one of Dishonored 2’s greatest strengths. One of its faults though is that it doesn’t do a good job at explaining the previous game and lore very well, so newcomers to the series, like myself, are lost until near the conclusion. While it tries to explain some things, it’s not done with much detail, which resulted in me having to learn more about its backstory and characters via Wikipedia rather than the game itself. For those returning to the world of Dishonored though this obviously won't be an issue.

Dishonored 2 has a solid foundation to build from, and it’s improved in many ways, allowing for new and unique ways to play as Corvo once again, or as his daughter Emily. While the freeform gameplay and level design is easily the highlights of Dishonored 2, the storytelling does need some work, especially to ease newcomers into the events that transpired previously so they don’t feel lost in the narrative. At the end of the day Dishonored 2 is a memorable experience that encourages exploration and experimentation, something not many developers can pull off well, but Arkane Studios has managed to do so.




Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10

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