Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. It’s one thing to put a beloved set of characters in a rich, new environment, empower them with new and exciting abilities, and surround them with a beautifully drawn support cast of ne’er-do-wells, one-armed pirates and evil megalomaniacs, but the real star of Dishonored 2 is its humble quick-save function.
It might not sound like the sexiest kind of things to rave about in a review, but combined with the game’s astonishingly fast loading times – something that seems to be a rarity in this year’s top blockbusters (Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, I’m looking at you) – the sequel to 2012’s best stealth game quickly ascends to an even higher plane of gaming bliss.
When it only takes a few seconds to change tack, try a new route or simply have another go at taking out a group of guards, you have everything you need to push Dishonored 2‘s vicious blend of action-stealth gameplay to the limit, opening up hundreds more opportunities to play and experiment with Arkane’s masterful set of systems.
Much like the original Dishonored, you can play the game in whatever way you please. You can choose to go in swords and guns blazing, slitting the throat of each and every enemy you see, or you can opt for a soft, silent approach, to maintain the element of surprise. This time, however, you have the pick of two protagonists: returning assassin and former Lord Protector Corvo Attano, or the now-grown Empress of Dunwall, Emily Kaldwin – the girl Corvo risked his life to save and protect in the first game.
Political unrest is brewing once again on the streets of Dunwall, however, and you’ll need to decide which one you’ll want to play as fairly early on. I chose Emily for my first playthrough to see how her magical powers differed from Corvo’s, but it’s a testament to Arkane Studios’ expert level design that both protagonists feel like equally valid choices for tackling the challenges ahead of them.
They share a few basic traits to help ease players in with their overall traversal – Corvo’s teleporting Blink ability has been repurposed as the lunging Far Reach power for Emily – but their wider array of magical powers couldn’t be more different. Domino (see the screenshot above), for instance, is easily one of Emily’s highlights, as this allows her to chain up to four enemies together, the fate of one instantly befalling them all. It makes for some highly creative takedowns, whether it’s by sleep dart, pistol or simply shoving one off a balcony, and gives you a far more flexible set of rules to play by than its predecessor.
However, it’s the world in which Emily and Corvo find themselves in that makes Dishonored 2 such a joy to play. Dunwall was a masterful portrait of a Victorian steampunk London, but the imposing, European-flavoured port town of Karnaca is an absolute marvel. Each mission covers a huge play area, and its maze of open apartments, rooftops, alleyways and dingy side streets make it all the more sumptuous, giving you plentiful space to poke around and explore to your heart’s content while offering up a bounty of different pathways to take on the way to your target.
Some missions are so huge, in fact, that they practically contain two levels in one. The Clockwork Mansion is a great example of this. Not only is this constantly shifting puzzle house one of the finest locations in the entire game, but the sheer size of the surrounding district you need to move through in order to get there would have probably been a level in its own right had this been in the original Dishonored.
The same goes for a manor later on that’s sealed itself off from the world while two rival factions stake their claim on the streets outside. You can crack a rather smart and fiendish riddle to open the lock and get inside straight away, or you can plunge deep into the neighbourhood gang war and present either faction leader with the body of their enemy to try to get them to help you. Either way, it’s incredibly satisfying, the intellectual complexity of the riddle being more than equal to the political dexterity of negotiating with the gangs.
With its dense, richly drawn environments and brilliantly intertwining systems, Dishonored 2 raises the bar for all stealth games going forward. It goes above and beyond what most sequels manage to accomplish on a second outing, and the sheer scale and sophistication of what Arkane has achieved here shows a studio at the very height of its powers. Regardless of which path you pick, Dishonored 2 never stops surprising you. It’s a Best Buy.
|Available formats||PC, PS4, Xbox One|
|OS Support||Windows 7/8/10 (64-bit versions)|
|Minimum CPU||Intel Core i5-2400 / AMD FX-8320|
|Minimum GPU||NVIDIA GTX 660 2GB / AMD Radeon HD 7970 3GB|
|Hard disk space||60GB|
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