Dishonored 2 Review - A Magnificent Reinvention

The original Dishonored is one of those titles that unexpectedly arrived and immediately reinvigorated a genre that was in desperate need of a facelift. The days of extraordinary stealth video games such as Metal Gear Solid and Thief seemed to be long over. Having said that, Arkane Studios managed to deliver a title that truly adapted to your playstyle, packed with incredible mechanics, and a fantastic story. As soon as I heard rumors about a sequel, I simply wanted the development team to deliver an update. Why fix what isn't broken? I've spent many hours with Dishonored 2, and I can tell you that my expectations were greatly exceeded.

Now, Dishonored 2 takes place 15 years after the events that took place in the first game. Once again, Emily Kaldwin is in the middle of an absolutely chaotic situation. When her evil aunt suddenly shows up to steal her throne, the entire kingdom turns against her. It's your job to uncover whatever is going on and set things right. But to do so, you'll have to pick the character you'll control: Emily or her father/protector Corvo Attano?

At first glance, the decision might seem trivial. After all, the story unfolds in similar fashion regardless of your protagonist. That said, your choice is quite important. You'll be playing as either Attano for around 15 hours. Furthermore, each character possesses its own set of abilities, and their particular storyline will reveal certain plot details you won't find on the other side. The difference in skills isn't significant enough for a character to feel overpowered, but it's meaningful to the point that I highly recommend you to go through the narrative twice.

Similarly to the original Dishonored, each mission offers two very distinct approaches. The violence-focused one, which heavily relies on ruthless aggression and countless bloodbaths. Then, you have the stealth approach, which focuses on sneaking past guards without hurting them. When it comes down to it, you should select one of the two and stick with it. Knowing how you're going to progress through the nine missions not only allows you to properly upgrade your protagonist, but it ultimately brings a payoff: kill NPCs will let you advance faster, but showing compassion will grant you a "happier" ending. It's a tough call.

Once you're on the field, playing the game is a blast! The powers you slowly upgrade have a major role in the outrageous levels of fun. Dishonored does a great job at equipping you with basic, yet fascinating abilities to get you started. Emily’s 'Far Reach' enables you to traverse instantly long distances, climb buildings, or escape enemies. Further down the line, the options become grander and more specific. Corvo's 'Bend Time' stops time altogether, allowing for Matrix-like slow-mo kills and quick getaways after successfully eliminating a target. The possibilities and combinations of said powers are endless, and Arkane deserves to be recognized for the satisfying levels of depth they achieved.

Equally impressive are the 9 levels in the game. First off, they all feel alive. Not only are they build in open-world fashion, but they have a majestic sense of verticality. You're dropped into the world, and you decide what's next. Do you head straight into the fire and complete your main objective? Do you search the runes you need in order to upgrade your favorite ability? Or, do you freely explore the town? If you're like me, you'll spend ridiculous amounts of time doing all of them. Every location feels populated, with NPCs and side-quest organically showing up. The AI is also very receptive, reacting to the smallest of noises you make. As a whole, it almost forces you to explore individual sites in their entirety, which is a feeling only a few titles have ever evoked on me.

Furthermore, every chapter turns Dishonored 2 on its head, both visually and mechanically. The scenery is drop-dead gorgeous. Not precisely because of the graphics, which are fine. What makes every moment special is the undeniably unique art style and aesthetic. Featuring overly-stylised characters and carefully crafted furniture, I would describe it as a more realistic version of the impressionism movement. I love it! Moving on, level design is top-notch as well. For example, The Royal Conservatory will have you dealing with enemies who can also teleport. The Clockwork Mansion (my favorite level), presents floors with a bizarre layout that allows them to be changed using levers, unveiling secret areas. It adds a stupendous sense of unpredictability, which keeps you on your toes at all times.

Finally, we get to the story. This is where my only negative comes into the picture. To be fully honest, newcomers to the franchise will likely adore what they see. The plot is interesting, voice acting is good, and the villains are extremely original. However, fans of Dishonored will instantly notice the similarities between the sequel and its predecessor when it comes to the main story-arc. You'll successfully predict where the narrative is heading following the first couple of hours, which is slightly disappointing. Outside of that, I have no complaints. It's important to mention that while some reviewers ran into performance issues, my experience was smooth from bell to bell.

The Good
- Crisp Mechanics
- Fun Powers
- Two Characters
- Fascinating World

The Bad
- Unoriginal Story

Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
A review copy was provided by Bethesda Softworks

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