Published on November 13th, 2016 | by Chris O'Connor0
Dishonored 2 PS4 Review
Summary: Anniversaries aren't supposed to be like this.
I’m going to get the Elephant in the room dealt with before anything else. A lot has been said of Bethesda’s new press review release protocol… basically we get a copy for review a day before release. The biggest issue with this is the time frame we have to go through the game before putting our impressions out for the world to see, in my case this means I am currently, arguably, sleep deprived due to a marathon session. The guidelines also requested we play about 20 hours and try multiple approaches… so it’s been a bit intense. But make of that what you will.
Dishonored 2 starts on the 15th anniversary of the assassination of the first title. Emily Kaldwin is now Empress and a killer is on the lose, removing people who spoke out against Emily with the result that the public are blaming Emily and Corvo for the murders. In the midst of the anniversary celebrations (which even Corvo mentions are an odd event) a coup unfolds and a woman going by the name of Delilah Kaldwin (claiming to be Emily’s older sister) seizes the throne and turns your world upside down… this is also where you must chose who you want to play as Emily or Corvo.
I hadn’t played the original Dishonored but had seen quite a bit about it… I can also say that Dishonored 2 brings you up to speed quite well with it’s introductory storytelling. The storytelling throughout is a wonderful thing. Not only are there the “set piece” conversations, but you can listen in on the conversations around you. Sneak up behind some guards and listen to their conversation… in doing so you can learn about a way around an obstacle or uncover some subtle plot points. What’s more, you acquire a heart early on in the game that gives you the ability to track down special items such as Bonecharms… but it also lets you hear the inner thoughts of people. It’s a clever way of delivering exposition that fits with the game world.
The game is designed to let you “play your way”… the suggestion is that you approach it in a stealthy way, but you are just as free to run in guns blazing (or sword slashing). As with most games like this… my intentions are good but my skills are weak… which is to say that I try and take a stealthy approach and frequently end up resorting to sheer aggression in the end. But Dishonored 2 will reward you with different outcomes depending on which approach you take, so my blood bath approach results in an increase in Bloodflies (the pests of the game that live off the carcases… hence more kills equals more food for Bloodflies and therefore more infestations as you progress). But should you take the other path and be less lethal, guards will mention that people are missing rather than found dead… your stats at the end of each level will tell you how well you are going with the approach you take.
Whilst technically not “open world” in the fullest sense of the word, Dishonored 2 doesn’t feel closed in… you travel down city streets or through old hospital halls… clockwork buildings with obvious boundaries, but you don’t feel their constraint so much… possibly because there are so many things you can pursue (the aforementioned Bonecharms or other skill boosting pickups) there are the conversations between guards or even just the general populace (who all go about their daily lives, cleaning fish or begging on the street). Your trusty heart will also help you learn who is friendly and who might be more inclined to turn you in if you interact with them.
The visuals are quite lovely though I must admit that as I was playing it there were a few locations in which I was left wondering if perhaps the PC version may have more detail in some textures or perhaps look a little more “crisp” overall. Having said that, the fleshed out steampunk world is a sight to behold… the docks with their whale harvesting, the gritty halls of the old hospital or the Inceptionesque clockwork building… a lot of time and effort has gone into creating a well fleshed out world to exist in.
So back to some of those first comments. Yes I did have to dive straight into this and rack up some playtime in a shorter than desirable time frame… but Dishonored 2 is a pleasure to play… the ability to switch between mystical abilities, firearms or your trusty retractable blade (apparently some people don’t appreciate a folding blade) increases the variety of the game and leads to some very interesting interactions… there were quite a few situations in which things escalated quickly and once the dust had settled I found myself surrounded by dismembered and incinerated bodies… nothing seems to bring out the fear of the local populace quite so much as throwing a left arm or right foot at them out of no where.
If you liked the first Dishonored then I have no doubt this will feel both familiar and also an even more expansive world with some nice new twists to make for an even more satisfying gaming experience. If you’ve never played the original then you can still jump straight in and get your Steampunk action on. Great conspiratorial story telling with some fun game mechanics make this a worthy game for your collection… plus there are plenty of reasons to return to Dunwall after your first play through… try a different main character or try a different approach to the many challenges that await.