More Dishonored is never a bad thing, and Dishonored 2 doesn’t disappoint, despite it’s flaws
Having fallen head over heels for Dishonored and it’s eccentric setting of Dunwall last year, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the first showing of Dishonored 2 at this year’s EGX. While showing clear changes in it’s playable characters, abilities and setting, Dishonored 2 still feels very familiar, building on the strengths of it’s predecessor and sadly falling short in similar areas.
The EGX demo took place around four hours into the game and was on a timer - players were only given half an hour to play as either Emily or Corvo. I was granted an hour and chose to play as Emily, completing a little bit of stealth before heading out on a murderous rampage. Stealth was certainly the more difficult route to take and definitely a more challenging experience than similar points in the first game. Emily and her powers seemed to toe a fine line between slow and stealthy, and reckless - a line I crossed far too many times for my liking. Veteran players will definitely find the game has a different feel when switching between the two characters, hopefully promoting replayability beyond what the open-ended missions already offer.
In Dishonored 2, you can chose to play as either familiar Corvo Attano or as his now grown up daughter Emily Kaldwin. Corvo’s powers have been upgraded from the first game but remain familiar, so you’ll still be blinking across rooftops and behind enemies without hesitation. Emily however has an entirely new set of powers which are darker and more shadowy in nature. I wonder what The Outsider is up to?
The three powers on show in the demo for Emily were Shadow Walk, Domino and Far Reach - each giving clues as to how Emily can be cleverly played. Shadow Walk saw our Emily drop to all fours and extend shadowy legs in order to move more quickly and stealthily - this was perfect for nipping around the back of a nosy human or running in panic from one of the clockwork soldiers. The extra speed is a great addition, meaning Emily can get herself out of trouble and re-assess if she does indeed get caught.
Far Reach is similar to Corvo’s blink, but it drops the invisibility in favour of also being able to grab hold of enemies. This ability slows Emily’s playstyle down, making her feel like a more tactical character than Corvo ever was, and it won’t suit everyone. When using this power like Blink (in my case to escape) it forms in an arc, so can be difficult to control - a number of times I hit the same ledge trying to aim it, only to land on a clockwork soldier and have my head cut off.
Emily’s last power really gets you thinking about enemy placement and your powers. Domino allows you to link together a group of enemies, and what you do to one happens to all of them. One of the lovely PR people told me with glee all about how it was his favourite power, because he could then far reach and slam a group of guards straight into a wall of light. I mainly used it to conserve sleep darts, but in the right hands and with the right powers it could lead to some really impressive encounters.
In true Dishonored style, the powers are lots of fun to use - there’s a certain rush to creeping past a guard as a shadow being and picking up a group of enemies to hurl them across the room. Sadly, also in true Dishonored style their use is severely limited by the amount of mana you are given to spend. I found myself regularly running out of mana at the worst possible moment as I was having too much fun throwing myself (and my enemies) around. This is a problem that plagued the first game and seems to be present still in the second.
So with my three powers and the usual array of darts and bullets I took to the clockwork mansion of Kirin Jindosh, the man we see in the E3 trailer. He gave me two missions - an optional mission to visit familiar Anton Sokolov in the basement and to make my way to him in his lab at the top of the mansion.
The mansion is beautifully built, with plenty of Kirin’s creations to look at (and hide from) throughout. The rooms contain levers that pack the floors and the walls away to reveal new ones, a key element to getting anywhere. The attention to detail is really stunning here, and I hope this is something we see throughout the levels. The new setting gives such creative freedom that we could see anything here - I hope every chapter is presented with the same level of attention to detail!
Each objective was guarded with several obstacles that required a great deal of thinking, making the game feel a little more puzzle-focused than the last. This gave all of my actions real weight, something that really hammered home that this is indeed an open-ended set of missions, and I was choosing my own path.
One thing that struck me as I made my way around the mansion was that the clockwork soldiers that I’d previously downed, respawned. This made areas that I’d previously cleared and pegged as safe, dangerous again. While this might keep the challenge of the game up, I wasn’t really a fan. In the previous iteration I liked the fact that I could clear myself a path - here that wasn’t possible. I asked one of the PR reps on the booth, but unfortunately he didn’t know whether this was intentional or not.
I also (very regrettably) broke the build right at the end of my gameplay session. Just like in the E3 footage, when you confront Kirin he makes a run for it. Sadly my clockwork loving mastermind ran straight for the elevator and became jammed on the bottom floor, leaving me only the option to kill him.
Despite having broken the game and feeling a little constrained by the mana limit I had a great deal of fun with the demo, losing myself in the strategy and the stealth. This is definitely more Dishonored, and that’s a very good thing. The slightly more puzzle-focused mansion is a very clever piece of level design, so much so I can’t wait to see what the rest of Karnaca has to offer us. Emily certainly fosters a very different playstyle we’re used to with Corvo, and combined with the game’s slightly different pacing, she has a real chance to shine. I cannot wait till the game releases this November!