A Dishonored 2 ‘Review’

Developer Arkane Studios/ Publisher Bethesda/ Release Date: 11.11.16 MetaScore 88

Plot: You play as young Empress of the Isles Emily Kaldwin, who is dishonored along with her father Corvo Attano (also playable) when a military coup is staged against them led by a supposed long lost half-sister of the family Delilah Kaldwin. Fighting to regain your place you navigating through back alleys, gangs, covens and political intrigue you fight to take back what’s yours.

Bias: I bought the first Dishonored (2012) on a boxing day sale the year it came out. It was almost as critically acclaimed as this game. It didn’t seem like my kind of game as a sort of first person Assassin’s Creed (which I played but didn’t love). It took me four years and multiple platforms after playing the first level to complete it which I finally did last summer.

The fresh angle of this game, playing the title role of an Empress usurped by a fellow woman is a rare female centred conflict in video games. On top of that, there is a greater urgency to taking back your throne for the good and safety of your land rather than simply clearing one’s name as was the plot of its predecessor. On top of that, the sudden availability at my local library gave me the positive affirmation to invest my time.

Tagline: “It’s happened again. Someone’s pulled the rug out from under you. An empire at your feet, and you’ve lost it all. Be honest, did you really deserve any of it? More important, what would you do to get it back?”– The Outsider

'Bioshock Infinite' was a clear visual influence as a first person game. The games are set 60 some years apart from one another 1851-1912
Bioshock Infinite is a clear influence. The games are set 60 years apart from one another 1851-1912.

Review: Dishonored 2 is a better game than its predecessor on every level. The story is more involving, the level, sound design and game mechanics are all smoothly improved thanks to the evolutionary nature of video games. In this industry, the sequels are often greater than their predecessors due to fast technological advancement, with more time AND budget usually given. The ugly block nature of the first game exists in a further rendered form thanks to the next generation technology afforded from the leap to PS4 from PS3. With that leap comes more detailed production designs which makes the player feel at place in the environment they play in. No longer does Dunwall (an example level, most of the game takes place in Karnaca) the setting of the first game feel as environmentally empty as it once was. The frustrating aspects of the controls were calmed by the game’s end but manifest in a story that comes entertainingly close to greatness, then falling short into simply good territory. Unlike the last game and most Assassin’s Creed’s I knew most of who I was taking out beforehand, a testament to the developers quick establishment of the conflict in the few minutes before the plot quickly gets going. The game runs like clockwork with its only major fault encouraging you to take apart that clock and failing to set everything in place or leave it at the end. Taking it apart I did, and I had fun.

The mechanical NPCs Clockwork soldiers

The most heralded portion of the game, likely designed that way from the outset judging by the reveal trailer is the clockwork mansion, which contains all the best parts of the game. An antagonist who welcomes you; Kirin Jindosh pulling a sideshow similar to Sander Cohen, a constantly shifting set of priorities with a dynamic environment making you re-asses the position of your enemy at every turn. It is one of the only times in the game the ticking clock motif comes into play matching its level design and aesthetics. Apart from that, there are decorative clocks with alarms for you to wind and typewriters to set off as you wonder through the streets of the southern isle: Serkonos.

I accidentally killed Jindosh when I meant to take a less lethal approach by using a domino effect power that binds multiple life forces together on his surrounding clockwork soldiers, but throwing the explosive whale oil too close to his vicinity proved fatal. It was hilariously anti climactic in the way some Deus Ex boss battles have been (coincidentally the creative director on this game was lead designer on Deus Ex 2.) I suspect few games other than that would allow such a thing to happen by perhaps timing the encounter and giving an important character extra portions of health, but that is not of Dishonored’s world as it treats its villains with the indifference of most video game NPC’s for better and worse. This didn’t have much noticeable effect on the plot because the cardinal sin that the game makers make (especially in stealth based games) is assuming many players for story purposes will play nice at least the first time. I find the depiction of a city in chaos more fascinating narratively. But dual execution of outcomes barring the inFAMOUS 2 outcomes pad the nuance and impact of the game down. This, or maybe I was just nicer than I thought.

Delilah (Kaldwin?) is a decent underutilized foil.
Delilah (Kaldwin?) your long lost half-sister is an intriguing but underutilized foil.

Diary entries you write at the beginning of each mission and flashbacks to the villain’s childhood call to mind passed time and legacy as the most chilling and probable thought comes to mind. What if, after all of you take back, it turns out the throne is better off without you? Dishonored 2 sidesteps this narrative question in its tagline for gameplay variety but throughout the game, musings written on paper and sidetalk indicate to the player the most fascinating prospect that Emily Kaldwin might not have been be a very good Empress to begin with. Starting from a young age when her mother was murdered and less concerned with city-state politics as kids and teenagers are, all of the story elements are in place throughout the game series; the plague of bloodflies and rats, the upbringing and stirring of chaos through unholy means, and the villain suddenly declared at the outset the rightful heir to the throne (though when that pronouncement is made by Vincent D’Onofrio, carrying over his bizarre vocal overtone from Daredevil and Emerald City it’s purposefully not easy to swallow). All of these elements point to the shocking idea of a Shakespearian tragedy appropriate to the setting of Hamlet or Macbeth. The developers as progressive as they are between games switching to a female focus, seem properly resistant to such a risky answer with an old idea. Perhaps it’s to not to piss off their fans like Mass Effect did or perhaps to leave the door open for another sequel, this one exploring the northern Isle of Tivya. Such answers remain stealthy and elusive. If only I behaved in that same way avenging my dishonor might I find satisfaction in a more patient playthrough. As I began to hope dire for my character I became more attached to the idea that maybe just ‘this wasn’t meant for me.’

Kirin Jindosh’s Clockwork Mansion

After my own designated failure at the clockwork mansion I lost patience and hopped, skipped and jumped through the next level. My hastiness to the games credit was accepted and as a result I beat 2/3 of the game in a day on my second sitting. This was a zippier trip than I had played in most games of recent memory, and there is a case that my fast and loose measures might have robbed the gameplay results of their full impact but the fun of modern games is often fleeting to me. I wreaked havoc on Karnaca and just as Emily’s ideas of being a bad Empress and my level  of investment in either case, I paid little price for it. In my case I paid $2.12 for the late return fee as I played it much past due, your results may vary.

Emily Kaldwin
  • I was surprised at the amount of female representation. Beyond the lead protagonist/ antagonist, your main sidekick and the first character you chase after are female.
  • My guess is that the developer was forced to put in a male protagonist as a stipulation  to sell through.
  • Another short sell is the time manipulation device you get only for one level.

Genres: First Person/Action Stealth/ Sci-Fi Fantasy Rating: B/ Continuum: +1

-2           -1           0           +1          +2

Reviewed on PlayStation 4/ Watch my playthrough here:

What convinced me to play the game: 




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