Dishonored 2 - Boy this game started slow, but I'm glad I stuck with it because it was a total blast to play

So this is what it's come to.

How's THAT for a headline, huh?

Dishonored, a game I thought I was familiar with but guess I ended up forgetting quite a lot about. If memory serves, there's like time powers and stuff? And you're not supposed to kill guys because it causes bad stuff to happen... Yeah! That's right. It's starting to come back to me now.

I have no idea why I'm starting my review off with such a freeform association of Dishonored, but that's what's happening. I hear plants really like it when you talk to them and that helps them grow, so I figured my readers might like that too. So anyway, yeah, a big part of my frustration with the first game was that the combat was actually really fluid and intuitive, yet it was mostly aimed at playing stealthily and avoiding killing dudes because that causes "chaos" or something to go up. I actually don't remember if "chaos" was a thing in the first game, but it is in the second so I'll assume and continue.

I remember liking the game a lot, and while I usually don't kill in a game where the non-lethal approach is an option, I remember watching some sort of "cutting loose" video where some guy showed what mass combat would look like if you just went balls to the wall using your abilities to kill everyone, and it was simply amazing. The game was capable of quite a lot, but there was the restraint on killing due to leading to a better ending.

Ironically, I actually broke my trend and started killing everyone I could at some point, and I had a blast with it. I didn't enjoy that I got a super downer ending, but *man* was it fun.

So the sequel comes out and I'm preoccupied with other things. I'm playing that newfangled Dungeons and Dragons, writing up some sick homebrew for players that don't yet exist, for a campaign that also doesn't exist. The game passes me by until very recently.

My first impression of the game was that, eh, it seemed kind of boring. I don't know. The game opens with some dramatic action and you have a choice to play the original protagonist of the first game, Corvo Attano, or his daughter, the empress Emily Kaldwin, who has since grown up from the child she was in the first game. I decided, hey, they went through all of the effort to make two protagonists, so why not play as the new one? So I did, and I think that's where some of the issues started.

Emily's powers were interesting, but in my years since playing Dishonored, I thought it lacked something. In my heart of hearts there just felt like something missing. I had some fun with it, but I thought it was honestly kind of a bad stealth game. It has a quicksave/quickload option which is perfect for this kind of game, but I felt frustrated in the beginning and even until about halfway through the game because I just felt like I didn't have all of the tools I should have.

Honestly, I'm not sure how to explain that feeling, but I just kept getting caught in stupid ways, like peeking around a corner from far away and yet the detection bar for hostile entities would fill up super fast and, welp, I'm dead.

Some of this got fixed a little bit through the usage of bonecharms, which are these collectibles you find in the levels that give you set abilities. One bonecharm might increase your base movement speed while carrying a body, while another might extend your lung capacity so you can stay underwater longer, things like this. It's not an RPG in the traditional sense that you don't get XP or level up, so finding Runes, which allow you to purchase new abilities from the skills section, and then combining interesting bonecharms to give yourself enhancements is pretty much all you have in the way of adapting.

Near the end of my first playthrough, during my go around with Emily, I actually managed to get quite the powerful "build" going, by finding bonecharms that maximize movement speed and the ability to use my Far Reach ability(Which gives you the ability to "aim" at where you want to go, and you are pulled very fast towards that point) to be undetectable while traveling. I found that, using my bonecharms, I was moving incredibly fast, and in a stealth game movement speed can be everything.

So I started to have a lot of fun in that regard. Some bonecharms could be cursed and so they have negative affects along with the positive ones, so the one that increased my movement speed, for example, also increased how much damage I take. Fair trade-off, I think.

The story wasn't that interesting, honestly. You sorta just go around to people who have teamed up with this power witch lady who stole your throne and basically enslaved all of your people in one hell of a political coup, with the intention of killing them OR "find another way", which the game tells you to do if you want a pacifist playthrough like I did, which allows you to eliminate the targets without actually killing them. One such example comes from The Clockwork Mansion, in which a genius inventor has created the ultimate guard force: Clockwork Soldiers. Automatons that patrol and fight in the stead of real people. He was one of the people who betrayed you and helped this evil witch lady steal your shit, so you are sent in to eliminate him. Eventually, you find out that he has this machine which is essentially an electric shock machine where overexposure can lead to severely decreased mental faculties. Interesting!

So instead of killing this guy, you instead ruin his literally genius mind and turn him into a disabled person, ending a technological revolution that would absolutely push the world into the next era. But hey, you didn't kill him!

That kind of thing was interesting to me, as killing someone is usually the boring option, when given the choice to do something more interesting than "push button, dead". It actually reminds me of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, in that most missions you are sent on is to actually do one thing, but the better choice is the opposite thing. For example, any mission you are sent to kill someone, if you actually fulton them you'll end up being told somewhere after the mission that "X was actually framed for all of those terrible crimes, it turns out they were innocent! Good thing we fulton'd him, boss!" which is kind of irritating because you're supposed to be this big mercenary company yet you can't actually do your fucking job because the game can't dare tell you to kill a motherfucker even though YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE EVIL, NASTY BAD GUYS ON A QUEST FOR REVENGE NO MATTER THE COST. Goddamnit there I go ranting again. Back to the review.

So eventually you beat the game and unlock New Game+. I was excited to try this because it says you keep all of the charm benefits so you can craft your own bonecharms right away, provided you have the runes to buy that ability. I did, and since some runes carry over to the next playthrough, I got to working on that right away, and this time I played as Corvo. Interestingly, I found Corvo to be a lot more interesting. I played Emily originally because the story was pretty personal to her, she's the one in charge and the bad guys are directly targeting her power, so it made thematic sense. But, while I'm 99% sure the two characters play the same, Corvo's original set of abilities proved to be right up my alley.

New Game+ has the neat benefit to giving you both sets of powers, so if you really want to you can mix and match, which I did exactly that. It turned out that Corvo has the time powers, and the ability to possess people. This is the kind of thing I was looking for as it dramatically improves your options. Playing as Emily was okay, but I never really used any power side from "Far Reach here, Far Reach There, hide in a shadow and choke a bitch", but with Corvo I could literally walk through deadly traps unscathed and simply possess people in my way and move them. This was exactly what I was looking for and for that reason I had an absolute blast with the NG+ playthrough.

I also found a lot of new and interesting runes that allowed me to slightly adjust my original build concept and suddenly I was as quick as shade with the ability to choke people out in a fraction of a second, and then disappear in time or possess someone for a quick getaway. Also having access to the foreknowledge of how the levels played out mean I was exploring less and getting right into the business. It made me feel like some kind of master assassin. I was no longer hiding from guards and carefully choosing the time to strike, I was in charge of the level, and no one could stand in my way.

I played on the hardest difficulty this time, yet making one change: Changing guard alert meters to the lowest setting since playing on "hard" made it fucking difficult and often times felt janky as I was being detected around corners and shit. And it was fun. I died appropriately. Everything made sense and I was able to weave in and out of time and do whatever the hell I wanted. I felt powerful. I was powerful.

The story doesn't seem to really change much between the two characters. I noticed a couple of subtle changes in the levels but couldn't be sure if that was due to the different characters or perhaps I had done something in an earlier mission that caused something to happen in a different way. In fact, the characters even mostly have the same dialog, which was a little disappointing. I found there was very little differentiation between what seems like could be two starkly different personalities, and if there was, I didn't see it.

Ultimately, I had a good time with Dishonored 2. I very rarely replay games in this day and age but I am so glad this review ended on a happy note, because if I hadn't checked out NG+, it would be short and negative, just like me.

I give Dishonored 2:

My name is Ryan. I like to play video games and Dungeons and Dragons and all kinds of other cool stuff. I also like to write. This is my website, it's nothing special, but I write about topics from time to time that probably make no sense. But if you think they do make sense, then hang around and check out some other articles. My friends call them "blogs" but goddamnit I've got a URL and everything, so they're "articles".