Available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC
We played on Xbox One
We played as Emily
I can easily get really excited about a game. I think we all do. Believe it or not, there haven’t been very many for me this review season. But Dishonored 2 was one of the few. I hadn’t played the first game, and since the world and the gameplay looked so cool I was very sure I was going to like it. And I do like it…a bit. But unfortunately some aspects and limits of the gameplay have really scarred what could have been a great experience for me.
As you might imagine, Dishonored 2 is set after the end of the first game… 15 years to be exact. Emily Kaldwin is now the empress and her rule has mostly been a peaceful one. But there’s the problem of someone going around and killing those who oppose some of Emily’s policies, making it look like she or someone she hired had been responsible for the murders. But that quickly turns into small problem compared to the arrival of Delilah, a woman who claims to be Emily’s aunt and therefore the rightful empress of the land. After she shows up, Emily is apprehended and a massive slaughter takes place in the throne room. Emily has to escape and figure out how all of this happened.
Dishonored 2 can be played as either Korvo Attano (the main character from the first game) or Emily, the empress who has just been overthrown. The distinction is more than simply aesthetic. The two characters have different abilites and special powers. The main gameplay is all about stealth. You need to find your way past guards and guards and more guards to accomplish each mission goal. You can choose to dispatch of your enemies one of two ways. You can sneak up behind them and knock them out, or you can just kill everyone you see. Though the latter isn’t really a viable form of gameplay because there are simply too many enemies in the world.
Besides that basic gameplay, each character can unlock special powers to help them along. This was the part that I was most excited about, and they turned out to be really, really cool. They can be used in stealth situations, but are also great to help with combat when you’re surrounded by enemies. You obtain these special powers by collecting runes throughout the world and then purchasing them in a skill tree fashion.
As mentioned above, the core gameplay in Dishonored is good. The powers were by far the coolest part of the game and probably the biggest reason I wanted to give the game a try. The problem there is that they’re “optional.” I mean come on, who wants to play this game and not use the powers? That meant some other aspects of the game became not so “optional.” I spent a lot of the game in what felt like collectible hunting just to be able to gain those special powers. However, admittedly the hunting down of these “runes” was pretty cool. You use a clockwork heart – yes, a real anatomically correct beating heart with some gears in it – to locate the things you need. Still the need to hunt around for things felt like a slog and interrupted the rest of the experience. It seemed to me that the game would have been better if the base level of these powers would simply unlock in stages throughout the game, and then the hunting would be for boosts.
I was also frustrated by how smart the guard characters are. Lots of them don’t follow any pattern that you can read for the perfect time to sneak up on them. And often times, there’s a guard that you didn’t see able to catch you in the act and then send down a flurry of enemies that almost always means certain death. At least for me. I was doubly frustrated by the fact that I selected to play the game on easy, thinking that would enable me to complete it quicker. Nope. I don’t even want to know what normal is like much less hard. I’ve played a lot of games over my nearly 40 years and I can objectively say here that easy was not easy.
In addition, there’s no way to restart a level if you feel like you’ve messed up and want to try a different strategy. The autosave happens pretty frequently, which is great for most of the gameplay. But unless you do a manual save in certain places – like between levels – then you’re screwed. You want to resart this mission you’ve just spent a half hour in? Unless you manually saved, forget it. I’ll openly admit that I do not know the technical complexities behind the reason for not including it. But since each level takes place in a totally different location, it doesn’t seem like it would be that hard to implement.
Dishonored 2 is rated M with descriptors for blood and gore, intense violence, strong language and suggestive themes. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from any M rated game. The thing that stood out the most for me was how bloody and intense killing a character can be. You can stab your weapon into an enemy’s face or behead them altogether and you’ll get a large amount of blood. Since the game is played in first person, this effect is just enhanced.
I think the world in Dishonored 2 is interesting and those cool powers are pretty awesome, but the rest of the game just doesn’t measure up. A lot of discourse is often bantered about in relation to how long a game is. The issue here is that the game is supposed to take about 10 hours to complete. But that’s only true if you’re an insanely awesome player who has the time to dedicate large chunks of time to playing it. Even on easy, the game is difficult and requires way more of a time investment than most parents – if you’re like me – are able to commit. I’ll admit it was possible that I had unrealistic expectations going into Dishonored 2. I really wanted to play it and I really wanted to love it. But at the end of the day, it’s not good enough to make me overlook the frustrations.