Dishonored 2 reminds me of the original Dishonored. Dishonored was a pleasant surprise when it appeared a few years ago. The game provided a much better experience than its competitors that year. It had more creative combat than Borderlands 2. It provided a better stealth experience than Assassin’s Creed 3. It had a more satisfying story that Mass Effect 3, though that’s admittedly a low bar. As much as I liked it, I’d forgotten that it was everyone’s favorite game that year (well, along with Journey). The game let you play as a superpowered assassin sneaking around an authoritarian steampunk world. The only weakness was the somewhat superficial story and one-note characters. However the game offered a variety of powers, expansive levels, and great gameplay. It all came together to keep the game original, exciting and exceedingly replayable.
Honestly, you can pretty well cut-and-paste those comments into a review for Dishonored 2. The game is similarly beautiful and the levels are enormous, providing a variety of ways to complete each stage. Dishonored 2 takes everything the first game did right and expands on these successes exponentially. Enemies are more detailed, smarter, and more varied. With two playable characters, you get twice as many powers. Where Dishonored’s levels were well-designed. Some of the levels in Dishonored 2 are works of art (particularly the much ballyhooed Clockwork Mansion and also level that seems stolen from Titanfall 2). Once again, the story and characters seem to be somewhat undeveloped compared to other top-tier titles. Still, who really cares when you’re climbing through an enormous fortress, or sneaking around a clockwork mansion, or assassinating through a rift in time?
The story picks up years after Corvo (the hero from Dishonored) has restored Emily to the throne. Emily rules with Corvo acting as her adviser and bodyguard (and he’s probably her father as well). As often happens in games, a hostile supernatural force abruptly seizes the throne and either Emily or Corvo gets captured during the attack. You play the game as the other character as you try to figure out who these invaders are and what the source of their power is. The game ostensibly has only eight levels but they are LONG levels. They can easily consume several hours with subsections and separate areas. Levels are particularly time consuming if you insist on finding all items and avoiding detection [PROTIP: Don’t play that way]. Each level lets you play as directly confrontational or stealthy. You can be homicidal or adhere to the Batman Code (concussions for everyone!). The chaos meter returns but feels much more forgiving this time. Killing everyone will make the environments less hospitable. However, occasionally dropping an unconscious body or maneuvering an enemy into friendly fire doesn’t count against you.
I usually don’t recommend purchasing titles that don’t offer either open-world experiences or cooperative gameplay. Dishonored 2 is an exception; the game itself is exceedingly fun. The levels are fully realized and thoughtfully designed. I’ve played through the title as Emily already. Now, I can either replay again as Emily and utilize some of her other powers (it’s easy to simply utilize Domino and Far Reach repeatedly). Or I can play again without using any powers. Or I can switch to Corvo and see the game through his eyes. As we said before, I really wish Dishonored 2 opened up a level select option once you completed the game so that I could replay my levels of choice. Again, it’s hard to quibble when I’m already looking forward to my next experience of hurtling a guard down a hallway.
The game has great levels, great powers, and great gameplay. It’s rare to find a game where all of the powers are this much fun. This is probably the best game I’ve played this year.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK:
A game this pretty deserves deeper characters; the ones here never get more developed than the cast of Borderlands. Again, it’s hard to complain when you’re having this much fun.
OUR TAKE: BUY IT
Again, unless you just hated Dishonored, this one is a safe buy. The gameplay is extremely fun. There’s tons of content and the replayability is surprisingly strong. Dishonored 2 is a strong sequel to a great title and a solid contender for game of the year.