Dishonored 2 is one of the few games for everybody. Whether your tastes lie in these newfangled walking simulators or good ol’ fashion murder simulators, you’ll be able to find something you like. This stems from the core mechanic that lets you either play through the entire game with zero bloodshed, or pile up your enemies bones and viscera like the sick sociopath we all know you are. Just kidding, I hope.
The steam punk, occult, stealth, shooter, shadow magic, clusterf—k gives players an outlet to experiment with quixotic pacifism or unbridled rage, a decision that affects not only gameplay but the overarching plot.
You play as either the dethroned empress Emily Kaldwin or her creepy father Corvo Attano. And aside from their occult power skill sets, there’s not much difference between the characters. Honestly, not much matters in the grim Lovecraftian thrill ride, save for gameplay and level design. I personally made the mistake of actually watching the cutscenes, which were banal and often just voiced by the monotone leads over still images.
Basically there’s a coup, you get kicked off your throne, then do whatever it takes to get back on it. The details are irrelevant, other than kill everyone involved (or undermine them peacefully if that strikes your fancy).
The game allows you to play in two modes, low chaos and high chaos. The low chaos is the pacifist route, Sneaking past guards, non lethally subduing them, or and finding creative solutions to solve mission objectives. I did not go this route.
Instead in high chaos, I could solve any puzzle, defeat any mazelike dungeon, simply by piling up the an increasing count of dismembered corpses.
The low/high chaos choice has nominal impact on the plot. While the (poorly executed) ending may be different depending on the decision, what bugged me was the passive aggressive comments from the other characters about how my penchant for bloodlust may be making me a terrible person. Geesh mom, get off my back, already (in the game, your mother nags you as a trapped soul inside a beating heart you carry around).
This all may sound painfully simple, save for the fantastic level design. While not being open world, most of the game takes place in a stunningly beautiful coastal city of Karnaca. Each mission gives you a slice of the city, with its own unique challenges. The stealth aspect is not often as simple as hiding in the shadows and creeping past your enemies. The game instead requires you to explore, find open residential buildings, unlocked windows, and secret passageways.
The game begs to be played multiple times, not just to experience both heroes, but to fully explore the many different routes and methods to conquer each mission. Almost to the point of obligation. It felt incomplete writing a full review, simply on high chaos Emily, as I felt I only experienced about a quarter of what the game had to offer.
If you’re a fan of Dishonored 1, buy (it’s a definite improvement). If you’re a fan of stealth action, steam punk gadgets, and a world powered on whale oil it’s a must buy. But if you’re one of those people looking for a good story and isn’t satisfied with the tactile satisfaction of vicarious bloodshed, you probably need to look elsewhere.
Dishonored 2 has the trappings of a story-driven game, but when played it is obvious the mechanics and aesthetics bring about all the pleasure in this title. And that’s okay.
I reviewed this on a PS4 review copy provided by Bethesda. This review does not reference any of the performance issues allegedly befuddling the PC version.