It’s been four years since we first visited the troubled yet still somehow beautiful streets of Dunwall in 2012’s Dishonored. In less than a month the highly-anticipated sequel to the stealth-based assassination blockbuster will be launching worldwide, and I got to be one of the first to get hands-on with the game in Dishonored 2‘s first ever public playable demo at EGX 2016!
I was given a choice between playing as the original game’s protagonist, Royal Protector Corvo Attano, or the now grown-up Empress Emily Kaldwin. Given that Corvo’s powers are more or less the same as they were in the first game, of course with tweaks and additions, I chose to go with Emily to experience her all-new powers that players will be able to experiment with. As previously confirmed, players will be able to choose either character in the full game and complete a full run of the campaign with that one character, after which point the other may be used in a separate run if desired.
Possible spoilers ahead – You have been warned!
I was dropped into the start of a mission known as The Clockwork Mansion (parts of which have been seen in gameplay trailers), where the player is tasked to rescue Anton Sokolov (the Royal Physician from Dishonored) and assassinate the Mansion’s owner – Kirin Jindosh.
Right off the bat it’s clear that Dishonored‘s widely-praised visual design is being continued for the second entry, the new environment of Karnaca is absolutely stunning with every single nook and cranny hiding a beautiful work of art. The game is once again a marvel to look at, again proving that hyper-realistic graphics aren’t the be-all and end-all of gaming visuals.
Now that we know the visuals are safe, there’s just one core element of Dishonored DNA to tick off – level design. By far, the second big element of the first game which propelled it to success was the craftsmanship that went into every mission – the fact that any player could tackle the same level in many different ways. Want to cowboy your way through an intricate clockwork mansion? It’ll be tough, but you can pretty well blast, hack and slash through most enemies and get to your objectives by brute force. Want to redefine the term “ghost”, make one man disappear and assassinate another without a soul knowing? Timing, careful route planning and masterful use of the incredible powers offered to you will be required, but it can be done. Or, like me, do a bit of both.
There really are so many ways I could have made my way through that mansion, both in terms of strategy and route, but sadly I had time for only one. However, that didn’t stop me spotting little crevices and openings that I’m now very interested in exploring in repeat plays – I expected nothing less from a Dishonored game. The design for The Clockwork Mansion, funnily enough, revolved around the use of the many clockwork mechanisms built into the mansion to change the layout to the players’ advantage. A pull of one level could open new doorways, create new vantage points, or trap the autonomous clockwork robots patrolling certain areas. However, that’s not always a good thing. Time things poorly and you may find that instead of creating a path to your objective and trapping enemies, you may well end up impaled on a clockwork blade having trapped yourself in a 2x2m square with a guard.
Speaking of merciless murder-bots, let’s talk a bit about combat. The satisfying yet tense CQC has returned with a few twists, especially when it comes to enemies like the clockwork guards who can still hunt you down better than a Predator even after you’ve decapitated them. If you’ve managed to maintain a veil of stealth, enjoy the peace, be a ghost, and pick your lethal moments with care – strike from the shadows quickly and quietly and life will be far easier. Miss your target or make a meal of the kill and you could have 5 different swords jabbing in your direction in seconds. Or, y’know, you could use the powers bestowed on you by the Outsider and let your victims flail in agony as your hugely unfair advantage comes into play.
Oh, that’s right, there’s a butt-ton of new powers to play with! Emily especially has a whole load of abilities which are new to Dishonored, including Far Reach, Shadow Walk and Domino. Far Reach is Emily’s equivalent to Corvo’s Blink ability, although instead of teleporting, this ability is more akin to a long distance grapple – you select a target with the power, Emily “reaches” over to that spot and pulls. If that target is a solid location, Emily will drag herself across the room at immense speed and land at that spot, however despite this being extremely helpful, the true fun and use comes in targeting enemies. If Far Reach is used on an enemy, they will be hurled towards the player, with just enough time to draw a sword and have them impaled upon it. This move was easily one of my go-to responses to a deteriorating situation, one that made for very swift and satisfying disposal of enemies about to raise the alarm.
As cool as some of them sound, unfortunately I didn’t use the others all too often, however I suspect many of them will be more suited to other missions. Far Reach was clearly one that was taken into consideration when The Clockwork Mansion was designed, with tiny nooks and crannies left for players to get through in little time, begging for FR to be used. Also note that my personal play-style may well be partially to blame, with some powers inevitably suiting some players more than others depending on how obectives are approached. For example, Shadow Walk transforms Emily into a smaller, spectral being clawing its way across the floor, making detection somewhat harder and allowing quick, quiet traversal of an area. Meanwhile, Domino (one of my personal favourites) links the fates of selected enemies allowing players to kill groups efficiently in quick succession – behead one, suddenly multiple heads are rolling.
tl;dr – The demo I got to try of Dishonored 2 more than whet my appetite for the release of the full game on November 11th. The sequel retains all the elements of Dishonored DNA that players loved from the first title whilst adding plenty of newness to love just as much. I left the booth wanting to go back to that level and spend hours tackling it in a variety of other ways – which is exactly what a game like Dishonored should be wanting to achieve. Dishonored 2 appears to have something for everyone, and if it’s anything like its predecessor, you won’t want to miss this.