Too many issues pile on top of each other to undermine fantastic gameplay in our Dishonored 2 review.
Part of what made Dishonored great was how alive everything felt. The watercolor visual style played off the ever-changing city of Dunwall. The combination of fluid gameplay and open-ended adventuring married well into experiences that rarely mirrored one another. It was an unexpected success, the hidden gem released during a year of franchises and sequels. Dishonored 2 had a legacy to live up to this time around. There were expectations to live up to and, ultimately, they weren’t met.
That’s not to say Dishonored 2 is a bad game. Instead, it’s one that could have been so much better.
It’s possible that all of the game’s issues can simply be ignored and instead we simply focus on the gameplay. If we do that, the game’s a home run. There’s a certain fluidity with the marriage of stealth and action that continue to exist. Combine that with the unfamiliar setting of Karnaca (we’ve been exiled from Dunwall, more on that later though) and the result is scenarios where players are tasked routinely with careful planning and execution. Or, if you’re like me, simply hoping for the best and bring upon pure chaos.
That chaos meter returns from the original, though I can’t but wonder if the change of locale harms it. Yes, you’re still tracked for the amount of damage you do (or don’t do) and the result is a change of enemy presence, but I can’t help but feel like your actions don’t have the same amount of consequence. There’s a bigger focus on when it comes to narrative changes, but that ultimately feels like a completely wasted effort. For me, Dishonored 2’s chaos is a gigantic disappointment; the world around me doesn’t feel like it changes so much as it gets simply more and more difficult.
But again, as someone that simply hopes for the best with my play style, I could be simply terrible at the game. After all, Bethesda’s marketing plan was centered on “this is how you won’t play Dishonored 2.” Consider me the poster child for that, then. Don’t play like me. Seriously. It will end terribly.
Thunder Only Happens When It’s Raining
Our story features a tale of vengeance and clearing our name. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a powerful enemy has come to town, claiming a false blood line to the throne, and has framed you, either Emily Kaldwin or the first game’s protagonist Corvo Attano, as a murderer. Yes, this is the premise for many a game and movie, including Dishonored 2. The method for dancing around the double protagonist is clever and adds a driving force to the story, but at the end of the day, you’re playing this game because of the gameplay, not the narrative. It doesn’t matter how hard developer Arkane Studios tries to make your choices matter when it comes to story, they don’t carry the same weight as the upper echelon of storytelling in the medium.
Further damping the experience is how serious the game takes itself. Let’s not mince words here; Dishonored as a whole as at its best when you’re using supernatural powers to murder your enemies in the most over-the-top way possible. Remember that feeling you got when playing Gears of War for the first time? The unnatural joy when performing your first chainsaw execution? That’s where Dishonored is at its best: changing off a stealth kill into some super powers to chain four more together before shooting off one incoming guard and then flipping reality to finish the job. Considering the design of later missions in the game, the overly serious story and characters make less and less sense. The game offers plenty to be excited about, particularly regarding level design, so here’s to hoping additional playthroughs can paint a brighter picture. That there is the biggest impression Dishonored 2 leaves on me: I want to keep playing despite my frustrations. Again, this isn’t a bad game by any means necessary, but instead one that falls short due to me having various issues that piled up over time.
The biggest issue, though, is the visuals. For whatever reason, my copy of Dishonored 2 (on Xbox One) isn’t nearly as crisp as it should be. Maybe it’s an optimization issue? Perhaps the art style clashes with the amount of power the game is using? Whatever the case, I’m just happy I’m not playing the game on PC, where the game is reportedly an unplayable mess.
Here’s the bottom line: Dishonored 2 can be an enjoyable experience if you’re able to put up with some of its flaws. If you’re the type of person who played through the original dozens of times, each different than the last, then this will be absolutely worth the pick-up. If you weren’t one of those people, then you’re honestly better off waiting. Despite its moments of joy and exhilaration, Dishonored 2 left me wondering “what if?” Just make sure that no matter what you do, avoid the PC version at all costs until its patched.