Dishonored 2 PS4 Review
The sewage, the steampunk fashions and the bloody coups at every turn – we could only be back in Dunwall. And it is certainly a joy to be back.
When I played the first Dishonored, I thought the worst part about it was the spelling. Dishonored. As a Brit, it still kills me not to type Dishonoured. Once I had gotten over American-English, I loved the game. It was such an addictive challenge to creep through levels without alerting anyone or killing anyone. The characters were interesting and the storyline was compelling.
In many ways, Dishonored 2 feels very similar to the first. The art style is consistent, the brilliant melee combat is back and the aims are still much the same – kill or creep your way through a variety of levels in order to get the country back to its rightful leader.
But this entry into the Dishonored franchise also builds on that very solid foundation, punching above the weight of its predecessor. This is apparent in the opening sequence which offers players a choice of protagonist between Empress Emily Kaldwin and Corvo Attano, the Royal Protector. I went with Emily – the game starts you off from her POV so it seemed to make sense to continue and besides, I’d already played a whole game as Corvo. The two choices offer different powers and different reactions to events which allows for a great deal of replayability. So too do the huge number of different options to complete each level and the high/low chaos variants of each (which depend on whether you have a blood-thirsty need to kill everything in sight or want to creep through the levels leaving everything perfectly intact and alive). This is welcome as I imagine the game itself is not long at all if you only complete the main objectives on the normal difficulty level.
Especially striking in Dishonored 2 is the level design. The Clockwork Mansion is particularly fascinating: a whole mansion in which the room layout can transform at the touch of a button. I spent most of the level marvelling at the incredibly well thought out design and the whole concept adds new complexities to the stealthy approach. Another interesting level was one which incorporated time travel to brilliant effect as Emily flits between the two timelines to take down guards and, through her actions in the past, radically change her present. None of these aspects felt tokenistic, instead they added new and interesting challenges.
The lore and story too are involving, and there is collectible information everywhere which adds to the player’s understanding of the events between Dishonored 1 and 2 as well as issues which surround the main storyline. Some of the writings can also help find new routes around a map or hidden loot. And, whilst I cannot speak for the character development of Corvo, Emily has a convincing and interesting character arc. As she is forced to take an impromptu tour around her kingdom she becomes painfully aware of how badly she has been ruling and the injustices which she has unintentionally ignored. In the low chaos route, the experience is strangely beneficial for her as she realises her privileged position and how she needs to step up to be the Empress she wants to be.
Happily I also discovered that there are a huge number of different variants to the epilogue depending on the choices you make – and this time not just in terms of body count, but also how the player decided to handle a number of important characters in the game. That’s right – choice has a consequence, and we know gamers everywhere love to think that their actions will have an effect on the ending. (I’m looking at you Mass Effect 3).
There are a number of other less immediately noticeable features which deserve recognition: the soundtrack is atmospheric, especially Daniel Licht’s main theme; the voice acting is solid all round; and there is a healthy balance of enemies which are sympathetic and evil which forces peaceful or violent devotees to reconsider their methods.
Unfortunately, the sizeable, stuttering cloud over all this admiration is the PC release of the game which has been mired with low frame rates and crashing. I wanted to play the game on PC but was forced to play it on PS4 (entailing the use of a controller and long wait times to load each new area). It is a shame the PC release was so poorly handled and does dent my enthusiasm for this game. I have heard that recent patches have rectified most of the problems but Dishonored 2 has the unfortunate position of being one of a long line of recent big budget releases which seem to have had a disregard for their PC versions, making the frustration even greater. With that in mind, the difficulty with rating this game out of ten is that whilst my disappointment at the shoddy PC release probably lands my feelings at an 8, ultimately, I must rate it purely on the PS4 version I played.
There was only one real criticism I had with the game: the ending feels somewhat anticlimactic. This is unfortunate for such a wonderful game, but at the same time, I’m not sure how this might be fixed, or exactly what it was that made it anticlimactic. After giving it some thought, it might have been beneficial to have the choices made throughout the game impact how Delilah, the main protagonist, could be brought down. To draw together the choices into something tangible, rather than an epilogue cutscene, might have made a greater impact. I did also experience one frustrating bug which inexplicably caused my sword to disappear and the FPS to plummet but this only occurred once and was easily rectified.
Ultimately, when I finished the game, I didn’t want it to end. The compelling atmosphere, the wonderful level design, the detailed steampunk world and the absorbing storyline, not to mention the precisely crafted gameplay, all coincide to craft one worthy successor. I guess you could say far from dishonouring its predecessor, this game honoured it and even, dare I say, outdid it.