Last weekend I found myself the chance to play a preview of Bethesda’s Dishonored 2 at EB Expo in Sydney – and it was so much fun I did it twice. Following on 15 years after the end of the first Dishonored, Dishonored 2 is set in the warm and sunny city of Karnaca. Empress Emily has been dethroned and outlawed by an otherworldly usurper, and once again you have to right what is wrong the only way an assassin knows how: choking everyone out and hiding them in dumpsters.
The preview of the game everyone played featured the Clockwork Mansion level, showcased here last week in two High- versus Low-Chaos videos. The play-through starts halfway through, at the mansion’s front door and it is up to the players to navigate its inner workings, free Anton Sokolov, and deal with Kirin Jindosh. First impression was one of familiarity: the same steampunk aesthetic remains, and Corvo’s abilities feel instantly familiar. The city of Karnaca (what can be seen at least) is similar enough to feel a part of the world’s aesthetic, but has a very Mediterranean vibe to it. The level design follows the first game’s excellent example, with multiple pathways, plenty to explore, and hidden rooms, but with a greater use of verticality than was present in Dunwall. The Clockwork Mansion itself shifts around you as you fiddle with its mechanisms, hiding and revealing paths, and it is often necessary to leave the lavishly furnished mansion to hide and run throughout its walls and inner workings. Combat is just as satisfying and kills just as brutal as in the first game, and with Corvo’s abilities largely the same fights are instantly familiar to fans of the first. The new clockwork soldiers throw a curve-ball, with their towering stature, four blade limbs and heightened senses making their avoidance recommended. They’re resilient and aggressive foes, and encountering them during the level was a welcome challenge and change of pace in combat. Tactics and weapons to deal with them exist, making them refreshing rather than frustrating to encounter.
For example at one point in the day I was amusing myself trying to kill a clockwork by repeatedly blinking behind it and turning to jump and attempt an assassination. With the clockwork choosing to slowly plod after me, it gave me plenty of chances to time my attacks. A bemused staffer at the stall kindly informed me I had explosive bullets with which to deal with the clockwork – and I didn’t have all day. In order to prove him wrong I kept at it – whereupon the clockwork decided to aggressively charge and cut me down. Touche game, touche.
Both of my play-throughs were done in High-Chaos. Not because the kill animations are great, or because it’s satisfying to rend enemies limb-from limb, but because I couldn’t figure out the control scheme on the controller, and it was just easier to stab everyone, so I got very familiar with the combat system. My second play was as Emily, and she’s just as capable as Corvo when it comes to scenes of ultra-violence, or tenderly hugging guards as your sword exits their chest chestburster-style. Her abilities play pretty differently to Corvo’s, with the exception of Far Reach, which is her version of Blink. Where Corvo’s abilities tend to focus on himself, or act to extend him, like Windblast, Possession, or Bend Time, Emily’s focus is more on opponents, directly affecting their minds with Mesmerize or Domino, while Doppelganger allows you to summon a copy of yourself to attack enemies. As either character the Mansion yielded secrets and routes similarly, with their differences being more keenly felt in combat.
The introduction of a voice actor for Corvo was jarring at first, as he’s apparently gotten over the whole silent protagonist shtick in order to narrate his experiences. I can see why the change was made – the voice narration helped make sense of the level early on in the play-through, and gave Corvo more of a personality than the apocalyptic horseman he portrayed in the first game. The change isn’t necessarily a bad one however, and would probably feel more natural with a whole game to play through. Overall the weekend was a positive experience, and the game was immense fun. I did encounter a couple of bugs during my time, which is inevitable in an early version, but they didn’t impact on the game at all.
Dishonored 2 releases worldwide on November 11 this year, on PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4.