If you’d forgotten, Dishonored won our illustrious Game of the Year Award back in 2012, so we’ve been pining for a sequel ever since. Thankfully, that project was formally announced at this year’s E3 and it’s scheduled to arrive in the spring. We’re expecting a bigger and better version of the game we loved; anything less will be a disappointment, so developer Arkane Studios had best step up! The good news is the team has already confirmed that the second effort will be very much like the first, in that it’ll be an action/adventure quest “where you don’t have to kill anyone.” You know, kinda like a more fantastical and less futuristic Deus Ex.
Anyway, one of the most important additions will be the inclusion of a female protagonist. In the original, we stepped into the capable boots of assassin Corvo and while he is indeed returning for the sequel, we’ll also have the option of playing as Emily. Those who played the first game will remember Emily as the little girl Corvo was sworn to protect; well, she has grown into a formidable fighter in her own right and her abilities might even surpass Corvo’s. The bottom line is that, akin to the male/female split lead in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, we’ll have two characters that have distinct skills and abilities. Also like in Syndicate, there are no character-specific missions; you can select who you wish to use for any given quest. This increases the game’s longevity because we might want to see missions from different perspectives.
Dishonored 2 takes place 15 years after the original game ended, so we’ll begin with Emily Kaldwin, who is now Empress. Arkane has called her “the only thing good in the world actually worth saving,” so it makes sense that she’ll be a focal point in the new narrative. But once again, Emily’s life is put in peril as a mysterious usurper ousts her from the throne and Emily is forced to flee the darkening city of Dunwall. Much like Corvo, she will then become an outlaw who must right a tremendous wrong, but unlike Corvo, she won’t spend all her time in Dunwall. In fact, the primary setting will be Karnaca, the capital city of Serkonos, which is Corvo’s hometown and described as a brighter, warmer location. In fact, it sounds a little like New Orleans, so it’ll definitely have a spicier tinge.
Unfortunately, Karnaca isn’t in a much better state than Dunwall in the first game, as the capital is beset by a massive epidemic. Freakish blood flies swarm the city, feasting on corpses and generally being a colossal pain in the ass. However, much like the rats from before, these blood flies can be used to your advantage, provided you’re careful. Both Corvo and Emily can indeed use their surroundings but while Corvo’s familiar powers (Blink, baby!) return, Emily has access to different stuff: There’s Far Reach (kind of like a telekinetic grapple), Shadow Walk, Mesmerize, and she can craft bone charms as well. The other big addition involves the new upgrade system; rather than simply amping up your powers, each character has a specific skill tree. Again, shades of Syndicate (which I loved, so I’m good).
One of the reasons the first game was so great? Creativity. You could string together all sorts of powers in stunningly unique and pleasing ways, and with even more powers to choose from in the second title, that creativity should be through the roof. Then, toss in enhanced technology and better AI (overhauled search patterns for the guards, for instance), along with a modified high/low chaos system, and you’ve got a dramatically improved package. Don’t forget that the original game was only available on the last-gen consoles, so our expectations have to be significantly higher with new hardware. Arkane is well aware of this, so they’re working hard to deliver an impressive product, one that will satisfy everyone from the hardcore stealth fanatics to those who appreciate fine visual works.
Lastly, amid complaints that the first adventure wasn’t hard enough, they’re making the second game more of a challenge. Personally, I didn’t find the original overly easy, especially if you were going full-on stealth, but I don’t mind something a little tougher. Besides, with Emily’s new powers, one would assume the difficulty should scale up a bit. There’s no doubt in my mind that Dishonored 2 will be one of 2016’s very best games, and if you loved the first you’ll inevitably love the second. They just need to make sure the story is involving and interesting, and the characters are a little more defined. Give us that, along with the upgrades and additions outlined so far (and there’s talk of a new gameplay mode, too), and I think everyone will be mighty pleased.
12/29/2015 Ben Dutka