We loved the first Dishonored, and we were pretty fond of both its DLC too. It even got nominated as one of our Games of the Year 2012 although it lost to the worthy XCOM: Enemy Unknown. What I’m saying is, we’re massively looking forward to the sequel. It’s been three long years since The Brigmore Witches and we’re itching for the chance to Blink and assassinate with Corvo Attano again. Although this time he’s brought a friend, a second playable character who we got some hands-on time with at this year’s EGX.
Welcome to Karnaca.
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It’s been fifteen years since Corvo saved the young empress Emily Kaldwin from the forces trying to take over Dunwall and peace has generally descended over the Empire. That is, until the mysterious witch Delilah, last seen in The Brigmore Witches, usurps Emily and crowns herself Empress. Emily and Corvo end up on the run and hiding in the southern coastal city of Karnaca, which is where the majority of Dishonored 2 takes place.
The player can now take control of Corvo or the equally sneaky Emily. With only a short playthrough planned I picked Emily since I wanted to see what new features she’d bring to Dishonored 2. In general she’s described as more stealth-focused, which frankly suits me to a tee. I personally like to ghost levels Thief-like and take down everyone non-lethally, so Emily sounded good – even though in the final game I’ll probably veer towards Corvo just to hear the sweet voice of Stephen “Garrett” Russell again.
The level I played was titled ‘the Clockwork Mansion’ and was truly unique, and I wish I’d played it before I interviewed Level Design Director Christophe Carrier because I definitely would’ve asked him about it. My target for assassination (or otherwise) was Kirin Jindosh, the owner of the bizarre mansion and the inventor of Clockwork Robots that I’ll talk about momentarily. As a secondary mission Jindosh is holding our old friend from the first game Anton Sokolov captive, and I’ve got to find him and break him out.
The mission started with a literal rollercoaster ride that was unnecessary but very impressive, and shows just how mad Jindosh really is that this is the only way to reach his house. After that the first thing I needed to do was check my inventory. Sword, pistol with normal and explosive bullets, crossbow with normal and tranquiliser bolts, grenades, mines, and three powers to try out. Of course I tried the powers out first.
“Far Reach” is Emily’s equivalent of Corvo’s Blink power, transporting her quickly and quietly across the map up to a certain distance. I’m gathering it could still be upgraded since the teleportation range wasn’t very far in the demo, but it served its purpose. “Domino” is rather useful if you can get it to work right, which I didn’t: basically if you tag at least two people with it and do something to one of them the other will share that person’s fate, from getting tranquilized to being launched off the side of a building. That’ll be one to play about with. “Shadow Walk” was the last and was rather terrifying. Supposedly it turns you into a more stealthy form, but in actuality it turns Emily into a weird shadow creature that can rip people apart like something out of The Darkness. I’m definitely going to try it a lot more in the final game.
What made the Clockwork Mansion so inspired was the way it transformed. I or Jindosh would flick a switch or trip a pressure pad and the room would change, from cycling in new passageways or staircases, creating walls, bringing in tesla coil-like defences or new rooms with Robots in to simply popping in a piano. All while Jindosh was watching (or trying to watch) my every move and commenting all the time. All very Bioshock in an absolutely wonderful way, except that Bioshock or other games with a voice mocking you never allowed you to be able to hide from your adversary and get them frustrated by not being able to find you.
In addition to regular guards, which were tough enough to avoid, there were Jindosh’s Clockwork Robots, an unholy mix of Thief II’s Servants and several Doctor Who monsters. They’re tall, powerful, can’t be easily taken down and speak in Jindosh’s voice. Part of the reason you’re taking out Jindosh is so he doesn’t spread his Robots all over the Empire as it’d make things pretty tough for you and Corvo.
They’re pretty damn intimidating but they do have weaknesses. As I only had a short amount of time with Dishonored 2 I didn’t raid every drawer and read every note like I usually do, but the one thing I did catch was a warning not to remove the heads. Without them they still keep going but lose the ability to see or, most importantly, tell friend from foe. So naturally when I saw two guards admiring a stationery Robot I blew its head off with my pistol and watched it tear apart the helpless guards. Furthermore it’ll then hunt entirely on sound, so as long as I snuck around carefully it’d ignore me.
The Mansion was definitely a little maze-like, and with only a short time to explore I didn’t find many secret passages or indeed many vents (the staple of the stealth genre). At one point though I flipped a switch that moved a piano out of a room, and while the floor was transforming I slipped between tiles into the ugly mechanical bowels of the Mansion, and fortunately close to Anton Sokolov’s cell.
As per usual with my luck and Jindosh’s insanity the cell was actually a transforming puzzle room with a Clockwork Robot patrolling it. As I stepped on pressure plates walls would cycle out and I had to find the right one to open up the path to Sokolov, all while not getting killed. I blew the head off the Robot so gave myself some leeway, and finally I made it to the prisoner, now a very old and weak man. I said I’d deal with Jindosh first and then come back for him… but I never did since my time with the demo was up. Oh, and then the Robot who was playing dead found me and ran me through. Sigh.
Dishonored 2 is currently on course to launch on 11th November for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. While there have been a lot of slippages lately from other major titles Arkane is confident they can make that date, so everyone cross their fingers. It certainly feels complete, anyway.
I’m loathe to mention graphics in any preview, but gosh-darnit Dishonored 2 looks amazing. It’s not just down to the Void Engine, which is based on id Tech 5 (Wolfenstein: The New Order, Rage, not new Doom which is 6) but has clearly been altered so much Arkane felt the need to give it a full new name. Really though it’s the art style that makes Dishonored 2 look so good. Everything is incredibly detailed and with a lush art direction that makes the world seem both distinct and glorious. The design of the Clockwork Robots alone was amazing, like two-legged metal spiders with gold plating.
However if there’s one thing Dishonored 2 needs it’s more time to play it in. It’s already a really superb fun game with at least one massively inventive level and a range of interesting tools, but aside from checking out the other levels we really need time to properly explore them and find every hidden detail. That was where the first game came to life for me, and I’m sure the sequel will too. It’s definitely one of our most eagerly anticipated sequels this year and we’re already counting the days until we get a proper go on it.
Most Anticipated Feature: Seeing if the other levels are as inventive as the Clockwork Mansion.