Dishonored 2 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Renan Fontes 14.11.2016

Review for Dishonored 2 on PlayStation 4

A sequel to the original Dishonored has always felt more of a matter of "when" than "if." Despite sporting a story that was relatively open and close, the dark and dreary world Arkane Studios had created was still ripe with promise and opportunity. Some of that promise was seen in its two expansions, but there was still a fair share of potential left untapped, both gameplay-wise and thematically. Leaving Dunwall behind, fast forwarding 15 years after the original's ending, and with plenty of expectations to meet, does Dishonored 2 serve as a worthy successor to one of 2012's most imaginative titles?

It comes as no surprise that Dishonored 2 retains the high focus on stealth that defined Dishonored's core gameplay. The actual mechanics remain relatively the same, with some slight tweaks in overall control. Swordplay is more enjoyable this time around thanks to tighter hitboxes, and the field of vision on enemies has been improved, meaning stealth has to consist of actual hiding and luring, instead of crouching two feet away from guards.

Given the overall level design and ferocity of enemies, it's clear that Arkane Studios is pushing an emphasis towards a stealthier approach to action, instead of full-out combat. That said, there are still plenty of tools at disposal to accommodate more aggressive playstyles.

Corvo and Emily have access to a wide arsenal of weapons and supernatural feats that can be used to kill, incapacitate, distract, and get them past enemies unseen. Both playable characters can use a crossbow, a pistol, and a sword; all three of which offer the basics for survival.

The crossbow acts as a silent killer, taking down enemies without the loud drawbacks of a pistol. Incendiary and sleep bolts can also be swapped in for more disastrous or nonlethal results, respectively. To keep both long-range weapons balanced, pistol ammunition is more commonly found in each mission, allowing Corvo and Emily to always have a reliable backup so long as some moderation is shown to weapon use. Stun mines, spring razors, and grenades can also be used from long range to trap and take out or distract guards without direct confrontation, but can also serve as last minute life savers in a particularly chaotic scenario.

Screenshot for Dishonored 2 on PlayStation 4

Even though Corvo and Emily play relatively the same in terms of their weaponry, Arkane Studios has thankfully put the time in to flesh out and differentiate their supernatural abilities. Corvo has access to more offensive and combat oriented powers, while Emily's skillset is designed around primarily avoiding direct confrontation and trapping guards.

Both characters also have access to a wide variety of upgrades. The power skill tree can be upgraded via runes to strengthen each power or just improve Corvo and Emily's physical abilities, while the Black Market offers upgrades to their weaponry in exchange for coins.

Runes and coins are just two of the many collectibles each mission has to offer. Blueprints for new weapon upgrades, bonecharms that can be equipped for added benefits, and paintings that offer a monetary reward are all tucked away in the campaign.

More often than not, collectibles serve as a shallow attempt at increasing a game's length, but Dishonored 2 uses them to inspire exploration. Missions aren't particularly long when following just the main object, but by straying off the path and exploring everything the seaside city of Karnaca has to offer, mission play time can easily be doubled or tripled. There's an incredible amount of hidden content tucked away in each stage, but the overall design never succumbs to the mindset that optional content is less important.

Each mission has a central gimmick, or theme, that differentiates it from the others. Once again, Arkane Studios has managed to take a risky concept and make it work in its favor. The themed levels end up creating an incredible amount of replay value, as they offer different ways to tackle different objectives at different times.

The level design, as a whole, also plays off the ideas of stealth and action far better than the first Dishonored did. An emphasis on stealth is very much present, but indulging in chaos is no longer nearly as punishable. Going around killing enemies all the time and leaving their bodies exposed out in the open does end up causing more guards and bloodflies, plague-like insects, to appear in later missions, but never to an excessive point.

Screenshot for Dishonored 2 on PlayStation 4

When it comes to pure gameplay, there's a lot to appreciate and admire about Dishonored 2: it employs creative level design, offers hours of hidden away content, and just overall has fun mechanics. A lot of effort has clearly been put into the game design. The same can't be said for the presentation, however. For all the strengths the 2016 sequel has, there are a fair share of glaring flaws, making sure it never realises its full potential.

Aesthetically, Karnaca is absolutely gorgeous and filled with vibrant colours and light. It feels like a real coastal town, and the Spanish and Italian inspired architecture found around the city mesh incredibly well together, but the frequent frame rate drops and lagginess make it hard to appreciate the work that's been put into the world.

Story-wise, there's very little weight to the plot. Characters lack motivations in both Corvo and Emily's campaigns, and neither of the characters have fleshed out or fulfilling arcs. There's no moral, no lesson, and no growth, which feels like a missed opportunity, particularly in the case of Emily. It makes a little bit of sense, though disappointing, that Corvo wouldn't have much development, as Dishonored 1 was mainly about him, but Emily has 15 years of development that could have been utilised for a compelling arc that's almost completely ignored.

The already less than amazing writing is only hurt by the abhorrent voice direction. Dishonored 2 has an all-star cast, featuring the talents of Vincent D'Onofrio, Rosario Dawson, and Pedro Pascal, among many other strong actors, but the sloppy direction ends up removing any weight the story may have had.

Dialogue is spoken fast, typically in a monotonous, boring tone, and conveys little to no emotion. Corvo and Emily's pre-mission monologues end up turning what should be a personal character into a dry, lifeless plot recap.

Screenshot for Dishonored 2 on PlayStation 4

Worst of all, something very clearly went wrong with the sound design. Sound effects range from muted to loud at the tilt of a head, and lines of dialogue by NPCs and enemies will too often overlap, making it difficult to pick up on what they're saying. The subtitles work as a minor fix, but the clashing of voices makes immersion difficult.

The campaign is at its best when Corvo and Emily have reached their target and need to decide how to dispose of them, but the targets are disappointingly lacking in life. Each one is hyped up in their respective mission briefings, but very rarely do they live up to what's spoken about them… Which leads to another one of the story's bigger problems: show, don't tell.

Very little is actually shown. Corvo and Emily are told of their target's motivations and character, but less than half of the targets actually fully reflect and demonstrate in-depth and complex personalities. The majority are just simple, one dimensional villains that end up being all talk.

While it's more than likely Arkane Studios will release a patch that'll fix the many performance issues, that doesn't excuse the sloppiness at release. The overall gameplay and level design have so much time and care put into it that there's just no excuse for the rest of the game not having it all together. It's a shame the sum of Dishonored 2's parts aren't as strong as the game design, because there's a serious contender for game of the year being suppressed underneath all the flaws.

Screenshot for Dishonored 2 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

There's so much effort put into the actual gameplay and level design that Arkane Studios' laziness with everything else makes the unrefined parts stand out all the more. It isn't enough to ruin the whole experience, but Dishonored 2 absolutely suffers from its horrible story, voice direction, sound mixing, general lagginess, and sloppy optimisation. A video game's first priority should be the gameplay, but its other facets shouldn't suffer as a result. The actual game design is incredibly creative and the replay value is through the roof, but everything else is lacking in just about every other regard. As it stands, Dishonored 2 is certainly playable and fun, but never lives up to all its potential.

Developer

Arkane

Publisher

Bethesda Softworks

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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