If you don’t like intense video game violence, bad British accents and steampunk surroundings, we probably can’t be friends. I know. It’s going to be hard, but never forget: It’s not me, it’s you.
Chances are, that lack of appreciation for the finer things in life would also disqualify you from loving “Dishonored 2,” the dystopian sequel to the 2012 breakout hit. I, however, loved it, and I suspect the sequel will be as highly regarded as its predecessor.
“Dishonored 2” is a brutal romp through a twisted, mangled Charles Dickens novel. Like Oliver Twist before them, waves of guards with East End accents patrol dystopian streets covered with rusted metal gadgets asking, “Please, Corvo, I want some more (horrible maiming).” Difficult, stealth-driven gameplay slowly pushes players through a solid but brief storyline. It’s not perfect, but it’s as good of a game as you will find in this lost year of gaming we find ourselves trudging through.
I played the first “Dishonored” for about 20 minutes. The year was 2012. I was in college and not yet scratching a meager living out as the country’s 58th best video game critic. My good friend recommended it to me, knowing how much I love fellow Bethesda franchise “The Elder Scrolls.” I bopped around for a little bit, realized it was a stealth game, turned it off and went back to playing “League of Legends.” It was a simpler time – a better time.
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I still hate stealth games, but I gave “Dishonored 2” a good look for the sake of journalism. This noble profession steered me past my own prejudices. I actually liked a stealth game. What a world.
Developer Arkane Studios has created a truly remarkable world for the setting of the two games. It’s dark and grimy. As you walk the streets and alleys of Dunwall or Karnaca, you feel as if they would smell rancid. And that’s an achievement for a video game. The cities and islands look like 19th-century Western European locations twisted by plague, magic and a technology boom that has surpassed the intelligence level of its populace.
The combat works beautifully. Players control either Corvo, the assassin from the first title, or his daughter Emily, the empress of Dunwall. Both have the traditional assassin’s bag of tricks (a dagger, sword, pistol, etc.), and they can both use various dark magic spells. This assortment allows for a variety of brutal, morbidly funny fatalities – kills that trigger a special scene – on bad guys. When you are fighting someone or something face-to-face, the controls respond well to quick block and parry commands.
There are some performance issues during combat in the PC version, which is what I played. It gets a bit choppy as the frame rate slows and the edges of the screen tear slightly.
Players will also notice that, in true Bethesda form, the dying and dead bodies betray all conceivable rules of physics. That publisher has cranked out great role-playing games for longer than I have been alive, but for some reason, its subordinates have never bothered to learn what a body hitting the pavement or being moved actually looks like.
I had the same gripe around this time last year when I reviewed the phenomenal “Fallout 4.” I guess it will never be a priority, which is odd because it is often one of the few problems with its great role-playing game stable.
Unfortunately, “Dishonored 2” also has a pretty weak script. The cast is packed with B- or C-level film stars like Vincent D’Onofrio, Rosario Dawson and Sam Rockwell, but the words on the pages they read from were quite forgettable. The plot itself is packed with royal intrigue and some pretty decent twists, but the voice acting does little more than advance the storyline.
Some will complain about it being too short, but the brevity is fine. It plays well, looks even better and tells a decent story for about 10 hours. As I said with “The Order: 1866,” it provides loads more entertainment than similarly priced films or TV shows. I’d much rather have a shorter game with a tight narrative than one that stretches a plot too thin.
There’s also some replay value in “Dishonored 2,” as players progress as either Emily or Corvo, not both. The endings are a bit different depending on which character you chose and how you played the game, so those with iron gaming constitutions could play the main story three or four times before fully repeating anything.
All in all, this is a strong role-playing game that piqued my interest far more than other stealth-based games, including “Assassin’s Creed.” It isn’t an instant classic such as “Fallout 4” or “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,” but it’s a solid option for the mature gamer in your life.
Rated mature for blood and gore, intense violence, language, drug and alcohol use
Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC