Creeping through the streets of Karnaca with a blade in one hand and an enchanted heart in the other, I do my best to keep a low profile and avoid detection. My mission: Sneak into the Addermire Institute, eliminate the Crown Killer, and uncover the whereabouts of Anton Sokolov. How I choose to do so is entirely up to me. Do I stain my shiny steel sword with the blood of my enemies, or do I take the pacifistic route and spare their lives? Do I go postal and loudly slay my enemies with guns and explosives, or do I remain phantomlike and stay quiet as a mouse in the shadows?
Dishonored 2 is a game defined by moments like these. At many points during its nine chapters, you’re faced with decisions that not only impact the outcome of the mission, but the entire story as well. For instance, in the game’s fifth chapter, you’re placed in the middle of a feud between the Howlers and the Overseers. You can either deliver the leader of one faction to the other, dead or alive, to gain access to Aramis Stilton’s manor, or choose to solve the Jindosh riddle keeping the door to it locked. And the best part is, there is a variety of ways you can accomplish either!
From the very beginning of the campaign, you’re given a choice between playing as Dishonored’s protagonist, Corvo Atano, and his daughter, Emily Kaldwin. Shortly after that, you’re forced to make a decision on whether you want to accept the Mark of the Outsider or not, which is essentially a choice between playing with and without powers. While this happens within the first 30 minutes, it’s a huge moment that completely affects how you will play the rest of the game.
Each of Dishonored 2’s nine chapters drop you in a sandbox environment that you’re free to explore every nook and cranny of. Whether you choose to or not is completely up to you. Through exploration of these areas, you’ll find tasks and side quests that you can complete to make your main objective easier. You’re also privy to find notes and journals that provide background information about some of the key players and events the story is based around. You can spend anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours on any chapter; it all depends on how curious you are.
To Kill or Not to Kill?
Additionally, each chapter’s main target can be thwarted in one of two ways. You can either assassinate them in cold blood, or you can find a nonlethal way to incapacitate them. Making a return is the Chaos system, which works exactly as it did in the first installment (loud and lethal = high chaos and silent and nonlethal = low chaos). Finishing the game with high chaos results in a downer of an ending, while finishing it with low chaos results in a conclusion that’s more optimistic. Because of this, the nonlethal approach is always more difficult and time consuming, usually consisting of multiple steps.
A good example comes from the game’s fourth mission titled The Clockwork Mansion. To successfully complete the mission without killing Kirin Jindosh, the target, you need to put him to sleep and hook him up to his electroshock machine. From there, you need to charge the machine with just enough power to fry Jindosh’s brain without killing him. It’s a multi-step puzzle that takes much more time and brainpower than just driving your sword through his heart. And the end result is much more satisfying, leaving the smug, arrogant Jindosh a babbling, mindless fool
A Wealth of Upgrades and Customizations
To further help you tailor gameplay to your playstyle, Dishonored 2 gives you a plethora of weapon upgrades and powers to choose from. Do you fancy a more silent, stealthy approach? Upgrade to the Instant Sleep Dart so you can knock out guards in the blink of an eye. Are you having trouble fighting multiple enemies at once? Use runes to unlock the Bend Time power so you can slice and dice hostiles in bullet time. There are a ton of possibilities to choose from – from swarms of rats that devour corpses to the ability to possess other beings – but they all cost something to unlock. Upgrades cost coins while powers cost ruins, and both are easy to find if you’re willing to look for them.
In addition to personalizing the game, the amount of choices you’re given in Dishonored 2 adds significant replay value. My first time around, I chose to take the stealthy route and made it through each chapter without being detected or killing anyone. However, I enjoyed the combat so much that I couldn’t help but start another, more lethal playthrough. It felt like an entirely different game. Instead of cowering in the shadows and avoiding detection, I made my presence known so I could engage in in the game’s fabulous combat.
Other than being a more stimulating experience, what I enjoyed most about this playthrough was the ability to explore more freely. Since I wasn’t worried about losing my Ghost rating, I was able to scour every corner of each area for journals, notes, runes, bone charms, and coins. As a result, I was able to purchase more weapon upgrades, unlock more powers, and learn more about world and the characters within it. On the other hand, I enjoyed my first playthrough because it forced me to use my brain and be more strategic. I can’t say I liked one over the other because each offered enjoyment that was satisfying in different ways.
Choose to Play Dishonored 2
All in all, I enjoyed the hell out of Dishonored 2 because it allows you to play it exactly the way you want. Of course it has all of the other aspects of a great game – stunning visuals, rewarding combat, an engaging storyline, etc. – but so do many other games. What most games don’t offer is the ability to tailor them to your desired play style. You could play through Dishonored 2 three or four times and have a different experience each time.
As much as I love Dishonored 2, no game is perfect. While it offers a ton of freedom, there could still be more. First and foremost, I wish there were more side quests. Each chapter has one or two that you can complete, but there is potential for so much more. I would have also liked to have seen some sort of dialogue system. It would have been great if you had communication options that affected the progression of the storyline. Lastly, a crafting system would have been nice. You can craft Bonecharms, but you need to unlock the ability first. It would be better if you could do it from the beginning and craft a wider variety of items.
Be that as it may, those minor complaints weren’t enough to taint my overall experience with Dishonored 2. I still loved it enough to play twice, and I can see myself revisiting it years down the road, especially since I won’t be buying new games anytime soon. I chose to play it and am glad I did. I highly suggest you do the same.
Have you played Dishonored 2? What did you think? Did you enjoy the freedom and choices as much as I did? What was the most memorable moment for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!