Dishonored 2 Review

Richard Walker

When it launched back in 2012, Dishonored was a breath of fresh air, well and truly putting Arkane Studios on the map as a purveyor of impeccably well-made, open-ended narrative driven games. In that regard, Dishonored 2 is no different, building upon what made the first game so memorable, varied and utterly unique.

This time around, you're given the choice between playing as either the first game's Royal Protector and supernatural assassin Corvo Attano, or his daughter, Empress Emily Kaldwin. Both are equally adept in combat, but the suite of abilities bestowed upon them by the mysterious Outsider make each slightly different, ensuring that repeated playthroughs throw up varying challenges and unique instances of dialogue.

Emily admires her fiery handiwork.

While a playthrough as Corvo or as Emily are largely the same; the opportunities afforded by the plethora of stealth or combat options at your fingertips, and the sandbox nature of its environments make every encounter and objective unique. As ever, High Chaos or Low Chaos are viable approaches, and most Dishonored purists will want to play through at least twice to see how far they can push the game and its mechanics. In truth, at least two playthroughs are pretty much essential, as there's so much to see and do, and being able to play as both Corvo and Emily can make for two divergent experiences.

There are so many variables at work in Dishonored 2, each player is practically guaranteed to have their very own individual run through, completely different to anyone else's. Couple this huge scope with some of the most inventive missions we've ever played, like being able to travel through time at Stilton's manor or traverse the inner workings of Kirin Jindosh's intricate Clockwork Mansion, and it hits home that Dishonored 2 really is something very special indeed.

You could potentially storm through the game and miss dozens of incidental details and additional possibilities too. Like in the Addermire Institute where you're sent to deal with the notorious Crown Killer. Here, you're presented with a range of options. You can steam in and kill your target or seek out a patient who'll aid you in creating a serum that causes things to play out completely differently.

First time around, I completely missed all of this and simply murdered my target in cold blood. Next time, I took a more considered, methodical approach, discovering the serum and taking down the Crown Killer non-lethally. On the surface, it might seem that lethal or non-lethal are your only two options in Dishonored 2, but there really is a lot more to it than that. It's the dizzying array of permutations within the sandbox that make the game so inviting, and Emily and Corvo's supernatural powers, bestowed upon them by the Outsider, make things even more interesting.

Emily's powers are mostly geared towards stealth and deception, while Corvo's abilities remain intact from the first game, with Blink, Possession, Bend Time and such still granting you all manner of possibilities to experiment with. Emily, meanwhile, is able to deploy Doppelgänger to confuse and distract, and link enemies to all share the same fate with her Domino power. Powers can be combined too, so Emily can Domino her Doppelgänger, subduing or killing her projected twin to topple any enemies linked to it.

She can even upgrade Doppelgänger so that her projected other self fights alongside her or Emily can transfer herself into her clone. This is only scratching the surface when it comes to the potential in just a single power, so imagine how many more branches and possibilities upgrading other parts of the powers skill tree can afford to you as the player. The degree of freedom and agency you're given is remarkable, evolving what Arkane started in the first game with an even greater breadth of parameters and attributes you can tinker with to tailor your play experience. Stealth, aggression or a combination of both are all catered for, so again, it's important to stress just how essential multiple playthroughs are if you want to truly absorb everything that Dishonored 2 has to offer.

Therein lies Dishonored 2's inherent brilliance. Not only is each mission a large sandbox with multiple routes, approaches and possibilities, but the selection of powers and abilities that Emily and Corvo bring to the party mean that no two playthroughs are ever likely to be the same. And truly, one 8-10 hour run through the game simply isn't enough to do it all justice. There are side quests, secrets and varying ways to spec your chosen character, gathering and spending Runes to unlock powers and additional attributes for each of those powers.

You can collect and craft dozens of Bone Charms too, lending your character a variety of different perks and buffs like increased health, reduced falling or explosive damage, the ability to eat white rats for mana or drink water from fountains or faucets for health. That's to name but a few. Yet, despite having all of these myriad advantages over your foes, Dishonored 2 is still a remarkably challenging game, so a completely non-lethal or ghost run will be a hard-fought achievement, but one that's worth pursuing.

Corvo unleashes the rats.

Then there's a 'Flesh and Steel' run to consider, in which you reject the Outsider's mark and have no powers at your disposal. Whether you opt for High or Low Chaos during that one is down to you, of course, but it's supremely difficult, especially as it closes off numerous high routes that you can't access without Blink or Far Reach. However, it's yet another compelling reason to go back for more.

As such, there's a range of fantastic achievements to unlock for your efforts in completing Dishonored 2 in these various ways. A pacifist run-through with no kills? That's an achievement. Pulling off a 'ghost' run without being spotted once? It's really, really difficult, but that's an achievement if you manage it. Finishing the game in High Chaos? Yep, even that's an achievement too. It's finding the hidden secrets off the beaten path and completing feats using your powers that are the most gratifying achievements, however, and overall, this all makes for a fantastic list.

Dishonored 2 is a sequel that ostensibly seems like more of the same, and to an extent it is. But to write it off as such would be doing the game an enormous disservice. Dishonored 2 is a deftly executed experience that's immensely rewarding and always throwing up surprises to ensure you're constantly enthralled from beginning to end. Each mission presents a unique challenge to be overcome, and the design is exemplary throughout, with some of the most memorable, expertly crafted moments we've seen in any game ever.

That's not just rampant hyperbole either. Genuinely, Dishonored 2 is a consistently enjoyable, brilliantly inventive and surprising game that rewards your own creativity with some fantastic moments. That its mission design encourages experimentation with different routes and approaches means you're always constantly discovering new things and soaking up every little bit of Dishonored 2's gloriously realised minutiae. It's brilliant.

Dishonored 2

Dishonored was a genuine surprise when it launched four years ago; an innovative first-person experience that confounded expectations. That Dishonored 2 manages to once again surprise and amaze as much as the first game did is testament to what Arkane has crafted here. Dishonored 2 is quite simply one of the greatest games this year, and quite possibly one of the best of this generation. Do yourself a favour and go get it.

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Music is perfectly pitched throughout, building during all of the right moments, dialling it down for the quieter junctures where subtlety fits the scenario. The soundtrack is great and the all-star voice cast is exemplary too.


Dishonored's inimitable painterly style returns for the sequel, its rough-hewn characters looking perfectly at home within Dishonored 2's sometimes vibrant, sometimes oppressive world. Dunwall and Karnaca are equally dystopian, and the art style reflects the divide between the privileged in their high towers and the denizens stranded on the streets, mired in poverty.


Initially a little bit of a muddle, Dishonored 2's control system soon emerges as elegant and intuitive. Accessible and easy to pick up, the game's challenges never arise from complicated controls. There's a plethora of varying approaches and powers to exploit too.


An 8-10 hour story is really only the beginning. To really wring everything that there is to see and do in Dishonored 2, you'll want to dive in for a second or third playthrough. Each throws up its own unique moments, some missions requiring vital decisions and others introducing incredible mechanics that are handled with unmatched dexterity.


Arkane clearly cares about its achievements. Dishonored 2's list is laced with interesting and exciting tasks that promote the game's spirit of experimentation, while encouraging exploration and repeat visits. Nigh-on perfect.

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