Dishonored 2 Review – Dishonorable Discharge

You’re my one Dunwall.

02

Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda
Format: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Released: November 11, 2016
Copy provided by publisher

The original Dishonored remains one of my favorite games of the last generation, a veritable “game of the year” from 2012. Versatile gameplay and excellent worldbuilding made for a fascinating revenge tale, unfolding in some of the best environments committed to code.

Dishonored 2 aims to recapture what made Dishonored so brilliant for its time, and it does so by retreading the exact same ground and doing everything the original did in a slightly less interesting way.

The problem with this sequel is revealed almost as soon as it starts, sprinting headlong through an introductory sequence to hurriedly set up yet another revenge plot with barely any pacing.

Empress Emily Kaldwin is briefly introduced as a ruler with a stereotypical disinterest in ruling before she’s suddenly – and I mean suddenly – deposed by a secret aunt and that’s the end of that.

Everybody is pretty much fine with a former empress’ sister being next in line to throne – without proof – and either Emily or her father Corvo Attano are instantly marked as a fugitive and must secretly eliminate those who plotted against them, just like Corvo did fifteen years prior. Sort of like that Vacation not-remake with Ed Helms.

While there are narrative foundations used to justify Delilah Copperspoon’s miraculous usurpation of the throne – a touch of black magic, a series of deaths intended to make Emily look like a murderer – they’re weak justifications used as flimsy handwaves.

Dishonored 2 simply wants to hurtle toward the formula that served its forebear so well. No time to spare for characterization, history, or a substantial setup. Let’s get straight to avengin’ stuff!

01

The consequent story is about as threadbare, with a series of antagonists introduced and disposed of with little fanfare. While the original Dishonored provided a real rogue’s gallery of nefarious conspirators who ruled over memorable locations, its sequel has a series of flat knockoffs.

Dishonored worked hard to make you hate its coterie of conspirators. In Dishonored 2, the villains’ personalities barely shine through – they’re names to be crossed off a list, and that’s that.

Aside from the narcissistic genius Kirin Jindosh and his transforming clockwork mansion, not a person or place is anywhere near as evocative as those encountered in Corvo’s initial adventure. There is no House of Pleasure, no Lady Boyle’s Last Party, nothing truly inspiring throughout Dishonored 2‘s rote chapters.

Similarly, the methods of disposal are not as varied this time around. While Dishonored often provided several inventive methods of assassination including the bizarrely crueler nonlethal route, the methods of murder are distinctly less inventive this time around. There’s still a nonlethal options, but nothing quite so great as setting up poisonings and the like.

I pity anybody trying to go nonlethal, by the way.

Three of my targets were killed in ways beyond my control. The first one’s nonlethal method glitched, rendering me unable to activate the device intended to trap him. The second one killed herself somehow. I still don’t know how she died, I simply got a message saying I’d killed her and that was that.

I stumbled upon her corpse much later.

The third had a body double but it didn’t matter – both died during the course of my playing through the level normally, rewiring security devices and using Emily’s Doppelganger ability. One was fried by an electric pylon, the other cut down instantly by one of my magic clones. I had no idea they were in the vicinity, they just ran themselves into trouble.

Fortunately I’d stopped caring about the game’s morality system by that point and was just eager to get the damn game finished with.

03

Dishonored 2, I must stress, is not a bad game. It’s a decent enough production with all the familiar trappings of its predecessor, but it suffers considerably when directly compared.

Emily and Corvo have access to supernatural abilities, as well as a host of weapons and gadgets that can either stun or kill the many enemies on patrol. It’s all fun to use, and the environments themselves are well crafted, full of secret items, sidequests, and hidden lore that may never be discovered.

The world changes depending on the player’s actions. High chaos play requires lots of upfront lethality – open murder, direct combat, bodies in the streets. This makes characters nastier and the world more prone to infestation by vicious bloodflies that feed on corpses and swarm their victims.

Low chaos is achieved by remaining undetected, stealthing through the streets, knocking opponents unconscious, and finding alternative means of eliminating Delilah’s allies.

As always, there are multiple paths throughout each level, and a huge degree of flexibility in how one approaches a problem.

It’s fun to use crossbows and snipe targets silently, while personal combat is hectic and full of gratuitously gratifying execution maneuvers. Depending on how Emily or Corvo are kitted out, it can be a real treat to just bust a door in with a pistol and blade, laying waste to panicking soldiers. It’s also just as sweet when taking them down unawares and sneaking like a pro.

This is all well and good, but Dishonored 2 is one of those sequels that retain a degree of quality thanks vastly to the groundwork laid out last time. New additions to the game are nothing to write home about, while any fun I had with the title is the exact same fun I could have had replaying Dishonored.

06

I honestly wish I hadn’t picked Emily to play through the campaign with. While it makes much more narrative sense for her to take the reins, the deposed empress’ suite of abilities is so much more boring than Corvo’s.

She gets her own (inferior) version of Blink, and some other inherited powers like dark vision, but her unique powers are nowhere near as fun as summoning swarms of rats to eat bad guys. She certainly gets nothing so cool as promised in Dishonored 2‘s deceptive announcement trailer.

Emily can create shadowy figures that mesmerize a number of opponents, chain people together like voodoo dolls so any damage incurred by one affects the others, and create doppelgangers that can either distract or attack their targets. While these powers can be combined to pull off some unique tricks, none of them felt satisfactory to use, too passive to hold my attention.

I’ll admit it’s fun, albeit briefly, to use Emily’s shadowy tendrils to snatch and pull victims for quick kills. Not fun enough to make up for everything else.

It took little time at all for me to stick with the efficient -if crude – ordinary weaponry. It would have been better to opt for the selectable “no powers” mode, if only to avoid the mind-numbing hunt for Runes and Bonecharms.

Every level is absolutely filled with Runes and Bonecharms, the former necessary to upgrade powers and the latter conferring passive bonuses when equipped. As with the original Dishonored, players use a magic steampunk heart to see where these items are on the map. Unlike the original, however, they’re a pain in the arse to reach.

I think maybe half the time I spent with this game was wasted attempting to get them all. Knowing exactly where they are is often less helpful than it is frustrating, as so many of them are found in locations with fiendishly hidden entry points, or secured by solving puzzles so obtuse they sometimes don’t even present themselves as puzzles.

Dishonored could be a drag at times when trying to locate a particularly well hidden Rune, but Dishonored 2 ramps up the aggravation and makes it so much more consistent. Here, they seem to serve primarily as a means of padding out the game’s runtime by a significant margin.

04

To say Dishonored 2 is glitchy is to put it mildly.

Aside from the aforementioned assassination target assassinating herself, I’ve had to reload checkpoints multiple times due to being trapped in walls after cutscenes or simply while swimming to a level’s exit. It’s not like the game even looks all that good to make up for it – artistically well realized, but technically lacking.

At least it’s got the best voice acting Bethesda can buy, boasting celebrities such as Rosario Dawson, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Sam Rockwell – all wasted on lifeless and poorly conceived roles.

I take no pleasure in passing a harsh sentence on Dishonored 2, especially with so many other critics seemingly in love with the thing. I state once again for the record that I adored Dishonored, and I wanted this series to continue feeling as fresh and inventive as it did when it began. I still do.

Dishonored 2, however, feels like a tiresome retread – enjoyable enough when it sticks to the old script, but frustrating in its disappointment when it does attempt anything new. With a rushed story, colorless characters, and total misuse of a whole new playable character, the best I can say is that I didn’t hate it.

05

I didn’t particularly like it, but I didn’t hate it.

Dishonored deserves more than that.

5/10
Mediocre

Dishonored Torrent
Guest

this game is good. This game Dishonored 2 and Dishonored 1 same?

Rod Y
Guest
Rod Y
Ok- only reason I would ‘argue’ with Jim’s score even though we all have our own opinions: Arkane built this game in a way where you can replay with different characters and explore different outcomes when replaying levels: how many countless other devs/publishers would try to massively cash in on ‘story DLC’ with a game like this? With Dishonored 2, you get a game you pay for once, and if you like it, you can play it and mess with it in a plethora of different ways for countless hours. I’d just say that there is a considerable value proposition… Read more »
Rod Y
Guest
Rod Y
Not saying I disagree with Jim’s review, but honestly I kind of liked that the set up to the story was a bit quick. I was able to jump in and just go. I didn’t need to be fully invested in the story and character motivations to have fun finding all the ways to sneak through levels. I cared more about the fact that I could replay levels and mess with difficulty settings and didn’t really care about the different story branches. I actually liked the generic feel to Corvo’s voice acting as it didn’t totally frame my way of… Read more »
juiceboxjerry
Guest
juiceboxjerry
I’m sorry, but there is simply no way this game is a 5. I have a clear understanding of how you utilize the review scale, and your use of the full spectrum (which I applaud, actually), but in no universe does this game deserve anything lower than maybe a 7. And I say this being fully aware of how obnoxious it prob sounds to say a game “deserves” a particular score. Mostly I’m bothered because this is the exact type of AAA game we need more of. A game that relies on terrific gameplay, with a bold and incredibly creative… Read more »
Peter Olszewski
Guest
Peter Olszewski

Nope, if he thinks that it’s a 5, then it’s a 5. I have a similar opinion on Dragon Age Inquisition. Using his rating system, I’d give it a 4 or 5. Most would disagree, I’m sure, but frankly I don’t care.

juiceboxjerry
Guest
juiceboxjerry
Yeah I mean I guess I agree with that. Kind of alluded to it in the comment. Prob would’ve just been better off saying he has shit taste in games. Which seems to be the case. (Note: this is not some sort of fanboy take. I really like Jim. He’s a very smart and funny guy that makes me smile often. But yeah. I think maybe his tastes in games kinda sucks.). And come on, no one really loved DA:I. That game just came out at the perfect time. It was the first big budget, meaty RPG and it was… Read more »
Shyster
Guest
Shyster

I’m sorry but he gave a lot of valid reasons as to why he didn’t like Dishonored 2. Trying to refute that by saying he has shit taste in games is pretty much the most idiotic thing you could say.

juiceboxjerry
Guest
juiceboxjerry

Idk, maybe where you come from. I have friends and family that have shit taste in certain things. Doesn’t really change my opinion of them. Everyone is different. Jim is allowed to have his opinion on games, and I’m allowed to think his opinion on them is shit.

Shyster
Guest
Shyster
“Where you come from”? About as reasonable as I might’ve expected.. Look, you’re obviously allowed to have your opinions, but if you’re going against a well reasoned argument with “you have a shit taste in games” you’re only making yourself look like a moron. And no, it’s not just “where I come from” – pretty sure that applies universally. Besides, Jim – like many others – loved the original Dishonored, but that was 2012. Arkane got 4 years and didn’t even have the limits of the last gen anymore, yet all we got was Dishonored 1.5. Pretty much the same… Read more »
juiceboxjerry
Guest
juiceboxjerry
“From my experience people who think so highly of Dishonored 2 tend to be incredible naive.” Lol, I’d really love to know how one reaches a conclusion like this. Like how many people do you actually know well enough that you’d feel comfortable calling them naive, that also happen to like Dishonored 2? And what is the ratio of people that like Dishonored 2 and are naive vs. the ones that aren’t? Anyway, my calling his opinion on games shit may be a little harsh, but I promise it isn’t based solely on the fact that he dislikes Dishonored 2.… Read more »
Mal Cors
Guest
Mal Cors

I feel exactly the same about the game.

Josefreak Salem
Guest
Josefreak Salem

I agree with this review as well. I loved the original and this one just feels so bland along with all the frustration. I wish I could get my money back (or maybe the devs will make it more enjoyable somehow with a patch). I have no idea why so many other reviewers give it such a high score. It’s just not that fun.

PopeTackler
Guest
PopeTackler
Unfortunately, I wholeheartedly agree with this review. I’m glad you also raised the point about runes/bonecharms Jim, as I have had just about enough of the random heartbeat/warning when I’m supposedly near one. I don’t see myself getting near the amount of ‘powers’ to enjoy the game fully because being dragged away from the mission to spend 30 minutes hunting for a rune in the opposite room is not my idea of fun, let alone compelling gameplay. One thing I didn’t see you mention, which was a failing in the first game as well, was the environmental chatter from NPCs… Read more »
glider521al
Guest
glider521al
While I enjoyed reading this review, I have to disagree. I’ve played and finished both Dishonored and Dishonored 2 on Hard/Very hard on both play styles (high/low chaos) and enjoyed the sequel much more than the original. Addressing the points of the article: * Pitying non lethal play: Low chaos felt much more satisfying this time around, given how many non lethal combat options they added, you could finally fight back as the pacifist. For example you could choke enemies unconscious mid combat, fire a pistol in the air to lure enemies into a well placed chain lightning stun mine,… Read more »
Dorian
Guest
Dorian

Buggy really isn’t a joke. Got this game last night and just started playing this morning and less than 20 minutes in I’m asking for a refund. The TUTORIAL was buggy with these shitty fade to blacks after each section (even sections that took place in the exact SAME area), animations cancelled themselves half way through before restarting, and it took 4 tries to get the game to even START.

Overall finding out that it’s a retread of it’s previous game is a nail in the coffin.

Squinty
Guest
Squinty

I think the opening sequence would have been a lot better if they let you have full control over Emily rather than making it a cutscene where you can just move the camera. Letting you run around the palace yard and hall and talk to some people before Delilah swoops in would have really helped the pacing of that scene.

ghoul
Guest
ghoul

Honestly, when I first read this review (before I’d played it, because it wasn’t optimised for my PC yet >.<), I assumed you were bitter because of Bethesda's recent (bullshit) review policy, and that affected your review. Then Bethesda released the patch, and I finally got to play it. You were right. It's disappointingly not as good as the first one, imo. The story is boring, I don't care about what is happening, and the missions are uninspired (even with a murder house/time travel mansion, I'm still bored!). Sorry for doubting you, Jim. It's sad, because everyone else seems to love it, and I was really excited for it because I loved the first one. I also want to like it because you can play as Emily, but she's so goddamn boring. Guess I'll just go back to playing Overwatch, the only game that didn't let me down in 2016 /:

Jason
Guest
Jason

Levels are narrow, too often with only a single path available. Stealth is thereby nearly impossible to pull off. Guards swarm from miles when someone shouts.

And the levels…yeah…its a good game. But merely good. Which is nothing compared to the first one, on whose formula this one does absolutely nothing to innovate.

glider521al
Guest
glider521al

I disagree. I’ve played about 40 hours of the sequel and 20 hours of the original. I found they innovated in plenty of ways:
* There are multiple paths to every objective (though there is a long linear section at the start).
* A.I. are much smarter.
*They increased the number of active abilities by over 50%.
* You have several options to deal with swarming guards:
Hide, fight back, create a distraction, place an upgraded stun mine and watch them have fits etc.

Putang Inamo
Guest
Putang Inamo
I heard it was a little disappointing, but am I sad to learn that non-lethal is still a shit show. In Dishonored 1, 80% the people you were murdering (the grunts at least) were just poor bastards who didn’t even know what happened to the Empress. And you had exactly three ways to spare their lives: 1) Choke them with the same animation 4,497,253 times, 2) Shoot them with your tranq bolts that are impossible to find, 3) Sneak right past them, which I find to be a bore. That was bad enough, but now you have fucking Emily Kaldwin… Read more »
glider521al
Guest
glider521al

You have plenty of additional non lethal options:
– You can choke out enemies with them fully aware of you and engaged in combat.
– Drop stun assasinations if you can get high enough.
-You can chain non lethal attacks with gadgets like stun mines

While I agree that Emily had plenty of options to consolidate her power in Dunwall. It’s worth bearing in mind that about half the city watch was at war with itself (and the soldiers loyal to you were cut down by the invading serkronan army and clockwork soldiers).

[static]
Guest
[static]
I hate how once again initially encouraged player-contribution to the story is simply shat on. Emily wasn’t alive in the ending I saw. So to me this game is not canon. As an author it is actually not an impossible task to carefully create those uncertainties in the lore which allow compatibility with all choices from the previous game. It’s much more classy as well, than implicitly telling veterans “You screwed up, this is the actual ending. Your experience is just another fail state and no part of our actual authoritative intention. Fuck off.” We use complex technology to meticulously… Read more »
Jason
Guest
Jason

Could not agree more. The absolutely juvenile, crap level of storytelling is turning me off to games. It really is. Its pathetic.

lurkergao
Guest
lurkergao
under normal circumstances emily’s first move after her rule has been overthrown should be to gather those troops and generals of her military still loyal to her. she never does that! she immediately runs off to another island to murder people/nonlethally ruin their lives. it’s a rather bizarre political decision really. also having beaten the game delilah is apparently REAALLLY bad at running a kingdom and turns dunwall into a hell worse than the ratplague within a couple of weeks. she’s clearly unable to run a kingdom, I wonder how she was able to be taken seriously. (oh yea emily… Read more »
glider521al
Guest
glider521al

To be fair Dunwall’s forces were in ruins (though that’s not explained in the opening chapter that well). At least a third of the city watch was corrupted from within, the rest were cut down by the invading serkron army and the clockwork soldiers. Most of Dunwall’s subjects were loyal to her, but were forced into submission to delilah by force.

I agree that it was odd that she didn’t think to consolidate her powers in other ways. Morley was known for its insurection, though Tyvia may have been willing to help her out.

Fubnin
Guest
Fubnin
People say that everyone is giving flak for Jim’s reviews but all I see is one or two people (such as Rai_TheNoblesse) repeatedly, and unrelentingly spouting nonsense without making any points with any basis whatsoever. I have no experience with the game as of yet. But watching Ssohpkc play through it, I honestly don’t think it’s as bad as Jim says it is. But then again I don’t place anywhere near as much emphasis on a games story compared to a games GAMEplay. It really does boil down to ones preference sometimes. And diamond, I love you, but you should… Read more »
Lead Sharp
Guest
Lead Sharp

You know what, I’m completely on side with this review. It’s dull, the maps feel less polished, the characters are forgettable and it just feels drab.

Glad it’s not just me.

Dane Barrett
Guest
Dane Barrett

Disregarded Jim’s review and bought the game. Played it. Regretted it. I should have known better as Jim’s gaming tastes are similar to mine. As a fan of the first game I found this one to be very disappointing.

Rai_TheNoblesse
Guest
Rai_TheNoblesse
I don’t care who Jim is or not. but when I read an (imo) crap review / score, I “bash” against it, just like the reviewer did against the game… (or if the reviewer is too hyped, … not in this case) the review is the reveiwers personal take on the game.. so are my posts my personal take on the review (aside ones against the blind fanboys.. ) when I imo see reviews that feel rushed or done in frustrated mood, my take on the review, I’ll will post it again on any site.. as done before… (why does… Read more »
Timorite
Guest
Timorite
I’ve read some of your comments. And well, you’re entitled to your opinion about Jim’s opinion. I haven’t tried the game so I can’t determine its relevance, but I’d like to point out that in any case your arguments wouldn’t invalidate this review. Maybe it does to you, but that’s subjective. A rushed review is still a valid one, he played the game and it didn’t give him reasons to explore it more than necessary, so I don’t see why he wouldn’t describe his experience as such if that’s his usual editorial line. It’s the reader who decides if it’s… Read more »
KaleaGallowsraven
Guest
KaleaGallowsraven
While I think quite a few Jim fans understand that there’s always going to be criticism of Jim’s score, I honestly wonder why of all places you’d do it on what is essentially a fan site of Jim fans when it seems clear you aren’t a huge Jim Sterling fan. I mean I’m genuinely curious abou this. I don’t think your wrong to see Jim’s review being lackluster or at the very least, disagree with how he scored it ( a lot of people are, in fact ). I think a lot of people feel Jim as rushed and it’s… Read more »
Roger_Silenti
Guest
Roger_Silenti

I am really enjoying the game thus far, even if I agree that the beginning was way too rushed. The acting wasn’t that good either, so I changed it to my country’s version and it is one of those games where they beat the original voice casting to a pulp. Maybe that is helping me to have a more engaged narrative experience.

Brandon Gurney
Guest
Brandon Gurney

Okay clearly we didn’t play the same game. Clockwork mansion has tremendous craftsmanship in its design, and the time piece in stiltons manor was very well done. shit even the attemire level was on par with the brothel level of 1. You must have not had a good week when you played through this game so I will give you the benefit of the doubt.

KaleaGallowsraven
Guest
KaleaGallowsraven

I could see this as Jim is probably swamped with work and he had to make some tough scoring calls this month. November is kind of the month of every type of media competing for attention ( i.e. TV is having it’s “Sweep” period where it’s all about views ).

Rai_TheNoblesse
Guest
Rai_TheNoblesse

I see it similarly..

Brandon Gurney
Guest
Brandon Gurney

You’re probably correct

Jallen
Guest
Jallen

Well that’s disappointing Dishonored was, is, one of my favourite games. I’ll still pick up the game and hopefully enjoy it more than Mr Sterling.

KaleaGallowsraven
Guest
KaleaGallowsraven

I think that’s the best policy; whether or not you agree with Jim, you should definetely buy the game if you were planning on it. Don’t let Jim’s mediocre score make you reconsider buying a game you may enjoy.

danrg26
Member

That’s why he’s looking at reviews so he doesn’t waste he’s money lol kinda dumb to ask someone in a review comment section to ignore the review

KaleaGallowsraven
Guest
KaleaGallowsraven

Well, you could also be looking at the review for entertainment purposes with whatever Jim’s score is.

Jim himself stating that he can’t really tell people how to spend his money, only that he can say whether he personally wants to spend money on something.

Also calling someone’a statement as dumb is sort of rude. I understand you may not agree with me but my statement isn’t any less stupid than what you wrote to me.

ManuBiggs
Guest
ManuBiggs

Just finished the clockwork mansion …damn, Im loving this game. I’m a big fan of the original and so far absoultely loving this sequel

Terry-Osaurusus Hex XI
Member
Tip for anybody doing a non-lethal Emily play through; get the upgrade for Far reach ability that lets you pull people towards you without making noise…it allows you to grab them mid air to choke them unconscious. It is absolutely hilarious every time! Hiding above the citizens, flinging them up in the air when others back’s are turned to catch them, send them to sleep and leave them hanging, snoring as you fling yourself to the next vantage point like a carefree batman. It doesn’t get old, and nobody dies. 😉 Although it can lead to unhelpful situations if you… Read more »
Pete_Imbesi
Guest
Pete_Imbesi

Really surprised to hear you had such an bad time with it. I’m loving the game (only one chapter to go as Corvo before I start up with Emily). I’m with you on the some of the technical issues (only graphics and frame rate though, no glitches on my end) and the story not quite living up to the heights of the original, but otherwise I can’t say I agree with any of your review’s main points.

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