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A Few Petty Grievances About Dishonored 2

The Niggles Of Dunwall

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I hate to be the Dunwall Downer, to be honest. Any other week I perhaps wouldn’t do this, but bloody hell, what a week. (Not you too, Leonard. Not you too). I desperately needed something to feel good about, and I’d hoped Dishonored 2 [official site] would be it. It still might be, but I’m one of those who is enduring a particularly bad dose of its increasingly notorious technical woes. A knock-on effect of that is that, because my immersion is generally and near-constantly disrupted by the shonky performance, design and presentation faults which might otherwise have been minor seem that much more glaring.
My main issue is, of course, technical. Many and various problems are being reported online, in many and various tones of voice. I have shaken no fists at the sky myself, but it’s fair to say this thing and my PC are not the best of friends. I’ll try to be brief, as Adam’s already covered much of this, but in short:

– Initially it would not even load on either my desktop or my laptop. Eventually, the former was resolved by unplugging my Oculus Rift, as reportedly there are some multi-monitor complications. No dice for my laptop though, even after extensive fiddly – frankly, its weeny GPU probably would have left the thing unplayable anyway, but I don’t even get to find out.

– The frame rate is all over the place, regardless of what settings I set. Even standing in the same room, turning on the spot, it’ll lurch between 20 and 75 FPS. During play, it judders and stutters and generally feels awful. It’s both disruptive and slightly nauseating. I can actually have the game near-maxed out and get a full 60+ FPS in some scenes, but a heartbeat later it’ll be through the floor. Same on low.

– If I turn on FXAA (the most performance-effective form an anti-aliasing), many edges have a sort of glowing, dotted white line around them. Looks bad. Thus, my option is either the more expensive TXAA, which my GPU is not very happy about, or no anti-aliasing, which my eyes are not very happy about.

I hope a patch can fix these – I don’t sense that the fault lies with anything in my PC. I should also note that, given we’ve so recently been asked to place blind faith in the quality of Bethesda games, the technical issues with Dishonored 2 on PC mean that great efforts must now be made to win trust back. This is not good enough.

That’s the technical stuff out the way, but there is a clutch of smaller, design/UI/features issues that probably shouldn’t matter, but as I say every niggle seems to grow in magnitude when the core experience of playing is already choppy and disruptive.

The game looks beautiful, but I’m not sure it sounds quite so slick. Some voices sound too obviously as though they’re being read aloud from a script, chief villain (so far) Delilah comes across as a pantomime Skeletor figure, the Outsider’s reedy little voice makes me think I’m having conversations with a member of Linkin Park, and generally there’s a face-punch of oddly stilted exposition crammed into the first sequence.

Additionally, sometimes the dialogue seems slightly at odds with the image, as though lines were recorded before events and scripts were fully set, and the actors (or writers, or both) didn’t know quite what was going to be seen on-screen. I feel a certain dissonance sometimes – distracting rather than destructive, though. Not quite on this level…

…but we’re in that ballpark alright.

I’m told that, though some big clunkers are still to come, by and large dialogue gets more naturalistic later on, once there’s more freedom of movement and less of a plot-funnel. I can believe it – but given how expensive a game this clearly is, it’s a shame that the voicework and, perhaps, the editing throughout isn’t the equal of the visual presentation values. I’m also left feeling that its villain is too cartoonish by far, but we shall see.

Far more minor, but I desperately crave a Hitman-style option to neatly and perfectly conceal a body inside a bin or chest or whatever with a single button press. Dishonored 2 doesn’t have this, which leads to a certain amount of uncertainty about whether you’ve actually managed to hide Sleeping Brutey or not. Also, things like this happen:

On the other hand, I’m not sure I’d want to lose that.

Anannuvathing. It’s great that there’s a dedicated button for holstering weapons, but I wish pressing the left mouse button didn’t instantly unholster them and slash the knife at whatever’s in front of me. Oops, butterfingers. Because of this, like Pip, I’ve accidentally killed a couple of guys during what was meant to be a non-lethal campaign, as well as noisily smashing things and drawing angry attention. I suspect I’ll get used to it, but the hair trigger is a bit at odds with playing stealthily.

They’ve actually made The Outsider (a godlike figure of uncertain objective and nu-metal garb, and arguably the least convincing element of Dishonored 1) worse. Quite a feat. All I can think of whenever I see him is:

This is just nit-picking now, and may very well be addressed later on anyway, but I’m staggered by how readily everyone in Dunwall seems to just accept that Corvo is a murderous traitor. Er, hang on, didn’t this already happen once? You think this was some elaborate double-bluff? Still, ’tis the season for willingly believing the obvious lies of the power-hungry.

These are minor things, yes. I’ll get used to or stop caring about them, once the tech issues are fixed and playing Dishonored 2 no longer feels like fighting to have a good time.

Most everything else does seem really strong – it’s a proper, reactive stealth game, the environments are hugely lovely, the characters fascinatingly ugly and it seems to more legitimately offer multiple ways to play now (I’m undertaking the ‘no powers’ option, mostly because I hope it limits how many times I have to chat to Emo Spider-Man).

Mostly, I do share Adam’s enthusiasm. But not completely, not yet, and the tech stuff particularly is making it hard to love it as much as I hope to love it. Given that we’ve been expressly told not to worry, I think it’s important to point out that yes, we definitely should worry until it’s definitively proven that we don’t have to.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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