Wot I Think: Dishonored 2

Dishonored 2 [official site] creates a greater sense of place than just about any other game I’ve played. That’s true whether you’re standing on a balcony, looking out toward a distant objective across the chaos of the city streets between you and it, or picking through an apartment building, floor by floor, and seeing all the signs of life you’d expect to find. It’s a remarkable game, and in many ways a true heir to the legacy of Looking Glass’ immersive sims, and it features some of the most spectacular world-building you’ll ever see.

Before I get into the good and the bad, I need to spend a few words on the ugly. At the time of writing, Dishonored 2 is still suffering from performance issues for many users on PC. I’ve been fortunate enough to run the game at a fairly steady framerate on high settings, even though my GTX 980 powered PC isn’t top of the range, but many people (including our Alec) are experiencing framerates so erratic as to make the whole thing almost unplayable. Others are having to resort to lower settings than expected given their system specifications, and some are even unable to start the game at all. I’ve covered all of that here and we’ll be reporting on promised fixes as they arrive.

Now, onto the review.

As places to explore and navigate, the levels Arkane have built are remarkable. I’ve played the game using supernatural powers to zip through crawlspaces and murder guards by the dozen, and I’ve also played like an old-school Thief using little more than drug-infused crossbow bolts, lullabies and mild strangulation to put my enemies to sleep. With two playable characters, each with a few unique skills and their own commentary on events, this is a game to played more than once. At its best, the entire design is based around freedom of approach, and instead of the Vent Or Door structure of some games that offer choices between stealth and action, Dishonored 2 is rarely so binary.

Every place you visit has multiple routes, hidden secrets and side stories. Play through a mission once and unless you spend hours exploring, with intentional and unnecessary backtracking, you won’t see all that it has to offer. And these aren’t single rooms and easter eggs, they’re entire areas that are as intricately crafted and as much a coherent part of the world as any of the essential waypoints that you’ll visit on your way through the major objectives. In fact, my main criticism of the game relates to those major objectives, and the waypoints that map out the central plot – Dishonored 2 tells a hundred small stories extremely well, but the tale of usurpation and revenge at its heart is overfamiliar and lacking in momentum.

From the opening rush of exposition and deja vu villainy, Emily and Corvo’s movements and motivation are an excuse to move them from setpiece to setpiece, as is the case in many an action movie or thriller plot. Bourne or Bond arrive in Rome to have a car chase before nipping across to Hong Kong for some high-rise infiltration. There’s not much in the way of globetrotting here, though there is a brief ramble in the first game’s Dunwall before heading to the new city of Karnaca, but each objective takes you to a distinct district or location, with its own unique challenges and rules. Some, like the early Addermire Institute, don’t have any explicitly extraordinary feature, but once you reach the Clockwork Mansion and its shifting architecture, the rulebook is torn to shreds.

The spectacle is sometimes breathtaking, not just in terms of the visual tricks and treats, but in terms of the intelligent remixing of stealth mechanics. Take the Clockwork Mansion, which riffs on Constantine’s Mansion, the surreal mazelike setting of Thief: The Dark Project’s sixth mission. Where Thief explained its impossible spaces through a story that was almost as tricksy as its level design, Dishonored 2 does all of the heavy lifting right there in the level design. These uncanny architectural feats can be seen moving and locking into place, and you can find your way behind the scenes and into the guts to see the machinery. Arkane are not afraid to lift the curtain, showing the cogs that put the world into motion, and that speaks to their confidence in the world they’ve built.

In my previous feature, written after I’d reached the mid-point of my first playthrough, I compared Dishonored 2 to Thief 2: The Metal Age. With the game’s conflicts between ancient faiths and new technologies, and an even greater use of a city as a microcosm for a world and its disorder than seen in Dunwall, it’s not a stretch to say that Arkane are working with some of the same raw materials. Thief knitted together those larger themes and the fate of its protagonist in a way that Dishonored and its sequel don’t manage though – here, there are clockwork soldiers and mansions because those things are delightful to build and to play with, but despite their seats at the highest table in the land, Emily and Corvo don’t feel like active players in the reshaping of the world. They’re knives and shadows rather than intriguing agents of change.

I’m not using Thief 2 as a way to bludgeon Dishonored 2 through comparison, but rather to show that the similarities cast light on the differences. In Garrett, the Thief trilogy had a protagonist who was, accidentally and despite humble origins, a key player in events that threatened to overwhelm him and the City he called home. Dishonored and its sequel have two protagonists who, despite being as close to the political heartbeat of the world as its possible to be, exert little influence on the grander themes in play.

As characters, they’re essentially performers who exist to do the stuntwork and acrobatics we require of them. That makes the city their stage and what an incredible stage it is. Taken as a whole, Dishonored 2’s Karnaca is one of the greatest settings I’ve ever encountered. The density of detail is stunning and almost every asset feels like it’s been built for the particular placement where you find it. Yes, you’ll see the same toilets and closets again and again, but artwork is often unique and appropriate to the place that you find it. Karnaca looks and feels like a city of layers, constructed over centuries, and that is reflected in everything from the layout of the streets to the placement of cellars and drainage systems.

Brilliantly, very little of this is backdrop. The genius of the game is in the diverse approaches that the city offers, and that’s where every detail of the architecture comes into play, along with powers new and old.

Emily’s focus is on manipulation of the AI, whether in the form of doppelgangers that attract their attention or the Domino skill that allows her to link enemies together, so that the fate that befalls one befalls the rest. There are so many opportunities for pranks, both deadly and otherwise, that high-level players will be creating all manner of highlight reels in no time. The really good stuff comes from using powers in combination. Link a doppelganger of Emily to a group of guards using the Domino effect, for example, and then watch as they chase it down, run it through and effectively stab themselves to death.

Corvo is his old self, though with a few possible upgrades. He can possess corpses now, which is nice, and he has greater control of the rat swarms that he summons. Mostly, it’s time-bending, wind-blasting business as usual though, should you choose those particular skills. Upgrades for both characters are handled through runes, as in the first game, and to find them you’ll often have to travel off the obvious routes. The brilliance of the level design can be seen whenever hunting for a bonecharm or rune. A slight detour can become a half hour mini-adventure, only tangentially related to the main plot, but rewarding in its own right. Adventure and exploration snowball in a way that feels organic – a note, overheard conversation or interesting sight leading you around yet another corner, or through yet another unlocked window – but is actually a result of the carefully laid trails of breadcrumbs that crisscross all over the world.

Dishonored 2’s approach to stealth forces exploration. Rather than allowing you to hide in close proximity to enemies as long as you’re in the dark, the shadows here don’t have great powers of concealment – you have to become the shadows to really harness their powers. It’s still possible to sneak through the game by using the architecture to your advantage though. Instead of moving slowly and hiding from the light, you must be fleet of foot and willing to take high roads and low roads to pass by patrols unseen.

My only concern regarding the level design lies with some of the high concept ideas in later areas. They’re wonderfully inventive but, clever as they are, they occasionally threaten to undermine the fundamentals of the stealth system itself. That, to an extent, is the point, and I like that I have to learn new techniques (or fall back on more brutal or direct methods) as a result, but structurally, the game is less a well-paced examination of its own systems than a pick ‘n’ mix or best of compilation. I enjoyed every level and almost every detail of every level, but even though they cohere beautifully when considered as pieces of a city, they sometimes felt disconnected as plot-points.

That I’ve criticised Dishonored 2 for failing to drive home its themes or to have a central story as strong as its wonderful setting deserves is a sign of the high standards it sets. Whenever the voice acting or character design (I love the Outsider described in the world’s folklore and mythology; I am startlingly indifferent to the bloke who represents him in the actual game) fell short of the elegance of the environmental storytelling or the subtleties in the world-building, I felt slightly let down.

It’s a spectacular game though. Every condemned bloodfly-infested building is a delightful horror and there are individual levels that are as strong as the best of Looking Glass, but it’s the city as a whole that holds the game together. Karnaca is a marvel. Arkane could have built on the strong foundations of Dunwall but instead they’ve created something more varied, more credible and altogether stranger.

As with Dunwall though, it doesn’t exist in isolation. The gestures to the wider world of the Empire and beyond make me hope that Arkane aren’t done with Dishonored yet because despite my complaints, this is more than a triumphant return – it’s an improvement on the original in almost every way, and as close to a masterpiece as anything I’ve played this year. If it had a plot as powerful as its setting, any doubts I have that it might be remembered as a masterpiece would vanish.

Dishonored 2 is out now for Windows, via Steam

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123 Comments

  1. Halk says:

    And here’s what I think:
    It’s yet another rubbish port, devoid of any value. And they knew exactly what garbage they are spitting out considering how widespread the problems are.

    Now we’re sitting here with an unplayable game and just have to hope that they actually bother to fix this, but they might as well pull an Arkham Knight because how they intend to raise the performance to an acceptable level is beyond me. I never seen a game going from completely broken to good. They went to barely acceptable at best. So that’s where the game will probably end up too.

    So screw Arkane Studios and (once again) Bethesda.

    I love how pointless release dates are nowadays, considering games releasing in unplayable states is becoming more and more the norm.

    • Sin Vega says:

      Mega-bugged launches have been a mainstay of the PC for about as long as I’ve been alive. The only real difference today is that it’s much easier to fix, and that for every arrangement of chips and cards and processors, there’s also someone waiting for the chance to shout about consoles.

      • Arren says:

        So much this. The ostensible halcyon days of yesteryear, when men were men and games all released v1.0 in perfect shape, never existed.

        The mouth-foamers might as well don red caps emblazoned with MAKE GAME-RICA GREAT AGAIN.

        • Zenicetus says:

          Whippersnapper! There was a time, back in the Stone Age before the Internet, when a robust PC market existed for games released on stone tablets. Er, I mean floppy disks.

          Games had to be as good as they’d ever be on day one, because there was no way to patch them after the sale. There were plenty of minor bugs, sure, but much more effort to hold back release until the game actually worked.

          • Premium User Badge

            Risingson says:

            No. False. Remember how Ultima VII or Master of Magic were when released. Remember how many times the Sierra games crashed. Remember the nightmare of svga before univbe and the nightmare of memory before dos4gw.

          • Wisq says:

            Even several counter-examples do not disprove the simple fact that there were a whole lot of games that, if not perfect, were at least reasonably un-buggy and playable in their initial launch. They had to be, since most people simply did not have any way to patch them.

            Console games were particularly obvious-bug-free (on average), but even PC games were fine, for the most part. Plus, perhaps even more importantly, PC games were actually designed for PC, rather than being ports of console titles. That meant that not only were the titles more thoroughly designed for PC, but they also avoided a lot of the bugs caused by hasty ports with minimal PC testing.

            Claiming that people believe there was once a time where all games were 100% bug-free is just straw-manning, plain and simple. There was definitely a time when treating your customers like your beta testers wasn’t the norm.

          • welverin says:

            Wisq, you say all of that as if there aren’t a significant number of games released today that are stable and relatively bug free.

            People harp on the games with issues, and ignore all of the ones that don’t. Just as it wasn’t as rosy back in the day as some imply, it’s not as bad now as some imply.

          • Kitsunin says:

            What I remember is an age where 25% of the time I’d buy a game, and it would fail to work for absolutely no goddamn reason. Nowadays when something launches busted, I know I can just wait a bit, or do some tech voodoo and get it running okay.

            Like, holy crap, I haven’t had something that should have worked, completely fail to work in the last ten years, that’s amazing. I remember never getting to play Kings Quest II, Everquest, Worms 3D, and many more after buying. Again, for no reason, with no means of fixing.

          • jj2112 says:

            Yup. The only problem was not having enough extended memory… trying to make autoexec.bat and config.sys work!

          • Yglorba says:

            Yeah. Old games often had really nasty bugs. The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall was released with a game-stopping bug that made the main plotline literally impossible to complete, plus a huge number of other serious showstopping bugs (you could accidentally clip through a wall and fall forever into an infinite void, say. Very easily.)

            And it’s not like this is some obscure example – it was game of the year by most measures.

            It wasn’t just limited to that game, either. Crashes were extremely common.

            Nowadays, most games on Steam will run perfectly and with no danger of crashing. Even games like this, which make people react so severely, just suffer from poor performance, which can often be worked around by switching to slightly uglier graphical settings – it is exceedingly rare to have a game released with an actual showstopping bug that occurs with any frequency, and when it does happen it’s usually rapidly fixed. In the early game industry, showstopping bugs were much more common and often went unfixed. (You can recognize gamers from that era by their excessive quicksaving, which was legitimately something you had to do in case your game crashed.)

          • Arren says:

            Champ, my first gaming memory is Elite on the c64 circa 1985.

            (The rest of this conversation’s come and gone while I was away, so I’ll leave it at that.)

        • Unclepauly says:

          I agree it was never perfect, but weremen? This is not the land of fantasy.

      • w0bbl3r says:

        As long as you have been alive?
        How old are you? Eight? Ten maybe?

        Bugged games have been around since forever, yes. But not so popular as now. Now it is extremely common for AAA games to be released so buggy that at least 3/4 of the people who bought the damn thing can’t even play it.
        This kind of buggy game was rare 10 years ago. It wasn’t unheard of, not by any means. But it didn’t happen multiple times per year.

        The buggy games of 10 years ago are still remembered jokingly, like boiling point and soldner.
        But they were buggy, not completely unplayable because of horrid performance and crashes. They had glitches, like enemy falling from the sky, animals running at the speed of sound, buildings and tanks glitching through each other.
        Still playable, just hilariously funny when these things happened.

        Now you get something like this, completely unplayable for most people. Or arkham knight, again unplayable for most even to this day (although I have to admit I was one of the lucky few, I had hardly any real problems with batman, just the odd little stutter when entering and leaving the car).

        The problem has gotten worse because people are more prepared to pre-order but then still say “Oh it’s ok, I don’t mind it being broken, as long as they fix it that’s fine”.
        And as long as this mentality exists, the problem will continue to get worse.

        • Poolback says:

          10 Years ago ? 2006 ? let’s see…

          Oblivion came out… buggy as hell (Bethesda).
          Bully Scholarship Edition…buggy as hell (You had to reduce the amount of maximum RAM the game would use, as after a certain number that I forgot, it would become unplayable)

          Further than that? 2004
          Half-life². The game that you couldn’t play without downloading half of it with steam and waiting 6 hours to decrypt. At a time when DSL line where not that common.

          2002. Black and white. Lots of problem with my graphic card at launch.
          Neverwinter Night, bought the game, couldn’t progress in the story because it was crashing at a specific point.

          Games have always been buggy as hell. And they are being more and more complex as year goes by. The only game that you are citing, to represent “Bad modern ports” is Batman Arkham Asylum, which ran fine on consoles. 10 years ago, we didn’t have many console games on PC.

          There’s so many games that I remember wanting to play but just couldn’t because of the CD Drive not able to read the specific CD for some reasons, or the game taking WAY too much space that the hard drive disk could allow, and failing again once you change the hard drive disk, stuck in a loop trying to read an FMV from the CD (Looking at you Lands of Lore 3, and it’s 600Mb installation!!).

          Nowadays, small problems goes on internet and things get snowballed extremely rapidly because of the new stupid gaming culture. Look at the reception of No man’s sky. 10 years ago, this would have never reached this amount of hate.

          The games nowadays are becoming better than they ever been, and a lot more solid. It’s just the gaming community that’s turning to self-entitled spoiled brats, crying and screaming as soon as they discover a stupid collision bug…

          If the game doesn’t work on your computer, then you either buy a system where it works fine, or you just completely refund it. Just like we did 10 years ago…

          • Unclepauly says:

            Games becoming better than they ever been? What games are you playing? I literally am playing pc classics more than current games because the newer games don’t have the depth or thoughtfulness in their design like the classics. Not all newer games obviously there’s always going to be some gems here and there. Just like this article reads, Looking Glass games have yet to be toppled. I would love for it to happen it just hasn’t yet.

          • crazyd says:

            Oh, like there was never a shallow release before 2010. There were TONS of shallow, bland, empty pieces of crap, you just don’t remember them, because they are shallow, bland, empty pieces of crap. You just remember the shining highlights, and elevate them in your mind as they were the building blocks of what is common today. It’s all rose colored glasses, man. Gaming is better than it’s ever been. We get a ton more games, they are better supported, and it’s actually a NEWS STORY now if a game gets a bad port. Back in the day, every damn port was a bad port.

          • Ashabel says:

            Considering that just 8 years ago there was no GOG to provide us with functional versions of the classics you’re playing and the PC market was almost completely dead because everyone was sick of companies releasing half-baked military shooters and WW2-themed RTS in the dozens, I would say video games are indeed better these days than they ever were.

          • MisterFurious says:

            Now go back 20 years or 30 years and tell us that games were just as buggy and broken back then as they are now. They weren’t. They actually paid people to beta test their games back then. Crazy, I know. Now, they charge customers for the privilege and still release games months too early because the stockholders want their money yesterday.

          • Ashabel says:

            You mean 30 years ago as in around the time when E.T. almost single-handedly murdered the video game industry because the publisher decided it could sell more copies than there were owned consoles just because the movie was popular, and so had it finished without month and pushed out onto the conveyor belt without any testing as to whether it worked or was any fun? Those 30 years ago?

            Or do you mean 20 years ago as in the Diablo II launch I described below and the Baldur’s Gate 2 release that didn’t trigger most of its party dialogue properly?

        • CrackedMandible says:

          I remember calling an 800 number because my Darklands game kept crashing at specific point making impossible to continue. They mailed me a floppy disk to fix it. That was what ’92? Buggy games have been around as long as computers used electricity.

        • Ashabel says:

          Diablo II came out in 2000 and on release was such a mess that Blizzard had to scrap together a patch within the first 24 hours. It crashed every 20-40 minutes, the balance numbers were all over the place and Barbarian’s sprite kept glitching out so it would be stuck running backwards.

          For those of us who experienced Diablo II on launch, the disaster of Diablo III’s launch was basically a warm chuckle and a “Heh, that takes me back.”

          So if you seriously believe AAA games coming out disastrously buggy is somehow a new thing, then you’re the one likely too young to remember what things were actually like.

          • MisterFurious says:

            Listen, kid, those of us complaining about buggy games these days aren’t talking about the good old days of 2000. We’re talking about the 80’s and 90’s. The 2000’s are when this crap of “ship it now and patch it later” started and we were bitching about then like we’re bitching about it now. No one listens because stupid kids keep preordering busted games because some corporate marketing department told them to.

          • Ashabel says:

            There was no game industry for a huge chunk of the eighties because Atari released this small game called E.T. which they finished within a month and didn’t test at all, but produced so many physical copies of that it actually forced them into borderline bankruptcy.

            Next time you call someone a kid, make sure your knowledge of facts doesn’t reveal you as an angry drooling preteen.

        • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

          “It’s extremely common for AAA releases to be unplayable for 3/4s of people buying it”! – What a load of rotting garbage. You’ve kind of proven the opposite of your point: So much of this moaning is hyperbole and exaggeration. Makes it so hard to know if a game really is bugged.

      • AngoraFish says:

        This. One game I bought at full price, early 1990s, never loaded at all. No matter how much time I spent looking for a mythical patch on various magazine cover disks I never found one. Yep, I am still bitter to this day.

    • Morgan Joylighter says:

      If it’s unplayable then how have I been having more fun playing it (on last-gen mid-range PC hardware even) than any other game in 2016)? It’s not unplayable, it’s just broken on specific hardware combinations. Just like literally every other PC game ever released.

    • Unsheep says:

      Most of the bugs we see in triple-a games today are minor bugs that people with agendas like to blow well out of proportion, for their own selfish reasons. Very few triple-a games in recent years have had game-breaking bugs.

      In fact Arkham Knight and AC Unity are usually the only two games people mention when making this argument. This number is hardly enough to represent ALL triple-a games released within the last two years.

      In the past, PC games with game-breaking bugs were also far in-between. Yet many older games did indeed have minor bugs. A quick look at GOG reviews of older PC games will reveal plenty of anecdotes of how buggy these games could be.

      Triple-a PC games today are not buggier than what they used to be. The big difference is that even minor bugs are treated as game-breaking bugs, courtesy of unscrupulous game critics.

    • IbisMummy says:

      I recall my copy of Jupiter Lander on the C64 running like a champ! Oh the days of quality.

    • immaletufinishbut says:

      Are we calling this Arkane Knight yet?

  2. Eight Rooks says:

    Haven’t got that far through it yet, only on level 5, but a good write-up – I don’t feel quite so strongly about the cons as you do (I liked the main story in the first game, and I like it here) but I do see why you point them out (it is certainly a weirdly half-hearted game in certain respects, despite being fantastic in others).

    One little thing, though:

    Yes, you’ll see the same toilets and closets again and again, but artwork is often unique and appropriate to the place that you find it

    Not my experience at all, so far. The paintings look fantastic, but by the first proper level I was already seeing the same ones repeated all over the place. It really did smack of “let’s take random bits of concept art then just copy and paste them all over”, and it was one of the few jarring downsides to the worldbuilding for me.

    • GepardenK says:

      The problem with the plot of Dishonored 1 & 2 is no so much what happens but how it happens. I love Arkane but they have always struggled with the actual telling of a story. Despite not relying much on cutscenes the writing is extremely exposition heavy and while they do make you know what happens they don’t make you feel it.

      If you have the time please take a look at the following video from the timestamp in my link. It’s a very good examination of why a game like Thief has such a strong narrative despite it’s overall simple story: link to youtu.be

      This is something Dishonored sorely lacks. Don’t get me wrong, Dishonored is one of my favorite games ever. But that is exactly why I am critical of it’s shortcomings

      • Eight Rooks says:

        You misunderstand – I get why he’s criticizing it and I agree, I just don’t feel it’s as much of a shortcoming as he does (and presumably you do too). I’m an old, I played the original Thief games when they came out – I already agree their storytelling is better, or at least that the writing in their primary plot threads is markedly stronger and more skillfully delivered to the player. But Dishonored still made me feel for what happened, regardless of its lapses in narrative technique. So does the second game, so far. They’re both good stories, in my book. They don’t “sorely lack” anything.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Lars Westergren says:

    Nice review. Yeah I’m loving it, GOTY contender for me. Not having any framerate issues on either computer luckily, one which is a laptop even.

    The graphics and levels are really sumptuous. Much care on making things look worn and used, like the rope wearing away the paint on the ship bollards, or the middle of wooden stair steps worn down exactly were people would step. It does so much for making the world feel real and lived-in. Though I love rainy dark pseudo-London in games, it does feel refreshing to have a sun-bleached faux-Naples to explore this time.

    Doing a completely undetected playthrough is beyond my patience though. Usually I have a big pile of snoring guards in a dark corner after a while.

    • klops says:

      In my mind at least the first Dishonored was more enjoyable when you didn’t try to do a completely undetected playthrough and fought some of the guards when necessary.

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        I tried doing a ghost run the first and (only) time I went through Dishonored and it was quite exhausting. I saved like every 45 seconds, counted every detection by enemies as failure (prompting a reload) and often just went straight to the objective.

        That it was during a prolonged backlog reduction phase isn’t an excuse, it only shows how stupid I was. Never even did the DLC, because of how exhausting my playstyle for the main campaign felt.

        Well, I still have a backlog and the need to decrease it, but when I return for a second Dishonored playthrough, I’m just gonna try some stuff and go with the results.

        • Eight Rooks says:

          On the other hand, I liked the first game enough to play the whole thing again solely to do a simultaneous ghost/no kills run, and hugely enjoyed it. I definitely plan to attempt it for the sequel (I was going to do it first time through but screwed it up and got detected, because I didn’t know to keep checking the stats, and couldn’t be bothered to repeat an entire level first time out).

          • klops says:

            Sure, it’s good while ghosting. In my mind it’s better when you’re not – especially during the first playthrough.

      • Gitsi says:

        I think you’re spot on here. I generally don’t have the patience for pure stealth experiences, and as such wasn’t sure how much I was going to enjoy the original. But, the beauty of the design was they gave you the tools to go undetected, but also, the tools to recover when you were. And my god, the amount of fun and excitement I had trying to get out of my self-inflicted jams, just amazing.

  4. Zenicetus says:

    Some thoughts here with a disclaimer that I haven’t quite finished the game. I’ve had no technical issues, it’s running very smoothly here.

    I love the creative design of the magic powers (Emily’s at any rate) and how fluid it feels once you master them. Combined with the inspired architectural design, this is the best action/RPG game I’ve played this year. The Clockwork Mansion deserves some kind of special award for level design.

    I like the RPG progression based on how far you want to go in collecting specific items. I like that there’s no minimap to clutter the HUD, and no health bars on enemies. The main boss targets for missions (so far) haven’t been ridiculous hitpoint sponges, or anything that stops you from using your abilities (looking at you, Rise of the Tomb Raider and DX Human Revolution). The challenge is just getting through the layers of protection to reach them.

    That said, and I still love the game, but there are some things I didn’t like:

    Where are the people? The cities feel as depopulated as in the first game without the rationale of plague for it. Instead, just like the first game, every level has a few scattered civilians but is mostly filled with look-alike guards and overseers as obstacles to your progress. It got boring after a while. I’d get taken to a new area of Karnaca to start a mission, then see the same guards standing around, and think “oh… this again.”

    Far more creativity was spent on the magic powers and set designs, and not enough on designing interesting and varied enemies to use them on. It’s still a great game, but that part could have been better.

  5. bee says:

    So your review is that it’s pretty, it’s a stealth game, and that’s about it? Yikes this is one of the most seriously lacking reviews that I’ve read in a long time. I usually love RPS reviews :(

    Is the game difficult? Is gameplay rewarding? Is it fun? Is it replayable? How is the story? How is the combat? Is the UI any good? How about the PC settings/options? Is the game too long? Is it too short? Is there a strong variety of enemies? Is there a strong variety of locations? Are the NPCs likeable? I could go on.

    • Zenicetus says:

      The Wot I Think articles here are usually one gamer’s impression, not a review that tries to tick every box letting you know if you’d like a game or not. It’s why they’re not called reviews (in the header anyway).

      • bee says:

        Sure, but normally there is much much more to the WOT I Think articles than this. I learned nothing by reading this one.

        I read this site all the time. This is easily the lowest quality WOT I Think I’ve read.

    • thedosbox says:

      The answer to most of your questions are highly subjective, covered in the article, or have been answered elsewhere. link to pcgamer.com

      Having said that, it’s clear to me that Adam greatly enjoyed the game. You

  6. thedosbox says:

    I’m only about an hour into the game after arriving at Karnaca, but am already impressed with just how many nooks and crannies to investigate there are.

    Blood flies can DIAF though.

    • Lyndon says:

      Yeah the Blood flies are a huge pain. They’re less annoying if you take out their red glowing nests, it took me way too long to realise those could be destroyed,

      • Lieutenant_Scrotes says:

        Yet more justification for reading into the fiction and listening to conversations. I knew that blood flies (and their nests) were vulnerable to fire before I even encountered them because I absorb as much of the lore as possible.

        The flammable liquor that can be found lying around (which miraculously bursts into flames when you break the bottle) is an extremely cost effective way of dealing with them.

        • Jenuall says:

          I discovered this as well, in all honesty it makes them a bit of a triviality to deal with.

          That said even before working out the fire solution I found you can just walk toward the swarms wildly swinging your sword and you’ll cut them all down in a few seconds with very little chance of taking damage. Shame really as they could have been a very compelling obstacle if handled better.

  7. talzola says:

    Thought this review was spot on after my 8-ish hours of gameplay (on a PC, and no framerate issues for me)…

    Have to make a general comment though…please get rid of the “WOT I think” moniker. Makes me cringe every time I see that. Are the reviews written by 12 year olds (because that is the age group that uses “wot”)?? Its not cute, its not clever, just makes you look second rate and amateurish.

    • Morgan Joylighter says:

      It’s British, FFS. This is a British website.

      • Biscuitry says:

        It’s true. The use of “wot” in place of “what” is mostly (but not exclusively by any means) associated with London and the south-east of England, and has been documented at least as far back as WW2. (qv Mr Chad, “Wot no sugar”)

        • Horg says:

          As Britain imported most of its letters from the commonwealth, rationing was inevitable once the Blitz began in earnest and supply lines came under assault. German U-boats, named for the disastrous sinking of a vowel flotilla, reduced the English language to a shell of its former glory. Sacrifices had to be made so that effective communication could continue, and so regional colloquialisms were drafted into service. The humble ”wot” helped Britain through those dark early days of the war, though its overuse would eventually lead some to look upon it disdainfully.

          • Blackcompany says:

            And Both wins the internet today.

            Thanks for that, Mate. Utterly hilarious. Well done.

      • Pharaoh Nanjulian says:

        That is what I’d always thought… Then I get confused with all the Americanisms flying around. It’s always ‘tires’ for ‘tyres’ and lots of ‘alright’s which is just plain ugly for this old stick-in-the-mud.

        Opinion, awa’!

        • Premium User Badge

          keithzg says:

          There’s many British spellings that exist over here in Canada (“colour” being perhaps the one that comes up the most, alongside the French “re” endings to words instead of “er”, which makes extra sense here in Canada since some small portion of us speak French) but “tyre” never made its way over onto this side of the Atlantic and always looks super, super weird to me.

    • int says:

      Comment wot doesn’t like wot.

    • talzola says:

      Thanks for the clarification! I had no idea this was a British thing. In the U.S using “wot” is akin to “LOL”, “WTF” ect. I lived in England for 5 years, but that was back in the 80’s so I assume predates “wot” being in use.

    • Unclepauly says:

      Wow you just start insulting without even questioning the reasoning. Isn’t that wot 12 yr olds do?

      • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

        Yeah, sorry, it’s a daft British idiosyncrasy and the site would be lesser without it. Same as the victoriana pictures heading any screenshot-less articles. We don’t like taking ourselves too seriously, so a daft title gives them opportunity to go full-bore critical analysis on a game and not come out of it smelling overly anal about the whole thing.

        Plus any Brit worth one’s salt loves feigning idiocy when writing. Hence “Bazza woz ‘ere” being officially the most common pub loo graffiti.

        EDIT: Oops, replied to the wrong comment, but you get the picture.

    • Symarian says:

      Wot has the world come to?

  8. Chaz says:

    I should dig the first one out of my Steam queue and play it really shouldn’t I?

    Comparisons with Thief 2 have made me sit up and take notice, as I loved that game.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Might be a good idea, since the technical problems with the new one seem to be hit or miss at the moment.

      The first game was good. The two story DLC’s — Knife of Dunwall and Brigmore Witches — were even better, but you’d want to play the base game first for context.

    • Mittens89 says:

      Also, Stephen Russell stars as the voice actor for Garrett (the original Thief), and Corvo. Very fitting.

  9. Kingseeker Camargo says:

    So is this one *really* a large, sprawling city with huge locales you can get lost in blah blah blah, or do we need another piece like this one to excuse single-digit-hour-long playthroughs?

    Because I really wanted to like the first one (I did like it a lot during the opening few hours), and I did scrounge around every nook and cranny and I read every scrap of paper and I stood around to hear every line of colour dialogue and breath in the atmosphere; and I still felt it was way too small. Not necessarily “short”, but it did feel small. Like a bit of game was missing. It was like a pretty long tutorial that I just flew through, and right when it started getting somewhat challenging –BAM! THE END.

    Was I the only one who felt let down like that? More importantly: Could that happen in this one too? The review certainly gives me a bit of hope, but I’m still not sure it’s money-spending amounts of hope.

    • Zenicetus says:

      No, it’s not a large, sprawling city with huge locales you can get lost in. There might be a few more back alleys and deserted apartments to explore, but each mission is a closed-off zone, separated from each other by implausible barriers that funnel you towards the mission goal. It feels a lot like the first game in that respect.

      As for game length… I dunno, I haven’t finished yet, but the experience so far has already been worth the money.

      Obviously the game will be longer if you make an effort to collect every bone charm and rune, and search through all the empty apartments and side rooms for cash, potions, and books/letters that fill out the lore. If you’re that kind of gamer, I think it will be hard to complain that the game is too short.

  10. Laurentius says:

    Yeah, I would love to know about games difficulty level as well. I hate stealth games and I am bad at them but with Dishonored I could blink myslef to succes and complete the game and enjoy it. If it’s Thief or MGS level of difficulty then I am out.

    • Zenicetus says:

      If you did okay in the first Dishonored game, you’ll be fine in this one.

      I’m not great at stealth games either. I’m playing at normal difficulty (Emily), not trying to stealth through everything but doing as many non-lethal takedowns as I can, just for the challenge. I’m running about 70% success with that, then killing when I screw up.

      For the first couple of missions where I didn’t have many abilities unlocked, it seemed a little difficult here and there, but only in the sense that my kill ratio was higher than I wanted. By the mid game, it all pulled together and it felt very comfortable to choose whatever approach I wanted.

  11. racccoon says:

    Having played through entirely, I can say this game is brilliant, greatly crafted, nicely made, and a well finished completed game. Which is not seen often in today’s normal gaming programs.
    The other scale: The kickstarters/farters really have not held any of their promises, not even do they bother to finish their games. Kickfarters are a shameful bunch with absolutely no morals at all, but a begging bowl, they just do not care giving no final results, going on, and on, and on.. just like me rambling about it..but, if someone doesn’t, just how many players will actually voice their loss’s with the poorly fallen kickfarter projects.
    With This, it makes it so presented that games created within their own finances ( business’s) are far more better and far more likely to achieve results of the…lets say it…FINISHED GAME!
    Dishonored 2 is Great Game!
    Go buy it.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Risingson says:

    The only way I will be able to enjoy this game is to put all the RPS grandiloquence aside, trust the comments more and play a nice derivative game as the first one was.

  13. mactier says:

    Have said it once, I’m still for calling it “Dishonourèd” (with accent) to highlight the implicit (wronged) dignity of it.

    “If it had a plot as powerful as its setting, any doubts I have that it might be remembered as a masterpiece would vanish.”
    Anything else would have seemed strange for 2016. Which is almost over, after anyone was expecting it to do something, almost anything…

  14. Rizlar says:

    So what you’re saying is that they should have modelled The Outsider on Bernard Black and got Dylan Moran to do the voice acting?

    Looks great, loved the first game. Hope Santa infiltrates a copy to me.

    • Premium User Badge

      Godwhacker says:

      Mod please, this is a wonderful idea.

      I don’t mind the Outsider too much but he does dress as described above. He’s basically the G-Man at University before he got his daft speech pattern from The RNC

    • Wowbagger says:

      The chaos was too loud, the steel was cold, the whales were few, and the bloodflies were many. It was everything I expected, and less. I’m never going outside(r) again unless I need someplace to throw up.

    • ooshp says:

      “Hope Santa infiltrates a copy to me.”

      A thousand children’s dreams just got chained to the basement wall.

    • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

      You can find Emily and sort your life out ANYTIME. The pub closes in 5 hours!

  15. Grim_22 says:

    The game is absolutely brilliant on most accounts, but I really despise the chaos system. It just doesn’t work in the sequel at all, now that the characters are voiced. Since Corvo was silent in the original, you projected your own reasons for your choices onto him and could therefore accept the consequences of your actions without distancing yourself from the character. In the sequel, though… it is just so utterly disjointing to hear Emily go from a soft spoken, thoughtful hero in one mission, and then suddenly because you unintentionally raised your chaos she goes all psycho and screams “I would nest Bloodflies in all of my enemies if I could!”

    How did no one notice this? Unless you’re playing the extremes, which is just dreary, your main characters are schizophrenic nut jobs. Just now, Emily went from absolutely despising a key character to fondly reminiscing about him in the span of an hour. I mean, what?

  16. Wisq says:

    Sounds good, but the one-day-prior review policy puts it automatically on my “wait for 50%+ sale” list. In my books, you can do pre-orders or you can delay reviews until post-release, not both.

    (Plus I also found the first to be somewhat overrated — and that’s weird, considering my tastes — but, eh, maybe that’s just me.)

    • Unclepauly says:

      I felt the same way. Only slightly though, as it didn’t live up to original Thief games to me but maybe that’s too lofty a goal. Take away the Thief comparison and it’s a very good game that deserves it’s rating.

    • Unsheep says:

      Pre-ordering is rarely a good idea, regardless of when the review comes out, you are still taking on the same risks. Especially since there’s so little variation in media reviews, both professorial and amateurish.

      For example if you search for ‘Dishonored review’ on YouTube you’ll get a hundred sites saying the same things, but phrased differently. You have to look really hard to find alternative views, perspectives that make you look at the game from a different angle.

      Personally I use gameplay footage from walkthroughs as indications of what the actual game is like. So this new review policy by Bethesda has not changed anything for me.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I too have conflicted feelings about the first game. I liked everything about it, but somehow I could never get up the enthusiasm to finish the game, let alone the DLC, or a second play through.
      Maybe I should go back and give the first one a second chance. This sequel can wait for another day (or a sale), especially with their “no review copies” nonsense.

  17. gruia says:

    confirmed my expectations.
    why i didnt finish like (regret i preordered) first one.
    the plot just doesnt do it for me.
    i just feel people trying hard to make it emotional impact the user.. and failing.
    just low iq, low quality stuff really

    • Baboonanza says:

      Fair enough, if story is what you play games for. I play them for the gameplay and systems personally, as long as the story makes some sort of sense that is enough for me.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Same here. If the combination of art direction and game mechanics are interesting enough, I can handle a poorly written plot and uninteresting protagonist. Otherwise I would never have made it through DX Mankind Divided or Rise of the Tomb Raider. Dishonored 2 is firing on a few more cylinders than those games because the art direction and gameplay systems are so good.

        Not every game can be Witcher 3 with great art direction, characterization, gameplay mechanics, AND writing. Although I wish more studios would aim for that standard.

    • ooshp says:

      Yep, everyone who likes Dishonored has a low IQ. You’re too smart for us, champ, off to MENSA with you.

  18. popedoo says:

    It’s a thing of beauty. I am in love.

    I have also been blessed with no issues on PC at all.

  19. Unsheep says:

    Yet I’m still not interested in this game.

    Neither the storyline nor the characters have found any appeal with me. I don’t get a sense of personality from the latter. The NPCs have plenty of character but protagonists seem very bland.

    There’s also something about the game-world in a Dishonored game that I just don’t like. It’s not the Steampunk environment, nor the dystopian circumstances. I can’t put my finger on it. Yet if the game-world does not appeal to you in some way, it’s hard to get interested in that game.

    I agree it’s a high quality product, but that is not enough to make a game fun or interesting to play.

  20. trashbat says:

    What a miserable set of comments!

    Anyway, I haven’t finished it yet, but some thoughts:

    – If you were given the original game and tasked with bringing it up to date, removing or resolving the awkward/clumsy mechanics and expanding on those that worked well, and you did a really good job of it, it would look like Dishonored 2. It’s noticeable throughout and I’m grateful for it.

    – It does beg the question though: is this a new game with a volley of novel ideas, or more like a sort of DLC++ in a very nice frock? It probably doesn’t help that I’m playing as Corvo.

    – I don’t think the world is sparse of people per se, but I do think it lacks an interactive depth to them this time – largely a lack of help-this-stranger side quests. The ones that do exist are typically minor diversions from the main mission. I can’t help but feel this is a missed opportunity to use the enlarged world to its full.

    – The story is a bit of a floppy umbrella so far, hopping from villain to villain without enormous depth or continuation to it thus far. It’s also a lonely game that lacks the character relationships and community of both the first – the pub as a base etc – and the Daud DLC.

    • Laurentius says:

      It doesn’t have pub/base thing, well that’s disappointing, I really dig these in games.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I can see where playing as Corvo might make it feel more like an extended DLC. I’m playing as Emily, and her interaction with the plot is probably no different than Corvo’s, but her stealth mechanics are different enough to make it feel like a new game.

  21. bigboss9191 says:

    Great review. For me too the story was a big letdown. So predictable, again another save the Father save the Daughter bethesda tale, like fallout 3 and 4. I didn’t even care about the story in this game. Another corrupt duke, another mad witch which was introduced in a paid DLC in the previous game… Also the final cutscenes were really bad, not reflecting what you did and the final ofc that has the hidden message ” DLC on the Way ” .

  22. nanotechnics says:

    Excellent review Adam. It’s a shame that the game isn’t performing well technically. I’ve also got a GTX 980 and not sure how my PC will handle it.

  23. constructorx says:

    Dishonoured 2 bug that if encountered needs game reload.

    Firstly, yeah I know it is a poor quality video. I grabbed the nearest phone to show this bug as it happened. I was trying to get the game ‘playable’ (frame-rate wise) when I get this also.

    The game shows real quality in terms of design. The implementation is unfinished. It is not playable. GTX 970 16GB i7 @ 4.6Ghz should be good enough to play high. I get playable framerates at:

    Low textures, medium detail geometry and low setting for drawing distance.

    I can see real quality exists in this game but the playing experience is not there.

    1) Frame-rates and optimisation.
    2) Falling out of game world when swimming
    3) Blink distances are a lot shorter than first game
    4) Blink speed is a little slower, sluggish
    5) The crouch/stand height is too similar. Player seems very short.
    6) Examining the world seems clunky at times. Opening and closing drawers and cupboard doors is very slow. Should be really snappy. Players should be able to zip through rooms and search quickly not slowly open tills, drawers etc…

    I am not hating on the game but it is not yet ready to be called as a classic.

    • trashbat says:

      I have pretty much the exact same setup as you (i7 6700K, GTX970, 16GB RAM, Win 10, Z170 board) and no performance problems whatsoever, on the default settings (High) with the only change being Nvidia HBAO turned on.

      I’m not saying your problems don’t exist, just that it isn’t the game inherently refusing to play nice with that hardware.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Same as the post above, my specs are i7 6700 4.0 GHz, 32 Gig RAM, GTX 970, Win 10. I’m having no issues with the game defaulting to High settings. Smooth framerate, very playable.

      Whatever is going on, it isn’t hitting everyone the same way with very similar hardware.

  24. michelangelo says:

    I skipped first game, but there is no plan of such kind for sequel. Just one little question—Is possible to hide whole UI/HUD? And is it playable afterwards?

    • Zenicetus says:

      You can turn everything in the HUD off, but I think that would only work if you use the option not to take the Outsider’s gift of magic powers (which is a choice early in the game). In that case, you wouldn’t need the health/mana meter, or the Heart icons to locate runes and bonecharms. It might work okay in that mode. You’d be a bog-standard assassin creeping around and stabbing/shooting, laying traps, etc. to get through the levels.

      If you’re using the magic powers, then you’ll need to locate runes and bonecharms to level them up, some of which are very well hidden without Heart icons to guide you. You’d also go through too many potions if you couldn’t monitor the state of your health and mana pool. The mana meter determines whether I use one of the more powerful abilities or a lesser one, if I’m low on potions. You really need that.

      • michelangelo says:

        What a coincidence, no magic is exactly the way I want to play it. Thanks!

        It leads my thinking to another question. I will not be really able to reach certain places (like climbing really up high) without magic tricks, correct?

        • Zenicetus says:

          There is an perk for increasing your high-jump ability, not to the degree of blink but it’s useful in climbing. It does need a magic rune to activate, but I think you can still find runes and level up those abilities without using the magic powers if you refuse the Outsider. Maybe someone else can confirm that.

          The game *will* be much harder without the powers, but I don’t recall any levels so far (I’m not quite finished) where you absolutely had to use blink/traverse to reach a high point for plot reasons.

  25. Premium User Badge

    cheese lol says:

    Looking forward to playing this game. Hope they patch the mouse controls. The negative acceleration, which is specifically a mouse speed clamp, is a huge problem when using higher DPI mice. On top of that, the mouse sensitivity fluctuates with framerate. The relationship appears to be inversely proportional, e.g. the mouse is half as sensitive at 60 FPS than at 30 FPS. This means that the sensitivity become frustratingly inconsistent when framerate fluctuates and it’s nauseating when it happens.

    These issues are probably inherited from the underlying idTech 5 engine. Rage had a similar mouse speed clamp. It also had a fixed timestep which D2 doesn’t appear to have, but the mouse code may still be assuming a fixed timestep.

    I can’t help but have sympathy for the developers. Every game they have shipped or hvae in development is on a different engine: Arx Fatalis on proprietary, Dark Messiah on Source, Dishonored on Unreal 3, Dishonored 2 on idTech 5, and Prey on Cryengine. I understand why Arkane would be driven to consolidate on tech under the Bethesda umbrella (no telling what business and licensing machinations happened to have Prey land on Cryengine), but it must be tremendously difficult to reach technical competency when your underlying tech keeps changing from project to project.

    • Premium User Badge

      cheese lol says:

      I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least offer some partial solutions to these mouse issues.

      The mouse clamp is harder to reach the lower the mouse’s DPI is. Reduce mouse DPI and increase in-game mouse sensitivity until you no longer hit the mouse speed clamp during normal play.

      Framerate dependent mouse sensitivity can be rectified by limiting framerate. Ideally, the framerate limited to should be one which is consistently attainable during the course of play. One may need to sacrifice visual settings to reach their target framerate consistently. Vsync is a good tool for limiting framerate. For players like me who are allergic to Vsync, the framerate limiter in Rivatuner Statistics Server seems to work fine.

    • Premium User Badge

      keithzg says:

      I was taken a bit aback when I booted up the game and found out it wasn’t UnrealEngine, and then learning that others were having issues I wasn’t surprised. (Not experiencing many issues myself, thankfully, although the mouse was a bit annoying until I bumped my resolution down lower than the 4K it put it at as default; honestly I’m quite surprised things are running as well as they are on my mid-tier, last-generation AMD card.)

      Honestly though my main lament is that, being id Tech 5, we’re still going to be waiting for another Deus Ex or Thief style game with a set of robust modding tools. Stuff like The Nameless Mod can’t ever really happen without such support, but it’s become woefully uncommon these days . . .

      • Premium User Badge

        cheese lol says:

        Even if modern engines with robust mod tools were more common I doubt we’d see mods at the scale of total conversions. The demands for fidelity are just too high for hobbyists anymore. I think modding of that type has been largely supplanted by Unity where a variety of low fidelity assets are easily available to hobbyist developers and acceptable to players. One major hallmark of mods is mixing artifacts from the shipping game (e.g. textures, models, systems) with user-made artifacts (e.g. level geometry, scripting). The task of making the user-made stuff to even approach parity with the shipping game is simply more difficult than it was fifteen years ago by an order of magnitude. I suspect anything less than that would be dismissed as a crappy mod, and the prospect of that wouldn’t be enticing to prospective mod makers. The small mods from Skyrim are probably the best representation of what mods can be from this point on, and even that game is getting a bit long in the tooth.

        Besides, there’s nothing to prevent mod developers from continuing to use older engines. I still see stories of Doom maps and mods being released, and about once a year I go back and play a selection of new Thief fan missions.

        • Premium User Badge

          keithzg says:

          Oh of course, but that re-use of older engines is precisely my point: we’re largely stuck on older generations. And there’s also a lot of very interesting things you can do while using only the assets already in a game, particularly with level design; I’m also still awaiting a tactical shooter on the level of Raven Shield with an editor again, for instance, and in the meantime my friends and I fight with its increasingly problematic DRM to play the levels we and others built ages ago for co-op missions against AI.

  26. Eight Rooks says:

    Just for the record, Kotaku’s review is… eight hours? Their reviewer cleared the game (with one character) in eight hours? I’m on nineteen hours and haven’t even finished level 5, and I don’t feel like I’m dragging things out that much.

    • immaletufinishbut says:

      Yeah, I’ve been seeing that a lot. I’m taking my sweet time on my first playthrough (you only get one, right?), scouring the maps for everything i can manage before moving on. Planning a few speedruns, etc.

      Apparently not the norm, but timewise I’m probably more in line with you than the others.

  27. Nightcrowe says:

    Yup, I’m only beginning the 3rd mission at 10 hours gameplaying time. I like to really, I mean REALLY, explore and, with Emily’s different style, I’m dying more often.
    I’m running the game on an i7-3930K CPU, 16GB RAM & GeForce GTX 690 on High settings. Seems fine so far but I’m still adjusting the mouse settings so that it feels right. Anyone know what the heck “Mouse Friction” is all about??

  28. Premium User Badge

    Marclev says:

    No performance issues here, but then I’m running a clean Windows install without vendor crap-ware or anti-virus programs slowing things down, which I’m becoming increasingly convinced must be the issue with people complaining about performance issues with pretty much every new AAA game that comes out.

    I’ve only finished the first two levels, but so far 100% agree that this is an amazing game, would definitely recommend it to anyone.

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