Our Hands-On with Dishonored 2 leaves us confident of a richer, tighter sequel

Blinking about the world of Dishonored 2, I immediately fell into the rhythm of its 2012 predecessor. The slice of gameplay I got to explore was intriguing to say the least. My target: “Grand inventor of The Duke” and creator of the Clockwork soldier Kirin Jindosh. The hostage: Royal Physician Anton Sokolov. Inside the clockwork mansion, I am to dispose of the former and rescue the latter, and I can accomplish my objectives in either order.

Corvo Attano, the grizzled former bodyguard of the former empress returns as the main protagonist, and he’s joined by Emily Kaldwin, the empress of the isles. Either one can be selected to play through the game with, and each character has their own unique suite of skills, via a multi-pathed skill tree. While the strengths of both characters are balanced between direct and indirect combat, Corvo is more run-and-gun (or blink and gun), while Emily’s skill set is a little more suited to stealthier, more unconventional play.

The setting of Karnaca is less dreary than the Victorian-inspired Dunwall, and slightly more colourful — think Spanish/Roman architecture, more colonial than industrial — sprawling neighbourhoods of white buildings capped with brightly tiled roofs by the sea, a thin veil disguising the conflict going on within the city.

Inside the mansion is another story entirely. The building itself is like a giant Rubix cube; activating levers scattered about the level trigger walls, floors, stairs and furniture to move about and into different configurations. It’s like navigating some kind of industrial era Rube Goldberg machine already in motion. The trick is blinking or jumping through the moving sections to progress through them. Each level will have a similarly mechanic, such as the manipulation of environmental hazards or time control to complete your objectives.

Clockwork robots stalk the halls of mansion: daunting, mechanical creations with large blades for arms. They can be circumvented in a number of ways, enabling a lot of player experimentation. shooting them in the head will cause them to attack their allies, hacking their limbs off will disable them and a well-placed grenade will render them scrap. The human enemies you encounter are extremely quick on the draw themselves;  the AI feels a lot harder to outwit, making successful take-downs that much more rewarding.

Most impressive was the lack of linearity in the level design. I thought I was enterprising finding several completely different ways to reach Jindosh, but after the demo had ended and I asked other people about the paths they took, I realised there were routes that hadn’t even occurred to me, such as climbing to the roof. While confusing in places, the level felt broad — it rarely seemed like areas were closed off to me, rather that I just needed to think of ways to enter those areas. There weren’t any telltale air vents that appear in oh so many faux-stealth portions of action games, which lent itself to much higher immersion.

Additionally, adding to the immersion, were bits and pieces of collectible lore scattered about the place. each note, letter or book  allowed a player partial to exploration to flesh out a fuller backstory — in this case, getting a bit more of an idea about just what kind of a person Kirin Jindosh is, eventually influencing whether or not I killed him.

As in the previous installment, “low chaos” (or quiet) knock outs and “high chaos” bloody rampages disrupt the outside world and the accompanying story accordingly, and the larger story-line will differ based on the methods you use to achieve your goals.

From what I’ve seen so far, I’m confident Arkane can deliver a richer, tighter sequel, with well-tuned gameplay, deeper lore and story elements, and liberal experimentation and innovation in level design. for now, I’m definitely intrigued to see what other secrets lie in store for Dishonored 2‘s release come November.

Dishonored 2 releases November 10 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC.