I loved Dishonored. For the last four years, I have caught myself whistling the Drunken Whaler song every now and again. The release of Dishonored 2 has brought me out of my video game blogging coma, but this wonky PC port may just put me in my grave. If that’s your preferred system, you may want to hold off on purchasing a copy. However, for all my console players: go buy this amazing game right now and have fun not going blind! Keep reading my Real Time Review of Dishonored 2 to find out why.
Let me just start with the reason you might want to hold off on buying this game for the PC. If you’re a console player, go ahead and skip this section or keep reading to understand my pain. The PC port graphics are killer and not in the good way. I’m going to need Bethesda to pay for my Lasik eye surgery. There’s an Auto option for graphics and this is what my game looks like according to what it ‘should’ be run at:
Everything is blurry and awful and I hate it. I made sure to go and check the recommended specs after first seeing the game, but, considering I’m not the only person that has had issues with their game graphics, it appears to be a development issue. Bethesda has confirmed this already and issued a statement and suggestions on how to improve the visual quality of their game. Considering turning it to Auto is a suggestion, everything they say is basically useless though.
This is what it looks like after I spent way too long tweaking everything to try and get it playable:
It’s not perfect, but people look like people and my eyes can maybe survive through this. There’s nothing I can do about far scenery it seems. Bilboards and images look fine from a distance, but buildings/water/ships are a mess. Is it playable now that I’ve messed with it? Sure. Do I feel like I’m getting the best experience for my time and money? Absolutely not. I am so incredibly tired of subpar PC ports and I expected better from Bethesda.
Story & Gameplay
There are good things! In fact, everything else about Dishonored 2 is great so far and the hype is real.
After a brief, completely skip-able tutorial (although I wouldn’t skip it so you can hear how amazing and supportive Dad Corvo is), things get rolling pretty quickly. I don’t think it will be too confusing for people that haven’t played the first one either, as everything is spelled out fast but also comprehensive. Initially, you play as Emily Kaldwin and then can choose between her or Corvo after a coup in the middle of your mother’s memorial service. You can’t switch back and forth between them, as one gets taken out semi-permanently. I decided to play as Emily, and she has her own set of unique powers which you can refuse and try to do the game without. I accepted them to try them out, but I’m not using most of them.
This is a problem I have with a lot of ‘stealth’ games. So many of the enhancements are for higher chaos routes, and I’m trying to go the whole game without killing anyone so I’m only spending my weird currency on one them and it kind of feels like a waste. The powers are fun though, and I’m using most of those. Domino you can use to link guards together so if you choke one out they all go unconscious, which is nice for that group of guards that you just can’t figure out their rotation schedule and are tired of waiting. Shadow Walk will sneak you past almost anything and get you to secret places (and is just cool), and Far Reach can be used in a similar fashion. I haven’t used Mesmerize yet or Doppleganger much, but I’m definitely going to try to link it with Domino and choke my own self out to knock the others unconscious.
Corvo apparently has all the same powers from before, but they’re upgraded in some way and, just like the first one, the gameplay is mostly linear. I learned about a shortcut by talking to a random NPC, met an ally by going back after a checkpoint and exploring the other side of the street, so even though it’s a ‘straight’ line there’s lots of options if you look. There are multiple ways to complete a level, but it’s no open world sandbox. Everything is pretty similar to the first title in the series, so if you were a fan like I am I believe you’re going to enjoy it. For the newcomers that like dark, steampunk(ish), multiple-ways-of-killing (or not killing) type games, this and Dishonored are for you. I don’t believe you have to play the previous game either if you just want to jump into this, but I loved it so you should. Some versions have an HD version, including the first one plus the DLCs, and I think it’s definitely worth an added price (and you can play it while they try to fix the PC port!).
And some things that are important to me – I haven’t heard any overtly racist, phobic of any kind dialogue/overtones, or mentions of rape/domestic violence as of yet. Most of the main characters seem to be white but there’s a diverse range of NPCs and one of the named characters has a disability. I’m not sure if there’s any diversity in terms of relationships (Emily seems to be in a gay relationship although I can’t be 100% positive) as I’m not super far into the game so we’ll see about that.
I love the ambiance the music of the Dishonored franchise creates, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the series as a whole. It’s dark and gritty and unique with a lot of discorded sounds. It really set the mood for Dunwall’s bleak and shadowed corners, and the same atmosphere carries on into the sequel. There’s a new city in town, and although Karnaca is a bright place where the sun shines, it has many dangerous and sordid problems of its own, so the music still fits very nicely. I’ve listened to the original soundtrack on rainy days, to relax, or whenever I feel in the mood for avenging my loved ones, and I have a feeling I’ll be listening to this one as well. There’s a very annoying noise that goes off every time you’re spotted by a guard and I love it for how it makes you cringe and emphasizes the failure. The sound the runes and bone charms make when you approach them is also really cool as well.
There’s nothing groundbreaking to report on this end which is a plus for me. I like having things be universal while also maintaining some uniqueness, and I think this game has a good balance. It features standard controls with hot keys for different weapons and powers and a menu wheel as well. I have accidentally tried to choke someone out and instead shot them a few times, however, so there is a little bit of learning to be done, but it’s easy to get into the swing of things after a few hours. I do like the blocking system, as you can stagger and then throw enemies in a choke hold in case you get caught in your sneak playthrough and don’t want to have to load a save all over again. Emily, and I’m guessing Corvo, carry two items at a time, a sword and a weapon or power. You can’t use the crossbow/gun at the exact same time as a power and always have the sword equipped.
There’s also one good thing about going the stealth route for me right now, and that’s my low frame rates and graphics aren’t getting in the way of combat, so I’ve really had very little trouble navigating around and taking out people the quiet way. Even the few times I’ve triggered guards and had to take them down nothing lagged or crashed. My accidental combat seemed pretty smooth actually, so if you go a more violent route I think you’ll have fun with it, especially adding in the powers.
There’s no game I can think of out there that’s really similar to Dishonored 2, except Dishonored, and that’s what makes it worthwhile. All the things that made the first title cool are still there-the atmosphere, the interesting lore and world, the painting-like quality to the graphics (when they work), a dozen ways to complete a level, and the powers and the strange person who brings them. It was already good, and the added features to the franchise should keep things fresh. Moving to a new city, with new powers and a new game engine (again, for those that it works for) add to this new level of playability as well. I can run a higher level chaos game without feeling like I’m repeating myself when I go back and play as Corvo, and I imagine it’s a somewhat different game with different paths/quests as well when you step into his shoes again.
So far I wholeheartedly recommend getting this game if you’re a console player and the trailers and promos have interested you even a little bit. To my fellow PC gamers: maybe hold out and hold strong.