I loved the first Dishonored, from its world to its visual art style and amazing music. Sadly I was unable to attend EGX this year and so missed out on the chance to be one of the first to get hands on with the Dishonored 2 playable demo. Thankfully the lovely folk over at Bethesda UK held a special community event after EGX which they kindly invited us over to their offices to try out an extended gameplay demo.
*This hands-on preview was played on a demo build of Dishonored 2 and not the full release version*
The demo featured the fourth mission in the full game, Clockwork Mansion and we could play as either returning hero Corvo Attano or new to the series, the former Empress Emily Kaldwin. The level has two objectives that must be completed to end the level. First is to find and rescue the captured Anton Sokolov and then find and deal with his captor, Kirin Jindosh.
I first chose to play as new character Emily, trained by Corvo and with similar supernatural abilities as him, I was very curious to see how her gameplay differed from Corvo’s. However I was immediately distracted by the level environment of the Clockwork Mansion itself and I took several minutes simply enjoying being back in the Dishonored universe. Visually it is looking amazing, continuing the Victorian industrial vibe from the first game. Lighting is very much improved now with the jump to current consoles and it really helps to bring a vibrant look to the environment and buildings. Stepping into the Clockwork Mansion and it very soon lives up to its name in one of the most stunning surprises possible. Upon entering the mansion you discover a lever and after pulling it, the entire room begins to change as walls begin to move and an elaborate gear system starts to transform the very room and layout of the mansion before your eyes.
I found Emily to be very quick in both movement and fighting, and within minutes of play found playing as her to be very different to how I remember being Corvo in the first game. The key difference however between Emily and Corvo lies within her powers with three distinct new abilities that stand out. First we have her version of Corvo’s Blink move, Far Reach which feels more like a grapple hook style teleport than the sure footing teleport of Corvo. It can also be used to pull enemies towards Emily from a distance, something that will come in very handy both in high and low chaos runs. Domino is a very intriguing and amply named ability which allows Emily to link a chain of enemies and by taking out one, all in the chain will also be affected making this one very lethal ability once leveled up.
But by far my favourite ability Emily can utilise and something I found to be a great help whilst trying a non lethal and low chaos run for this mission was Shadow Walk. This ability reminded me of the Darkness games and with it Emily can turn herself into a creature of shadow, able to move almost undetected and take out enemies either non lethal or lethal. The animation of this power is so impactful and I loved the detail of the reaction to enemy guards when they see Emily in Shadow Walk as they are scared and startled by this creature. As a supernatural ability it greatly increases Emily’s stealth techniques and is great for sneaking up on guards or moving around without being seen. It is going to be great fun playing as Emily and both learning how to play as her from the start and how to improve her abilities to tailor your approach to the missions.
Tackling both objectives really plays to the strengths that I found so compelling about the first Dishonored. The environment and level layout allows different ways to move around which is very useful when trying to go for a non lethal path through it. The transforming rooms via the levers allow you to configure the whole mansion to either help you navigate it and to change the guard positions. You can also tackle the objectives whichever way you feel is best so you can either try to rescue Anton or you can go right for Jindosh. The player choice to play how you want is something that stood out in the original game and the developers have really taken that to the next level with this sequel. This was an incredibly fun mission to play and it gives me such hope for the rest of the game with all the lovely surprises it has for players.
Emily is tremendous fun to play as, her abilities are so well suited to either low or high chaos runs. I was happy with just how different her style is to Corvo, enough that you really do feel that playing the game as either character will offer a different experience including the dialogue exchanges with other characters. I found it challenging to go for a non lethal low chaos run but as Emily it was very enjoyable learning to use her abilities to best suit this gameplay and this level proved to be a great playground for her.
To end this preview session I switched to Corvo and decided to go for a full on high chaos run with him. Stepping back into Corvo’s mask after playing as Emily, did feel a little strange. His powers from the first game are back and the satisfaction of using his full combat strengths both in his own powers and in using weapons made going full on badass a joy with this level. The sounds from the sword fighting to the execution animations really brought the game to life as only Dishonored can do. It excels in both offering a rewarding experience for either a low chaos to high chaos style of playing. Corvo is brutal and even more dangerous than before.
I was extremely impressed with this preview demo and spending a good couple of hours trying out both Emily and Corvo and their abilities in the Clockwork Mansion showed me just how amazing Dishonored 2 could be. It played brilliantly with enough retention of what made the first game so iconic but refreshes it so much that the jump to current consoles has most certainly been worth the wait. Fans of the first game are in for a real treat when Dishonored 2 releases in November.