No formula exists when crafting a quality video game sequel, especially one focused solely on single-player in a multiplayer gaming landscape.
In that context, “Dishonored 2” is all the more impressive for what it achieves. Developer Arkane Studios succeeds in bringing its first-person stealth franchise to the current console generation, retaining what worked in the acclaimed 2012 original while pushing the boundaries of creative level design.
The return to the series’ Victorian, steampunk world comes 15 years after first-game protagonist Corvo Attano rescued child empress Emily Kaldwin and foiled a plot to take control of the Empire of the Isles. Within minutes, “Dishonored 2” throws an era of peace into chaos as the self-proclaimed sister of Emily’s mother, the witch Delilah, storms the throne room at the Dunwall capital. At this point, the player chooses to complete the 10-plus hour narrative as either grown-up Emily or her grizzled father and protector Corvo.
At its core, the overarching story is about the same, but “Dishonored 2” excels at giving more depth to Delilah than the first game’s antagonist. Even with a mixed bag in terms of quality voice acting, the grays of its main characters make for a more compelling story.
Freedom of choice remains a core concept in “Dishonored 2.” Both Emily and Corvo possess their own unique set of supernatural powers. Corvo’s remain similar to the original, but Emily has some interesting new tricks up her sleeve. The highlight power, Domino, allows her to link enemies together so that each shares the same fate. Kill or knock out one, and they all fall down.
“Dishonored 2” allows for all sorts of play styles. Those who prefer to keep kills at a minimum — or avoid them entirely — can do so. Few games about assassins can boast that. Those wishing to exercise their inner psycho killer can leave a horde of bloody bodies in their wake if they want, too. There’s even an option to eschew powers entirely, sticking with traditional weapons and traversal methods, for those looking for a real challenge.
The real highlight of this immersive world, most of which is spent in the European-styled city of Karnaca, are a pair of missions that elevate the art of 3-D level design. That’s no slight on the rest of the game, either, although it’s a bit ridiculous that mission select was not an option at launch.
But don’t let that stop you. “Dishonored 2” is, unquestionably, one of the best games of 2016.
“Dishonored 2”, published by Bethesda Softworks and developed by Arkane Studios, is out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, $59.99