|System: PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Dev: Arkane Studios|
|Pub: Bethesda Softworks|
|Release: November 11, 2016|
|Players: 1 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes|
One of the biggest critiques of the first Dishonored was that you had access to a ton of toys and powers, but if you wanted to go non-lethal, much of that fun was closed off to you. As a non-lethal devotee, I admit I spent much of the first game knocking out buildings full of guards one by one, then dragging them all into a huge guard pile in some out-of-the-way location. This time, non-lethal players have a full toolbox of gadgets and powers to support them. If you get into a sword fight, you can choose to strike back lethally or perform a well-timed block, knocking your opponent off-guard and knock them out instead. You have the same choice with drop "assassinations" and with all of your powers. It's still more difficult to play non-lethally (you'll have to work harder to discover non-lethal assassination options and you don't want to get surrounded by foes with no backup plan), but you'll now have so many more options for creative gameplay at your disposal, just like those dirty, dirty lethals.
Speaking of which, yes, Dishonored 2 keeps the low-chaos to high-chaos system of the first game. Playing cleverly and mercifully will indeed grant you more boons along the way and a more upbeat ending than slaughtering everybody in sight. I know that not everybody appreciates this about the series, but I feel like it's a strong design choice on the part of Arkane. It's choice-and-consequence gameplay without the hokey dialogue wheel, where you are in full control of the decisions you make but come to the understanding that your actions affect the world around you in positive and negative ways. It's brilliant.
The only thing that keeps me from telling stealth and action-adventure fans to go play this game right now is that it's much better if you've already played Dishonored. This is an intricate world, and while Dishonored 2's main story makes perfect sense on its own, there's a lot of background an nuance that you'll miss if you start with the second game. For instance, early on you'll have the option of infiltrating an Overseer enclave in order to obtain the assistance of a local gang leader. Who are the Overseers and why are they wearing creepy masks and chanting about the Outsider? You'll know them only too well if you played Dishonored, but the second game doesn't really bother to explain them.
That said, Dishonored is an excellent game that can be had for pennies, and playing it will only make you appreciate the improvements in Dishonored 2 all the more. This is a title by a studio at the top of its game, lovingly crafted for players who enjoy lavishly crafted worlds and delightfully creative gameplay challenges. It's for the thieves, the mischief makers, the lovers of experimentation. It's for playful thinkers, for explorers, and for idealists and cynics alike. Dishonored 2 is stealth-action at its finest, and deserves every one of the awards it will no doubt be lavished with this winter.
Note: This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of Dishonored 2. PC players may want to look into major technical issues that have been reported with that version of the game. Arkane is aware of these issues and working on resolving them, but for now, PC buyer beware.
Date: November 11, 2016