I'm going to level with you all - I adore Dishonored. It was no Thief (The original, of course), but Arkane managed to perfectly channel the spirit of the stealth classic while giving it a distinctly modern twist. I've fully trekked through the damned city of Dunwall four times now, so when I saw it was time for a sequel, I had high hopes for the continuation of the tragic story of Emily and Corvo.
Boy, those hopes sure paid off.
Dishonored 2 picks up years after the good ending of the original Dishonored, with protagonist Corvo Attano serving as the bodyguard of his daughter, Empress Emily Kaldwin. It just so happens to be the anniversary of her mother Jessamine Kaldwin's tragic death at the hands of the assassin Daud. As such, top officials have gathered in Dunwall Tower for a remembrance ceremony, which is interrupted by the arrival of a strange woman from the isle of Serkonos. She claims to be the sister of the late empress, and furthermore, accuses Emily and Corvo of being behind the mysterious killings of Emily's political opponents. Before either can hope to interject, the mysterious Delilah Kaldwin orders for their capture, and this is where you can make your first - and most important choice.
In Dishonored 2, you're given the option to play as Corvo, with all of the powers you know and love from the original Dishonored, or the now adult Emily, who has taken up her father's training and has a whole new branch of abilities open to her. Considering the fact that the title defaults to Emily, I decided to go with Emily for my first run through, leading to Delilah stripping Corvo of his powers and trapping him in stone. With the Lord Protector out of the way, the guards subdue Emily, and our adventure begins with her regaining consciousness after being locked away in her chambers. Your objective is simple - break out of Dunwall Tower and escape the city by boat.
True to Dishonored fashion, every room in the first level is meticulously decorated, from the lavish living quarters of Dunwall Tower to the city bank, which is currently the location of the mysterious 'Crown Killer's' most recent crime. Despite it being a rather short level in terms of size, I ended up spending ninety minutes playing through it, exploring every nook and cranny the admittedly linear level had to offer. It was a good choice, too - because I kept stumbling across interesting info and worldbuilding tidbits everywhere I looked. A particular favorite of mine involved an out-of-the-way lab with a large safe, and a very fun way of finding the combination to claim the prize inside.
Of course, the main draw to Dishonored 2 is the stealth gameplay, and I was pleased to see Arkane went with the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' approach for this one. If you remember how stealth worked in Dishonored, it's practically unchanged here - lots of choking guards and dragging them out of sight while sneaking around a multi-layered structure. It's hardly the deepest stealth system in the world, but it's perfectly serviceable for the game and makes it so that you don't have to hammer quick load every time you accidentally step into a guard's cone of vision.
The one downside I noticed to the gameplay involves the combat - or rather, how non-combative the combat can be. While getting into combat in Dishonored meant you'd have to flee and wait out the alert if you wanted to keep from killing anyone, Dishonored 2 invites you to have your cake and eat it too with the ability to subdue an enemy with a simple chokehold if you manage to counter their attack. This would be fine if enemies didn't choreograph their attacks so blatantly, making every fight as simple as 'counter and press a button' without having to suffer any of the repercussions of murdering a guard. I can see why it's there, and I do appreciate giving more options to the player, but I can't help but feel like it just doesn't work with the current combat system.
Speaking of repercussions, I was pleasantly surprised to see a full breakdown of my stats upon level completion - something that was irritatingly absent in the first Dishonored. It's a handy way to keep track of your playstyle and the ever-present 'chaos meter', which looms over your head like a moral Sword of Damocles. Cause too much trouble, kill too many people, and things in the Kingdom will start to take a turn for the worse. It's a neat way of showing how your actions affect the citizens, even if it does basically just boil down to a binary moral choice system.
One last thing worth noting is the reports of technical difficulties on PCs, which I thankfully got none of. Despite running on just an i5 and a GTX 760, I didn't experience any frame drops or glitches, visual or otherwise. However, it is unknown if things will continue to run this smoothly as the game goes on. But for now, Dishonored 2 has been an absolute blast - and a more than worthy successor to the original's throne.
Dishonored 2 was played on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer. It is also available on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.