Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Esteemed Critic Reviews Dishonored 2

No sir, I do not require any assistance pillaging your wares.

The sequel to one of the Critic's favorite games of 2012, Dishonored 2 has big shoes to fill. The Critic is overjoyed that, for the most part, this is a sequel that delivers on what made the original such a breath of fresh air. There are, however, problems, though they are not significant enough to ruin the experience, that is, unless you have a low-end PC or you require a constant sixty frames per second. Dishonored 2 has moved on from the Unreal 3 engine to the Void engine, a redesigned successor to ID Tech 5, the technology that powered Rage and the latest Wolfenstein game. The Void engine delivers graphics that are much sharper and more detailed than Dishonored, yet frame drops are common, especially when one is moving into a large, open areas. Since the Critic is a relic from times when one played at 640 by 480 resolution at 25 frames per second, a few drops from 50 to 30 frames do not bother him much. His modest rig, featuring a dated i52500 and a R9 380 was capable of running Dishonored 2 at an average of 50 fps at 1080p at medium graphics quality, which is just fine, really. As you can tell from the screenshots, the game certainly looks good.

The clockwork mansion, seen from a distance.

Gameplay is very similar to Dishonored, except you can choose to play as either Corvo, the silent (now voiced) assassin from the original, or Emily, his daughter, who is now the Empress. The Critic chose Emily, who has a different power set than Corvo, including Domino, which lets you link up to four enemies together to a shared fate (you headshot one, all die, for example) and far reach, a supernatural arm that materializes to pull you toward your destination, a different spin on Corvo's blink power from the first game. Emily's powers are built more around stealth than frontal assault like Corvo's, so of course the Critic decided to play the Empress as a homicidal maniac. Dishonored 2 lets you switch between playstyles, leaving it up to your discretion whether you wish to sneak by without murdering any guards, or come at them with all guns blazing.

A dead body deposited in a refreshing pool.

Plotwise, Dishonored 2 is a rehash of the first game. Emily is deposed by cabal of nobles, including her lost aunt Delilah, a witch with supernatural powers stolen from the Outsider, a dark-clad god representing primal forces. It's not compelling stuff, but the world created in the environment and lore is very good and reminiscent of Looking Glass Studios' Thief series. There's the same dichotomy between technology and primitivism, the same contrast between a developing industrial world and the raw forces of nature. The best writing in the game is often found in a sea shanty or a tragic tale rather than the main plot.

It's hard to play pool without your head.

For fans of compelling first person action games, Dishonored 2 is a must-by. The level design is perhaps the best the Critic's ever seen; in particular, the Clockwork Mansion and A Crack in the Slab missions come to mind. The former features a revolving maze of rooms that can be switched with pull of a lever, though the real challenge is utilizing the hidden workings of the place to surprise guards and stay out of sight. The latter gives you a device called the Timepiece which lets you navigate a ruined mansion, switching between its vibrant past and its dilapidated future, with your actions in the past changing what happens in the future. Dishonored 2's levels always feel organic, like real places. There isn't the contrived conveniently-placed ventshaft for one to find like in other games (Deus Ex comes to mind). The gameworld is the real star, and how you navigate it will determine your level of entertainment. Now the Critic must get back to doing fancy Critic-stuff that you wouldn't understand. Until next time, gentle reader.

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