In the previous article, I discussed the story of the game and what new powers have been introduced.
So let’s talk Dishonored.
It’s like clockwork
Dust District is a poor area of Karnaca in the darkness of a mountain cleft called the wind corridor. Massive overhead pipes funnel waste from silver mines out over the metropolis, but excessive industry has forgotten this particular district in thick silt. Windmills will be a factor all over Karnaca—you’ll find turbines powering alarms and defenses just as often as whale oil canisters—but it’s central to this particular charge.
Every so often, a horn heralds a dust storm that blows through the district, obscuring vision and audio for a few key moments. The first time this happens, Emily up to a rooftop where she’s able to discretely murder a number of distracted guards before disabling an elevated wind turbine.
The objective, in this case, is information. Two characters can tell you what you need to know—an Overseer and a gang leader—and they’re at war with one another, with a neutral zone between them. As in the first game, it’s up to you to decide how you want to unpick this situation. As Emily, Bakaba infiltrates the Overseers’ headquarters, isolates his target, and rips him asunder using Shadow Walk. He then takes the corpse to the gang leader, who provides the needed information in return. The opposite approach also runs, as does a head-on assault: Corvo leads a violent charge through a bloodily-infested building, using an offensively-enhanced Blink to gain an edge in fighting.
The best missions in the first game, like Lady Boyle’s Party, had unique features that didn’t come anywhere else. Arkane plans to expand this principle across every mission in Dishonored 2. The Dust District’s warring factions and periodic storms are one example. The transforming interior of the Clockwork Mansion is another: this was shown in the E3 trailer but is an actual stage in the game. It’s a technological labyrinth where rooms reconfigure themselves with the poke of a lever, and it’s even possible to sneak up into the mechanism of the house to get your object through the bulwarks.
Dishonored’s chaos system altered the universe founded on the player’s attack. The more people you killed, the more obscure and rat-infested Dunwall became. Plot details were made darker and more vehement as a contemplation of ‘your’ Corvo. This attracted some criticism, as it appeared to penalize players for using many of the game’s most entertaining powers and gadgets. At that place are few non-lethal applications for a man-eating rat swarm, after all, or for a spring trap packed with razor blades.
It may be surprising, therefore, to discover that the chaotic system is back—and that its range has been expanded. Different stages of chaos will affect the results of the game and the attitude expressed by Corvo and Emily. Arkane’s approach to defining the problem with chaos hasn’t been to vary the scheme itself. Alternatively, they’re providing a better proportion of lethal and non-lethal ways to work.
Those branching skill trees will include more non-lethal applications for the powers both Corvo and Emily have. Both types also receive access to a retinue of new non-lethal fighting moves and gadgets, including Flashbang crossbow bolts, the ability to grab and choke out enemies in combat, and a variation of the previously lethal drop-assassination that gives your target a thump on the brain rather than a sword in the cervix.
There are smart changes being produced to the situation elsewhere, as well. Safety devices now have a restricted ability to rise in order to chase you, and Karnaca’s flat rooftops mean there’s more danger higher up than there was earlier. “We don’t want to develop that feeling of ‘get up to be safer,’,” Bakaba says, “but we also heard the feedback that some people want to play a Dishonored game where that’s not as safe.”
Boundary of the empire
Karnaca has a long legacy of colonization, and this is reflected in its architecture, its cultivation, and the masses who walk its streets. “Karnaka is in the south of our Empire and it’s influenced heavily by southern Europe,” Smith states. “Bits of Greece, bits of Spain, bits of Italy.”
Dishonored 2 shares its predecessor’s art style, but benefits from a young genesis of technology—including a fresh engine, Void, based on id Tech 5. Void allows for better lighting and post-processing in pursuit of a familiar look and feels: angular, haunted faces, teetering brickwork shot through with retro-futuristic industrial technology. The goal of Arkane’s art team is still to create a game you could mistake for a painting—new tech just lets them get a game that seems like a better painting.
Diversity, frivolity, community
An underappreciated success of the first Dishonored is the community it fostered. There seems to be a correlation between artistic credibility, diversity, player representation, and fandom. Dishonored reached more people than another immersive SIM might because it looked unlike any other game of its type. It had an artistic and literary sensibility that placed it off to the side of the traditional video game subject matter. It had characters with character and a world with someone. It became a confluence spot for all varieties of different creative people: skilled players making video montages, cosplayers, fan artists, and thus alone.
This wine is something that Arkane wants to build on for Dishonored 2, and showcasing a diverse scope of spokespeople is a major part of this. “For whatsoever reason, we have a wider range of demographics who like our game than is traditionally true and I love that,” Smith states. “I enjoy writers like to-Nehisi Coates, who speaks about how important it is to have a representational avatar for a comic or game or a film that looks like you, that reminds you that you could be that guy. Whether it’s a human being, a woman, their ethnic background—not only a grizzled white dude whose wife’s been murdered and he’s gotta move away one more time.”
I’m super excited for Dishonored 2, and not just as a fan of the first. There was a time when it was rare for a game like this to get a sequel, let alone one that has been given the time, freedom and resources it needs to succeed. Here’s hoping the game delivers on its hype.