I caved and bought Dishonored 2 for the PS4 this last weekend; I had been planning to buy it later on in the year, maybe when the price fell a little… I rarely pre-order games or buy them fresh off the shelf, but I just couldn’t stop myself this time. I’ve been looking so forward to Dishonored 2 ever since completing the first game and its DLCs over the past few months. Due to academic stuff and just the amount of work that I have, I’ve only been able to put in about 2-2.5 hours into the game, but so far, I’m completely blown away!
Right off the bat, you notice that the environment and the world are so painstakingly crafted. It’s gorgeous—Dunwall is tall and gloomy and exactly what you would imagine. You can see the cityscape in the beginning and little people milling around like ants among the streets; you see the whalers’ boats coming into the harbor and docking at the ports, massive, dead whales strung along their decks… it’s incredible to see just how interactive everyone is, and the amount of detail etched into every single one of these interactions is thrilling.
I would recommend starting off with the tutorial—it’s a separate option on the start menu, but even if you click on the campaign it’ll offer you the chance to play through the tutorial before you begin the story. The tutorial, unlike many other games, counts as “Mission 0.” It features Corvo and Emily (AND YOU GET TO HEAR CORVO TALK FOR THE FIRST TIME!!) practicing all of her physical skills: jumping, running off of roofs, climbing, sword-fighting and choking people out, sneaking up and pickpocketing, etc. It’s useful, but it also provides a unique window into Corvo and Emily’s relationship—which really tugged at my heartstrings, especially since you play this level from Emily’s point of view. He’s such a proud father and you can tell through their conversations that they share a very close bond. Of course, the Royal Protector is still tough on his little ward—but he works really hard to keep her safe.
Speaking of voice actors—I love most of them. Corvo and Emily’s voices, Stephen Russell and Erica Luttrell respectively, nailed their roles. Russell keeps Corvo’s voice gruff and appropriate for a man of his age and with his experiences. He sounds dangerous, like you wouldn’t want to mess with him. Luttrell’s pitch and nuances bring a new dimension to Emily’s character; you can really hear every emotion that Emily experiences. She’s portrayed as tough and perhaps a little bad-tempered, but earnest in her actions. She really takes her roles as the empress seriously, but as a young woman of twenty-five, she’s also curious about the world and shifting from that stage of naïve innocence to the ethereal and absolute dignity of an older woman. She’s quick-witted, reactionary and full of anger, but she’s also a meticulous planner. Luttrell embodies Emily flawlessly—I don’t know if anyone else could have done it.
The only voice actor that I really, really hate is the new voice of The Outsider. For some reason, Arkane decided to get rid of Billy Lush—who was incredible as the Outsider in the first game—and replace him with Robin Lord Taylor. First of all, I want to say that I don’t despise Mr. Taylor or anything, and I don’t want to be mean— he’s an actor that I really appreciate. His role on Gotham as the Penguin, Oswald Cobblepot, is admirable, and he portrays the villain with gusto. In fact, he might’ve been a great Outsider if Billy Lush had not done the role first and so perfectly. Lush’s voice was what made the Outsider such an incredible figure. He maintained this cold and aloof distance; he was detachedly amused by everything and didn’t care in the slightest how the story turned out. He wanted to be entertained. The fact that he was replaced was crushing—one of the best things (at least, for me) about Dishonored was the existence of the Outsider. He was this figure of mystery and enigma, and I wanted to know more about him. I wanted him to pay attention to me, and tried my hardest to do right by him. From things I’ve read about Dishonored 2, it seems like you interact with the Outsider a lot—but I’m not looking forward to it. I rarely ever dislike things about games—if you’ve read my other reviews, you’ll see that I’m fairly easy to please—but I just cannot stand Robin Lord Taylor’s voice. Not in this role. The thing that made the Outsider so beguiling in the first game was his quiet malice. He always spoke slowly and so pensively, like he wasn’t even really talking to you but himself. He was the embodiment of aloof, terrifying and intriguing, and he seemed to personify all of Dunwall in one character. Mr. Taylor speaks way too quickly, with too much enthusiasm and earnestness. His version of the Outsider is more of the hyperactive, wheedling God-child that wants to be involved in your journey and won’t take no for an answer. He’s too invested in everything that happens, and it’s so dissonant from the first game that after my first interaction with the Outsider, I had to stop playing and reevaluate whether I wanted to go on. It was massively disappointing; whenever I do find the Outsider in D2, I try to get through the actions as quickly as possible, and it detracts so much from the game.
I seriously hate it.
The worst thing is that I would understand if Billy Lush had been busy with other commitments, as Harvey Smith claimed on Twitter. Unfortunately, Lush has rebutted these statements on the Dishonored subreddit, explaining that, “ My schedule was wide open. They never called me!” and that he, “Did the trailer and was waiting to do the actual game. I didn’t find out they replaced me until I saw an announcement of the new cast members. Up until that point I was expecting a call any day to go in because I knew it was coming out soon.”
I honestly hope that Arkane provides an explanation for all of this… or at least rescinds their statement about scheduling clashes. I don’t have any expectations, though.
One of Lush’s speculations on his failure to be rehired is that, “I honestly never heard anything. When I did the trailer for 2 I did some voice work on some test material where the outsider was talking about how he became the outsider. My guess is they didn’t like it. The new outsider sounds more fragile. Maybe that’s what they wanted?” And, speaking of which, that was another disappointing thing—he voiced the trailer and it got me so excited for the game. When the Outsider started speaking during your first encounter in D2, I couldn’t help but stare at the screen. He sounds so wrong. They tried to overlay Mr. Taylor’s voice with all sorts of special effects to make him seem more mystical, but it just sounds like he got too close to the microphone. I just don’t understand why they’d try to fix something that wasn’t at all broken. Maybe to get some more attention from the public? I don’t know. I hope that, if there are future games, they rehire Billy Lush—no one could do the Outsider’s voice better.
Okay! Enough about that. I’ve ranted about my disappointment for the last three paragraphs, but I’m going to move on to things that I enjoy. So far, the story is so intriguing. Delilah Copperspoon, AKA the Brigmore Witch that got tangled up in business with Daud during the events of the Dishonored DLCs, has reappeared. Claiming to be the Empress’s older sister and therefore, the rightful heir, she boots Emily off of her throne and takes over. She also accuses Emily and Corvo of being responsible for the Crown Killer Killings—the Crown Killer is this mysterious force that has ended the lives of anyone who criticizes Empress Emily Kaldwin, who obviously isn’t responsible for the acts of terror. Either way, no one protests much when Emily and Corvo are arrested. The character that you choose not to play with ends up being “out of commission” for the events of the game, which is a cool twist. I won’t say exactly how—you’ll have to watch the game for yourself to find out. But you know immediately that the replay value of D2 is going to be amazing, because you’ll experience a vastly different story from the eyes of the other character. I chose to play as Emily first, but I’m already eager to play as Corvo.
Emily’s powers are super cool, though I’m still getting used to them. Her far-reach ability is tangentially related to Blink, and involves more of a grappling motion. If you ever played Arkham City as Catwoman, it feels a bit like grabbing onto buildings with a whip and pulling yourself up. She also has a sort of Dark-Vision that makes pulsating purple waves roll across the map, and enemies show up in bright orange. It’s more difficult to use than Corvo’s Dark Vision from the first game, but it provides an additional challenge. Also, the AI in this game is infinitely more sophisticated—civilians can be alerted to suspicious behavior, and it’s so much easier to catch a guard’s attention now. This is terrible, because you have to try very hard to stay out of their view, but again—more of a challenge.
The game utilizes a lot of music straight from Dishonored, which was really cool because the first time I heard strands of familiar music I was washed over with a wave of nostalgia. It’s very atmospheric and makes the experience even more immersive. Also, though the new visuals are much more realistic than the old world of tiny heads and big hands, the distinctive style of Dishonored is still present in smaller ways, such as in advertisements and artwork and even in the characters themselves. Speaking of visuals, Emily’s hands make brief appearances through the game, when you’re running or picking something up or climbing, but they’re really long and slender and pretty. It’s funny to think that someone was trying to figure out what Emily’s hands should look like.
This game takes place in Karnaca, which is to the south of Dunwall. It’s described of smelling as strange spices (and seawater? I think?) and has a story of its own: the businesses of Karnaca are looking for workers. They’re suffering from a bloodfly infestation, and being terrified of bugs, this was really, particularly awful. Instead of suffering from swarms of rats, you have to creep through occasional bloodfly-infested houses, where massive nests filled with buzzing, deathtrap bugs wait for you to wander inside. Bloodflies lay their eggs in dead bodies, and as a result, any bodies in quarantine zone looked like they came from The Walking Dead or something of the sort. They don’t attack you outright, but will start glowing and getting aggressive if you move too quickly or get too close—and by moving too quickly, I mean if you are pressing on a joystick with more than the barest amount of pressure, you’re going to get caught in a swarm. I don’t even know how you’d deal with them with a keyboard. Luckily, the bugs aren’t impervious to fire—and you can often find flammable, high-quality liquor sitting around quarantine houses, waiting for you to hurl them at nests.
Dishonored 2 presents a wide range of new enemies, new environments, and new experiences. The story is fascinating and the characters are strong, deep, and easy to grow fond of. Erica Luttrell and Stephen Russell have breathed life into Emily and Corvo; many of the voices are perfectly matched to their character (except, of course, The Outsider,) and each character seems to have some sort of underlying story to be discovered. I can’t wait to delve more into this game and explore Karnaca—and see Emily’s, and later Corvo’s, revenge on Delilah Copperspoon play out.