Monday, November 14, 2016

My Thoughts After my First Playthrough of Dishonored 2

This is a bit off-topic for my blog considering it's usually GURPS content, but I've been eagerly awaiting Dishonored 2, and finally got my hands on it. I've beaten the game (Emily, Low Chaos) and started dipping my toes into a second (Corvo, High Chaos) playthrough, and I have some thoughts.



I deeply appreciated the non-lethal options that have been added to drop assassinations and combat in general. It added some spice to combat in a low chaos run, while maintaining a pretty high skill ceiling. With a few exceptions, non-lethal takedowns take more time, meaning that using them against multiple foes gets really dicey.

Speaking of which, enemy AI is far improved. It seems far easier to unintentionally draw the aggro of fourt+ guards all at once in Dishonored 2 verses the first game. A lot of their actions aren't as telegraphed before, something that became painfully obvious when attempting to parry to enable non-lethal chokeholds.

Emily's powerset works, although evidently I missed out by not pursuing Bone Charm Crafting in my first playthrough. My style is usually extremely minimalist- I rely extensively on Blink/Far Reach as my primary ability. Even when playing as Corvo I tend to stray from making heavy use of Wind Blast or Devouring Swarm.

I did not use Mersmerize or Doppleganger my first run with Emily.

I found Shadow Walk underwhelming, as the animation for non-lethal takedowns takes FOREVER. Getting the upgrades for multiple attacks while in the form seemed like a waste unless you can chain people together quickly, and at that point, why avoid Domino?

Domino is great for crowd control, although I find the range it can be used at pretty limiting. Unsure of how long the effect lasts really made me fear trying to lurk and move around until I could chain four people together, meaning I didn't use it as often unless facing a big group of enemies in close proximity to my perch above them at the time.

Verticality is still king in Dishonored, by the way.

Agility's double-jump seems to have been nerfed to prevent drop-assassination spam that was possible in the first game. Smart use of terrain and climbable objects still enable use of drop assassinations, but it's no longer a free lunch. I'm overall cool with this change, but it definitely feels weaker and less useful for exploration compared to the first game.

Even with the range upgrade, Blink seems shorter than before. Far Reach is cool, although it's REALLY bad compared to Blink for trying to move up- it's very easy to clip into things like lampposts and fail to land where you intended, often dying in a long fall or failing to elude enemies. The upgrade for grabbing objects also doesn't helpfully show a green aura around them like Daud's Pull power did in the first game, which prevented me from realizing how to utilize it at first. (Seriously, Pull highlighting objects in your environment was one of the best fringe benefits of the power.)

Far Grab grabbing enemies FEELS far better than Pull from the first game. Pull was slow, like painfully trying to explain rules to a kid whose parent didn't provide them enough structure growing up. Far Reach is super fast in comparison. Offensively it's far better than Pull, even if it's utility and usability suffers compared to pull.

I wish the Strength tree was better balanced. Five runes (Total) to break down breakable doors seems a bit high, especially given how GODDAMN CONVENIENT it is. I can appreciate the puzzle aspects of hunting runes, but with a seeming lack of New Game + (and my game crashing during the credits, just like Dishonored 1), rune collection is still a pain in the ass. It's not helped much by the capability to mark a specific rune/bonecharm for collection so I don't have to constantly have the heart out.

Seriously, if I sink nearly as much time into this as I did the first game, I'm seriously considering modding it so door breaking is far cheaper to expedite collection of runes and charms.

I HATE the decision to make it so that the Folded Galvani weave isn't available until one of the latest missions in the game. By far one of my favorite upgrades, and having it available so late seriously crimped the appeal of Agility's sprint boost. I also completely missed the Incendiary Bolts blueprint my first playthrough, meaning that Blood Fly nests were far more annoying.

Blood Flies are roughly as annoying as rat swarms from the first game. Very simple counters absolutely wreck swarms of either groups, and once you learn the nest mechanic dealing with Bloodfly Nests is easier. Blood Flies killing unconscious people will certainly be HELLA ANNOYING should I ever attempt Clean Hands.

I don't miss river krusts at all.

I didn't use any of the new crossbow bolts, which is probably an oversight given how they could help end fights without having to choke everyone out. I did upgrade stun mines. Otherwise during my non-lethal run I barely touched upgrades.

If asked to score the gameplay, I'd probably give it 8 out of 10. There's some balance issues (rune costs), design choices (galvani weave), frustrating bits (rune collection, far reach clipping during vertical movement, no highlighting for pullable items), and bugs (which I'll get into) which dinged my enjoyment of the game.

That said, the Gameplay has measurably improved since the first game, enough to really count as a sequel offering.


The Dishonored series has stellar world design. It's frankly one of the most exciting and novel settings in video games. The first game was a little light on actual plot and character development, but largely got a pass because the setting was Just. So. Good.

I had high hopes for Dishonored 2's story. Choosing to have both protagonists be fully voiced was a ripe opportunity to have Corvo and Emily interact and talk with one another, to flesh out how the experience of the first game- and the events played through in the second- would affect the father daughter relationship! Not to mention conversations with the supporting cast, and villains, and so on.

But Dishonored 2 squanders its chance at developing the main characters. We get two minutes of Corvo and Emily talking, and then one of them is absent the rest of the game until the final confrontation is over. Neither interacts meaningfully with the Outsider, which should've been the most significant and exciting dialogue to witness in the game. Daud mentions having conversations with the Outsider, and instead we get more expository lectures, most of which seemed to focus a little too much on the target of our mission at the time, rather than reflecting on Corvo and Emily themselves.

I understand that doing the whole Chaos system with the other protagonist interacting with your blank slate character is probably messy and incredibly hard to write but it's hard to justify how much potential was left to attract Blood Flies. 

So far, Corvo and Emily's dialogue isn't different enough that it's not annoying to hear "Sokolov made this lock" twice, completely wasting having the two view points to experience and play. Maybe that changes as I go further through the game with Corvo, but I doubt it.

The supporting cast of NPCs was drastically reduced. I guessed that Meagan was Billie Lurk after using the Heart on her. Both Meagan and Sokolov had impressive amounts of dialogue using the heart, which was a nice touch.

But I wouldn't say that either character really brought much to the story.

And the Story is depressingly similar to the first game. Terrible thing happens, roaring rampage of revenge (or quiet precise surgical strike of revenge, if you wish), the end. 

The ending cinematic is laughably bad compared to the first, and is WORLDS worse than say, Fallout's. The whole Howler/Overseer decision seems forced and ultimately pointless. There's no buildup to either faction besides the fact that both groups are initially hostile, and placing the mission where you pick a side late in the game seems weird.

If it had been placed earlier, it could've colored the entire game, offered different side missions, and cracked open more replayability as the different missions changed due to that allegiance choice earlier on.

Quick Thoughts and Quibbles on Story and Gameplay:
  • I don't recall any references to Piero, which seems like a glaring omission as he made both Corvo's mask and The Heart
  • The Heart is one of the few places the story actually shined
  • Delilah getting trapped in a painting AGAIN was LAZY writing
  • Deliah's one-hit kill stoning move in the final fight was bullshit
  • The lack of between-mission shopping hurt when the black market can be missed by players during the course of a mission.
I'd give Story something like 4/10. It's like getting a grade of C-. It's not failing but you were so close that you should probably give the teacher much less shit for the next few weeks as thanks for cutting you some slack.

Performance, Bugs, and Rushed Development

I specifically timed my video card upgrade (GTX 1080) to land just before the release of Dishonored 2.

Frame rate jumps quite a lot, usually averaging 45 on recommended settings at 1080p. I've personally experienced some dips during hectic moments, but nothing nearly as bad as FO4 on dual AMD R7 220s.

I encountered one progression-breaking bug in the mission targeting the Duke of Serkonos. I had choked out the real duke before finding his body double, which locked out being able to toss him on the bed for the non-lethal assassination.

End-game credits resulted in a CTD.

Alt-tabbing doesn't work (going back into Dishonored 2 CTDs), which is just fucking shameful from a AAA publisher like Bethesda. 

Frankly, I feel like Dishonored 2 really could've used another year in the oven to get tweaked, optimized, balanced, and to really plot out the story better. It would've also provided ample time for getting a mountain of voice work done.

But frankly, it's a sophomore title being published by Bethesda, the king of providing wide but shallow games. I really feel the team felt rushed to publish on time, even with delays, and that care and attention on the final parts of the game suffered. The duke's mansion was one of my favorite missions to run around in- but the polish obviously present in the first real mission on the streets of Karnaka starts to slowly disappear over the course of the game.

There's no way to tell just how much publisher pressure changed the course of Dishonored 2's development, short of Harvey Smith giving us the scoop. That seems unlikely given his professional demeanor and track record of being an excellent guy, so I'll just continue to harbor my suspicions.

In Summary:

  • Almost excellent gameplay
  • Story completely and utterly failed to live to the potential of its characters and having voiced protagonists
  • Setting is still hella amazing
  • I do kinda dig the more whimsical Outsider, although I think the more sinister overtones present in the first game were lost. It's a mixed bag.
  • Performance issues and Bugs aren't end of the world, but certainly a bit of mud on the face for the game
  • I'll probably still sink 40+ hours into this on the strength of gameplay alone (Fallout 4 was the exact same in this regard)
  • I really hope I don't hurt Harvey's feelings with this review

Is it worth trying to get better at the game knowing that StealthGamerBR is still going to make me look like I have the manual dexterity of a particularly large toddler?

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