My Twitter bio has this comment in it “Wannabe Games Journo.” It’s a passing comment on the way The Reticule has evolved over time, and how I at one point was giving serious consideration to whether I could do this games writing thing full-time. Then I realise how accurate it is, as I realise that the only time I have talked about Dishonored 2 at any length was in my 2016 Our Year in Games roundup. Then, I further realise that I never actually finished the game. So, I put some time aside this past weekend and completed it, at long last.
To be fair, when I originally played the game, as Emily Kaldwin of course, I worked my way through to the penultimate mission, The Grand Palace where you set out to take down Duke Luca Abele. I think that I stopped here after being burnt out on the time twisting puzzle of A Crack in the Slab, while also harbouring resentment at the Clockwork Soldiers that turned The Clockwork Mansion into a long slog of a mission. Don’t get me wrong, now I’ve completed the game, I can say that I absolutely loved it, and think it is a great entry in the series, furthering many plot threads from the first game and its associated DLC. It’s just that at times, I felt Arkane had tried too hard.
I have no problem with concept levels, or missions where a certain idea is used once and then thrown away and never seen again. The Mario games have done great things with this, with many individual levels offering a one-off unique gameplay twist. You could also look at Titanfall 2 which in the mission Effect And Cause employs a similar time twisting mechanic to Dishonored, but with it being a straight action game (an incredibly underrated one at that), you can easily work through the level, enjoying it for what it is, a perfect piece of action which shows off what the game is capable of.
Dishonored 2 struggles in that with the freedom to approach any level as you wish, you can get stuck trying to keep to a certain type of playthrough. My first time playing, I went for a Low Chaos approach, avoiding detection where possible and only killing enemies as a last resort. It’s great, and is how I played the first game, but when a level is as uniquely crafted as A Crack in the Slab, or introduces nightmare enemies like the Clockwork Soldiers, everything becomes slightly harder work. The easy flow of a normal level is gone.
These two missions are great examples of what can be done to subvert expectations, and provide unique twists on normal gameplay routines. They are stunning pieces of level design, but in some ways I wish they’d come in a game with less choice. Every action taken in the game can have large consequences for what happens with the story come the end of the game, and trying to resolve your desired approach to playing the game with twists such as these levels can be frustrating.
But that’s where the beauty of the New Game+ mode comes in. With two protagonists to play the game with, Emily or Corvo, you can start a new game with a different character, utilising all of the powers of your original character, and play the game again in an entirely different fashion.
I never got around to playing the original Dishonored through again with the aim of getting a High Chaos ending. I’d already completed the story, and changing my approach to the action wouldn’t alter how things played out too drastically (or at least, that’s what I told myself). But with Dishonored 2, I can go through with Corvo, cause all of the chaos I want and get a different perspective entirely on the story through his eyes.
So, that’s what I am doing. Playing it again, using a wide variety of powers without a care in the world for how much Chaos I cause. So, when I get to The Clockwork Mansion and A Crack in the Slab, I can play them through like I did with Titanfall 2‘s premier level, by enjoying the ride.