In a month infested with talk of foreign politics, Dishonored 2 takes you away from reality and immerses you with, umm… more politics.
But rather than being restrict you to punching out celebrations or protests on Twitter, Arkane Studios’ latest lets you make a real difference to the political landscape - without having to attend conference meetings or outline economic strategies.
You take the role of an assassin, hell-bent on reclaiming the throne and gaining revenge. So if you have any pent up frustrations with corrupt politicians this is the perfect game for you to unleash your rage in a blood-drenched rampage.
Or perhaps you’re more of a pacifist and want to defeat your enemies without killing anyone?
That’s the beauty of Dishonored 2, you can choose to play this game however you please, and each path that you take gives you a completely different experience.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER
Right off the bat, you’re given a choice which will affect the rest of the game: Emily or Corvo. They’re completely different characters, with their own motivations and persona, so playing as either a male or female affects more than just the size of your breastplate.
Pick Emily and watch her mature as she looks for a way to reclaim the throne, after being ousted as Empress of the Isles by her evil aunt. Pick Corvo, the protagonist from the previous Dishonored, and it’s essentially Taken 2 as you go on a rescue mission to save your daughter.
In the grand scheme of things, though, your decision doesn’t really affect the story barring a few lines of dialogue.
More important to consider are the differing powers you’ll have access to. Emily’s abilities include “Domino” which links enemies together so they suffer the same fate as each other. Don’t have enough sleep darts to take out four guards? Just take out one and they’ll all stagger to the knees and drown the street with their snores.
Corvo’s stand out ability, on the other hand, is “Possession”. Not comfortable in your own skin? Why don’t you jump inside a corpse. Perhaps possessing a rat or a living person would be more useful, though - so you can scope out the area without the fear of being caught.
All the powers feel useful and it’s a whole lot of fun to experiment with them. It adds a bounty of replay value, yet importantly doesn’t restrict you to a specific style of play. That’s open to you.
TO KILL, OR NOT TO KILL
No two Dishonored 2 playthroughs will be identical - there are just too many ways you can tackle your objectives.
You can play the whole game without taking a single life, as you sneak through dark alleys and silently take out your targets. Or you can fight your enemies head on, challenging them to hand-to-hand combat and burning them alive by igniting barrels of whale oil for satisfying explosions.
Admittedly, the sword fighting isn’t all that great. It merely consists of blocking and attacking. It’s not fun and it’s not effective against a large group. This is a game that has been built for stealth, but that doesn’t mean you can’t satisfy your blood-thirst.
Time your attacks perfectly, and you can flit through your enemies with impressive, yet brutal, kill animations. Teleporting behind a guard and stabbing them in the back, then staggering a charging enemy with a blinding crossbow bolt before finishing the job with a decapitation - it’s as brutal (and fun) as it sounds.
Going on a killing spree is entertaining, no doubt, but your actions have consequences. Kill too many and your end story is going to turn out a lot darker. You’ll spot the change in future levels as rats and blood flies increase in population to feast on the trail of corpses you’ve left behind.
If you’re not careful, you can leave the coastal city of Karnaca in a worse state than when you arrived.
Name all the best stealth game series of recent memory: Metal Gear Solid, Assassin’s Creed, Hitman. What do they all have in common? They’re in third-person perspective. This makes sense, as it’s easier to know whether your feet are securely perched on a window ledge and whether there’s an enemy to your rear.
Dishonored 2 spits at this tradition taking a first person approach instead, yet against all the odds it succeeds spectacularly.
I never misjudged my footing as I ran along a narrow ledge or jumped through a half-open window. In fact, it adds a new level of suspense as you need to constantly check your back incase a patrolling guard sneaks up behind you.
It also made the free-running more exhilarating, which along with the responsive controls, made darting across rooftops an absolute delight.
But what good is stealth if the game is made up of narrow corridors? Every map has an endless number of routes, which is helped significantly with the “Blink” and “Far Reach” powers as you can reach high up locations with ease.
With every assassination, there’s an alternative non-lethal objective, and the arsenal of weapons and powers is strong enough to support either playstyle. While your pistol and grenades are almost obsolete for a non-lethal approach, sleep darts and stun mines are a blessing.
Each level design also has a unique setting and quirk to keep things fresh. The most noteworthy include a mansion occupied by a mad genius, of which the rooms can be switched around like a complex puzzle, and Dust Town where freak sandstorms intermittently assault your senses accompanied with dramatic Inception-esque music.
The best of them all is Episode 7, which has one of the most memorable levels you’re likely to experience in gaming. I won’t give away the surprise, but you'll surely recognise it when the time comes.