Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Video Game Review: Dishonored 2

Now that I've had a chance to actually sit down and work on a second play-through of Dishonored 2, I feel like I can review it well.

I'm not finished with my second play-through, yet, and I'm not sure when that's going to happen. You see, with Dishonored, I couldn't HELP but keep playing it, again and again.* It wormed into my brain, drew me into a story and world that engaged my imagination, made me care about the characters, and pulled at my heartstrings in ways that convinced me that I NEEDED to play through a specific way.

With Dishonored 2, there's just something off about the game. They added another character, who is AWESOME and has powers that are super cool and fun to use. But the way some of the powers work, including powers carried over from Dishonored, just feels different. And not different the way you'd think they'd feel based on the storyline reasons for changing how they work.

I think part of it is that, rather than using the Unreal Engine, they created their own game engine (The Void Engine) for this game. The physics don't feel any different, and the combat feels the same. So maybe it's not the engine so much as just some of the "magical rules" that they've updated.

Story-wise, I found it hard to engage with the reason and agency behind the characters' motivations. Without spoiling either story, in Dishonored, the storyline is a vindication/redemption/vengeance arc where the main character has to clear his name and save the empire and the princess. In Dishonored 2, it's not personal with either character you can choose. Sure, if you pick Corvo, Empress Emily needs to be rescued, and that's the end-game. If Emily is your chosen character, then you have to rescue Corvo. But the how and where they go and who they pursue? I didn't connect the dots. It didn't feel like a cohesive plot or a logical direction. Which means some of the missions feel like filler in between chasing the TRUE end goal, and not in a side-quest manner like they're supposed to be.

More than that, most of these missions take place in broad daylight. In Dishonored, several of the missions took place in daytime, but there were plenty of places to hide. For a stealth assassination game, that seems like the way to go. But only a small percentage of the missions take place at night in Dishonored 2. More than that, most of the places where you're expected to "sneak" around to finish the mission don't even have great places to hide unless you know how to get up REALLY high and move around over peoples' heads (which is pretty often an option). But this is a stealth assassination game. It brings me back to figuring out motivation and reasoning within the characters. Why sneak around to go after a target in the bright sunshine when everyone can see you when you can wait for nightfall and hide in the shadows?

Overall, the gameplay is fun, and I find myself thinking about jumping back into it a lot (when I have serious free time). But it's not as engaging. The motivation feels forced, and the characters lack dimension. Despite the fact that they got voice actors to record dialogue for the protagonists this time around. If I had to rate it, I'd give it 2/4. It's not a BAD game, it's just not as good as the first one. Which may not be fair, but if they'd changed just ONE of the things that bothers me about this game, I think it would make a world of difference.**

Giles might be overcompensating with such a long post since he missed last week's blog. Don't mind him, though, because he was actually working last week instead of goofing off like he could've been.

*I played through the main campaign two full times and the DLC campaign two full times, and I'm about half way through my third play-through of the main campaign. Which will be started over on the PS4 now that I have the Ultimate Edition with updated graphics.

**Seriously, if ALL they did was make MOST of the missions take place at night and/or inside in the dark with just one or two taking place in the daytime with STRONG reasons why, that would fix this game. Story would NOT matter nearly as much.

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