3 hours with Dishonored 2: Inside the Clockwork Mansion
I took Emily and Corvo for a spin through the walls and inner workings of Kirin Jindosh's Clockwork Mansion in Dishonored 2.
With Dishonored 2's November release date closing in fast, the public is getting more and more hands-on time with the stealthiest game in Serkonos. I've recently had the opportunity to get my biggest look at the game yet with a 3-hour hands-on session with the game's Clockwork Mansion mission. The mission we played is approximately 3 to 4 hours into the campaign, so naturally some pretty some pretty significant spoilers regarding characters, old and new, follow. It's also worth mentioning that everything in this demo is pre-release Beta code and not fully representative of the Dishonored 2 you will get your mitts on come 11 November.
During my time with Dishonored 2, I had the option to play as Emily or Corvo. Having only recently finished the first Dishonored, I decided to kick things off with Dunwall's rightful heir, Emily the Wise, to save myself from Corvo-fatigue.
The Clockwork Mission tasks the player with infiltrating the mechanical mansion of Karnacan inventor Kirin Jindosh, who is not only holding our old grumpy pal Sokolov captive but is also building an automated army of Clockwork soldiers (think old-timey Battle Droids). The beginning of the demo allows you to head in one of two directions, search the surrounding city for Runes and Bone Charms or head straight into the mansion. For my play through as Emily, I chose the latter.
It's always in sunny Karnaca
The first noticeable difference between Dishonored and Dishonored 2 is the setting. Karnaca provides a much sunnier stroll than Dunwall's grim streets. Karnaca is to Dishonored what Columbia is to Bioshock, a brighter, more decadent city with accents of gold that glimmer in the sunlight. Where Dishonored's Dunwall was a dreary Whaling town with a British vibe, Karnaca is a warm southern island teeming with vegetation at the "edge of the world". Dishonored 2's 2016 graphics are also somewhat to thank for this significant change in atmosphere. The technical upgrade naturally means character models are significantly more detailed, so Dishonored 2 loses some of the exaggerated cartoon style that some loved and some loathed about the original. Remember Anton Sokolov? You won't believe what he looks like now.
Feel old yet?
This evolution isn't a bad thing in the slightest. The game looks absolutely phenomenal. It has just lost a little bit of its old charm in favour of bigger and better graphics. And if it's Sébastien Mitton's unique style you're after, you will still find it strewn across the streets of Karnaca in portraits and propaganda.
The second most obvious change when starting the demo was Emily's smooth voice acting courtesy of Erica Lutrell. Dishonored featured the totally mute protagonist (who has magically found his voice this time around), which was fine and dandy except that it did tend to get a bit lonely on the other side of the television. Having Emily talk and point out plot details doesn't just help the player engage with her character, it also came in handy a few times when the Empress would point out something I had not yet figured out myself.
Moving pictures, walls and floors
Dishonored's Deus-Ex-like approach to gameplay provided players with multiple ways to tackle each mission. Sure you could burn through a mission, decimating everyone in your path, but the real fun was had in searching tunnels, vents and open windows for alternate routes to your final goal. What we saw in the Clockwork Mansion demo took that idea and improved upon it ten-fold.
Jindosh's Clockwork Mansion is a stealth gamer's paradise. When you first enter, you're led into a locked room with a lever. Pull it and the piano lowers beneath the floor and is replaced with an arc pylon, a devastating defence mechanism players will remember from the first Dishonored. Pull the lever again and the room changes up once again. You can move on from there, making your way past Jindosh's brutal security measures or, if you're extra light on your feet, you can dart between an opening as the walls cycle, accessing the inner workings of the mechanical mansion. This is especially rewarding when Jindosh announces over a loudspeaker that he can no longer detect your presence via the pressure-sensitive floor pads. It really feels like you've beaten him at his little game and taken back control of the situation.
That's not to say you'll miss out on all the action if you go dark beyond the walls. There you will find dormant Clockwork soldiers, who will attack within reason, and Bloodflies, which replace rats as Karnaca's plague of choice.
There are so many paths to take and secrets to find in the Clockwork Mansion. There are multiple ways to speed run it, but if you're a completionist, I'd highly recommend taking your time trying with the ever-morphing rooms of the mansion. I took my sweet time getting through the Clockwork Mansion (over 90 minutes, in fact) but even I didn't track down every secret there was to find.
The path you choose...
After my lengthy bout as Emily Kaldwin, I was given a chance to restart the level as the Royal Protector himself, Corvo Attano. This threw me off slightly, as I had assumed the stories for each character completely diverged and that you would experience the same story from two points of view, but that's not the case. The Clockwork Mansion mission played out in the exact same way with Corvo as it did with Emily, besides a few minor dialogue differences to suit the change in character.
That said, it felt good to be back in the shoes of Corvo. While Emily's powers are mind-meltingly awesome, she just doesn't traverse as fluidly as Corvo. Her Far Reach ability acts somewhat like a whip, and due to its multi-functionality, it tends to stick to places you don't want it to, which can be your downfall in a bind. Emily's Far Reach may have more uses, but Corvo's Blink is still the ideal way to travel. This is actually fantastic for the game as a whole; it means neither character has an advantage over the other. They both bring their own strengths to the table.
As this was a demo and my actions had no lasting impact over my game world, I played rough with Corvo, executing anyone in my way and making a beeline for Jindosh's laboratory. While this short foray as a homicidal maniac was fun and fast (it took me 30 minutes to complete), it did reaffirm that my preferred play-style is considered and clandestine. From what I saw, there were a limited number of enemies in any given area. As soon as I they were alerted to my misdemeanour, they would flock to the scene of the crime, like cattle to the slaughter. Clearing large areas was a cinch, and getting around Karnaca without any security is a relative walk in the park. I much preferred the anxiety of alerting a guard and the need to find an alternative route, rather than plowing through whoever was unfortunate enough to get in the way. Though, I did get to experience some particularly bloodthirsty executions that I wouldn't have experienced otherwise. I repeatedly found myself gasping at the horror of it all.
Remember, remember 11 November
The three hours I spent with Emily, Corvo and that dastardly Jindosh was three hours well spent. If the final release maintains the top-shelf quality that the demo showed off, I can easily see it sitting comfortably atop many "game of the year" lists. If there's any one complaint I have about Dishonored 2, it's that 11 November can't come soon enough.
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