Dishonored 2 QuakeCon Preview: Upping player choice

Chris Stead 5 August 2016

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With two times the heroes, Dishonored 2 is offering players twice the freedom as the new QuakeCon demo shows.

It’s easy to like Arkane Studios. The French developer has always walked its own path, weaving through the gaps between genres and styles; resting in the nooks and crannies few other developers explore. This point of difference was there from the beginning in 2002’s experimental RPG Arx Fatalis. Then again with the first-person spell casting of 2006’s Dark Messiah of Might & Magic. But it was 2012’s Dishonored that finally brought the developer serious recognition, buoyed by the acquisition and brand power of Elder Scrolls and Fallout creator Bethesda Softworks.

She is also now a fearsome assassin – like father, like daughter, right?

The sequel Dishonored 2 – due for release on November 11 for PS4, Xbox One and PC - is set 15 years after the first game, and Emily Kaldwin has been usurped. No longer the Empress of Dunwall, she has been outcast with her father (and star of the first game) Corvo Attano, finding her way to the sunny, coastal town of Karnaca. Here she will find the key to retaking the throne, and she is now armed – like her father – with a host of unique supernatural powers granted to her by The Outsider. She is also now a fearsome assassin – like father, like daughter, right?

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So what did we learn from this new demo, presented today at QuakeCon? In the opening cinematic, we enter the town from the decks of the Dreadful Wale. Despite its grimy salt-soaked exterior, the sense of wind on your cheek brings with it a new atmosphere. This is a sunnier, more carefree location, but it’s still got plenty of shadows where powerful characters lurk.

One of those character is Corvo, who is fully playable through the entire game (bar the prologue) alongside his daughter. Players can choose to tackle each mission as either the father or daughter (no co-op, sadly) and the difference in the way the two can manipulate the sandbox creates a whole other level of player choice. To illustrate this fact, the new demo tackles exactly the same mission that was shown in the E3 demo.

Update: Since writing this article, we had a chance to talk with Harvey Smith – co-creative director of Dishonored 2 – and while we will publish that interview in full shortly, his clarification on how character selects will work required instant publishing. As it turns out, after the prologue you will choose between Emily or Corvo as your character for the remainder of the game – switching between them will require restarting or beginning a second playthrough. However, there are many more outcomes to the Dust level than what we first believed. You can side with one of the two factions, assassinate both leaders, or let both live. More evidence that choice in this game will be unbounded.

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Back at E3, Emily was tasked with choosing a side in a local war between the Vice Overseer and the Howlers, and she chose the latter. While Emily may share her father’s skills as an assassin, she doesn’t approach her targets in the same way. She is more graceful, tends to make more of the vertical space – which has been greatly increased for the sequel – and has her own supernatural abilities to upgrade and toy with. Corvo feels a bit more brutish in comparison, retaining his same skillset from the first game, although with a greater range of use.

 ...possessing a Bloodfly and then flying through the stage to a safer location.

For the QuakeCon demo we play as Corvo and side with the Vice Overseer. With different powers and a new objective, he approaches the same play space in a completely different way. It’s a whole new route, and the tactics are born from his bank of powers. Highlights include getting out of a sticky situation by possessing a Bloodfly and then flying through the stage to a safer location. And throwing an unconscious body off a building, only to pause time, Blink to the street, kill a henchman, and then catch his prey after time returns to normal.

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Dishonored’s most attractive trait is its sandbox approach to completing an objective. You can kill everyone or no-one. Use superpowers or traditional weapons. Hide in the shadows or walk brazenly down the street. Your options are defined by your power-set, your imagination and the level design – and now we have two characters with different power-sets to choose between. So in this mission, where you can play as one of two different characters, and can choose one of the two sides (therefore changing the target), you’re effectively getting four different play opportunities in the same space. And this before you begin applying your own unique tactics.

That’s a huge increase in player choice, and we cannot wait to test the game out more thoroughly to see how the level design and AI stack up when you’re throwing crazy ideas at it. We’ll find out soon when we go hands on.

"Does the abbey remember its friends?"

The demo ends with Corvo telling the Vice Overseer that siding with him in his fight has nothing to do with a belief in his vision for Karnaca. “This was a means to an end,” he states. “Does the abbey remember its friends?”

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