“Players won’t understand Dishonored 2 till they play it twice” claims Harvey Smith

Chris Stead 26 September 2016


It’s one of the biggest blockbusters of the year, and Dishonored 2’s creator wants you to play it at least twice.

Releasing on November 11 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, Dishonored 2 is one of the year’s most anticipated titles. Published by Bethesda and developed by Arkane Studios, it doesn’t follow directly on from the 2012 original. Instead it begins 15 years after the events of that game. Original hero Corvo remains in the picture, but he is joined by daughter Emily, in the new location of Karnaca, a seaside port in the Empire of the Isles. This further adds to the already impressive amount of player choice in Dishonored by providing a whole new playable character with her own set of skills to enjoy.

We’ve previously gone in-depth on how Dishonored 2 ups the ante on player choice, but we also got a chance to interview Arkane Studios’ co-founder and games industry legend Harvey Smith. During our chat, he drove home just how far the team has gone down the player choice rabbit hole. He says you can't find enough runes to acquire half the powers on one play-through, and that you only see about 25% of the game. In fact, Smith believes there is so much content in Dishonored 2 you miss out on due to the choices you must make, that you need to play it twice just to understand it all.

So at the start of each mission, do you choose to play as Emily or Corvo?

I’m so glad you asked that as we have somehow miscommunicated how it works. At the beginning of the game you play as Emily for a moment; so you see Emily no matter what. Then there is a branching moment and you choose either Corvo or Emily, and you are stuck with that for the rest of the game. So you could be Emily all the way to the end, improving her powers and investing in low or high chaos, or you could be Corvo. And the other character doesn’t walk along with you or anything like that; you leave them behind. So you are committed to one or the other.

Are you therefore hoping that players will commit to going through Dishonored 2 twice?

Well we have a large group of players who buy the game, go through it once, make some decisions and that’s it. They choose Possession and Rat Swarm, they kill a lot of dudes and go high chaos, then finish the game and say, “that’s it, I’m done.” Or they go the opposite and they are stealth players, who upgrade their Blink and sneak past everybody and finish the game without killing anyone, then stick it on their shelf and they are done.
But we do have a lot of players who go through many times, because in Dishonored you cannot see everything at once. You probably only see 25% of the game if you play it once. There’s a path on the right; a path over the roof; a path on the left; or maybe you just possessed a fish and swam around in the river. And you can’t do all of them; you have to choose one. Plus you can play violently, or sneakily, or a combination of the two. And since none of it is scripted, and guys on patrol routes can get distracted on their way, even just stopping to warm their hands in the fire. It’s all so dynamic. Every time you play Dishonored 2 it is different as you find different paths, buy different powers, go high or low chaos and play as Corvo or Emily. Also, when The Outsider offers you his mark, you may say no.
So previously some people played once, some people played many times, but in Dishonored 2 there is even more reason to play it again. And I think players won’t understand Dishonored 2 till they play it twice, because there is so much overt conversation that you can miss, and lore to read and even just understanding the environment’s impact on the storytelling. Plus, there are all these powers and you don’t get enough runes to buy all of them; you can’t even buy half of the powers in one playthrough.

Given how much fun we had with the first game and all the improvements and additions coming to this sequel, the concept of having to play it twice hardly seems like a punishment. I’m sure Smith is over exaggerating your inability to understand the game with just one playthrough, too, but it’s great to hear how much depth is on offer for fans. In fact, given the way Dishonored 2 forces you down one character path or the other, this depth was necessary to motivate players to experience both the Corvo and Emily sides of the coin.

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