Monday, November 14, 2016

Game Diary - Dishonored 2.

Sequels are a cagey thing.  It's easy and common to fall into the old trap of just reproducing what worked in the past (Far Cry 4, Assassin's Creed Unity, inFamous: Second Son, God of War: Ascension) while often losing sight of what made the original idea so vital and successful.  Similarly, sequels can go too far - throwing in too much, too many new ideas, regardless of whether or not they work (Rayman Legends, BioShock Infinite).

It's a rare thing, is what I'm saying, for a sequel to retain the spirit, energy, fantasy, soul of its predecessor while improving on its core and addressing criticism.  Sequels like that are rare.  inFamous 2, BioShock 2... and too few others.

Dishonored 2 is one of those.  So far.  So far, it's everything I wanted.  Everything I asked for.  Everything I'd forgotten I needed.

I'm sure I mentioned it, when Dishonored happened back in 2012, that it was - down, in its soul - a true spiritual successor to the (legendary) Thief series, whose name was so horribly besmirched by its current-gen reboot.  Playing through Dishonored 2, I'm also reminded of the level of immersion I was so disappointed not to discover in BioShock Infinite.  It's here.  It's here, in Dishonored 2.

Its world is minutely detailed, but more... physical, believable, and most importantly immersive than Infinite or the Thief reboot - to a massive degree.  Each (colossal) level - the Clockwork Mansion that dominated the game's debut trailer, for example - takes hours to complete, and around half of that is (as in the old Thief games) spent on the approach.

It's spent working you way through twisting city streets.  It immerses you so much.  It grounds you in this place. A Wall of Light security system is ahead, but maybe you can get above it?  Maybe you can slip in to this apartment building on the left - and when you do (unlike so many fucking games) that building is complete.  It has multiple entryways.  Each room is there to discover - they're constructed like real places.  They make architectural sense, and that alone lends such an air of legitimacy to your immersion.

And then, after an hour (or two) of just getting there, you'll find yourself looking up at a soaring, gorgeous building... wondering how many ways there are to get in, and start.

And there's the details to discover.  There's this unique, striking art direction and its unique, striking, inspired world where whiskered whales and their magical bones both drive the engines of industry and grant you access to the supernatural powers that fling you across its rooftops.  The paintings you come across, skulking through a rich man's house, are so beautiful and striking you have to stop and soak them in for a moment... before cutting them from their frames for your collection.

Unlike that last abysmal Thief game, there's a real, involved physicality, here.  Each item to be picked up doesn't like appear through walls when you activate some sort of treasure-detecting-vision - you have to find it.  You have to open every drawer, examine every painting.  What looks like just a piece of scene-setting art might be a one-of-a-kind item that's worth hundred and every single piece of coin or treasure is counted up at the end of a level - so you might feel good that you picked up 2,340 worth of gold, but the level will then tell you there was another two grand that you missed - where they hell could it have been?!  Did I miss an entire block of buildings!?  (Probably, yes.)

My biggest complaint about Dishonored was the fact that it ostensibly encouraged the player to attempt a non-lethal approach, but gave them very few options to do so - rendering the attempt phenomenally difficult and not particularly fun when compared to the litany of far more violent options at your disposal.

In Dishonored 2, Emily (at least - haven't tried Corvo) has an assortment of supernatural-assassin gifts that nearly all directly improve her ability to eliminate enemies non-lethally (or lethally).  I've cleared whole plazas without breakin' a sweat, thanks to her repertoire.

Really, it's everything I loved about Dishonored (and I love Dishonored), with all of the stuff I didn't like about Dishonored taken away.  It's Dishonored with more of the things I love, more of the reason I love it - it's original, but it reminds me of some of the best gaming of all time (BioShock, Thief: The Dark Project)/

One of the first runes I found was in the mouth of one of those whiskered whales.  This game shot straight for my heart, and pierced me through.  In other news,

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