15 years on from the first game, the daughter of the Royal Protector Corvo Attano is flung into the perilous wastes of Karnaca. Her throne has been usurped by the Delilah Copperspoon, and revenge is the only goal. Emily Kaldwin brings with her an entirely different way to play in this bespoke immersive simulator, including a suite of new powers to upgrade. If you've played the first one, you probably know the basics already. You can approach each level as a meticulous sleuth, setting up traps and skulking through the shadows to orchestrate a non-lethal justified assassination or go guns blazing, preferring to brutalize your enemies and send swathes of rats to devour the grisly evidence. This is because Dishonored 2 is all about diversifying your playstyle, and it pulls it off with that famous Arkane polish that we adore them for.
I'm not messing around either, there are some intricate details in this game that would make Kojima blush. Think of them like mini unmarked quests from the Fallout series. In mission 3, which I think is a stroke of Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde inspired genius in its own right, there is a lift you use to get to the many floors. The designers also allow you to journey to the top of the heavily guarded tower and cut the wires, sending the lift plummeting to the floor and opening up an unmarked lost and found section which gives some crucial details on a character from the first game. It's touches like this from Harvey and the team that invoke such wanderlust in me for future levels, as it sets a gorgeous environmental precedent, elevating the sequel beyond its already masterful predecessor. This is further evidenced in the sheer scale of Dishonored 2. The mini-worlds the game drops you into this time are so much more open-plan and would take at least a few playthroughs to truly explore.
The gameplay also still retains its unique style. Every mission is distinct from the last, throwing up an entirely new challenge to test the powers you've chosen on your journey. Further, this time you have to be more careful with how you specialize. Unless you plan to really seek out the many runes in each level, you're going to be constrained to a few abilities. Do you want to be able to scale building and escape quickly with Far Reach and Agility, or focus on Domino so that you can take down 4 enemies with one sleeping dart after chaining a group of foes together. Emily also has a doppelganger, which, whilst offensive by nature, can be used as a fall damage safety net when you're dropping out of a tower. I don't even think the designers planned for that, but the whole point of the game is to solve these tricky situations with your own intuition, and Dishonored 2 knows how to strike a line between difficulty and gratuitous reward.
The story, whilst perhaps a touch less gripping than the first, works well and pulls you along the path to your throne. The characters will keep your intrigue throughout, and for a game where the narrative is perhaps not the main focus, it shines just like its new setting, the lavish jewel of the south.