If you wanted an improved Dishonored 1, I’d wager you’ll be quite pleased with Dishonored 2. The opening section actually echoes the first game quite a bit in the way The Force Awakens evoked A New Hope. Arcane Studios knows their IP well and created an ideal sequel.

The same mix of Bioshock environmental storytelling and Deus Ex choice-of-approach is the main meat of the game. You’ll spend the majority of your time avoiding guards and stronger enemies while exploring fantastically imagined cities and habitats.

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The replay value should be a large strength (I’m halfway done my first play through). There are multiple approaches to almost every situation, lethal/non-lethal options, and two playable characters with different abilities. The completionist will find plenty to do here. There are also plenty of hidden magical items called Runes and Bone Charms. The Runes act as the leveling up system, as you cash them in for new powers. The Bone Charms are magical accessories that give slight buffs, with a later option to craft them. You could spend many enjoyable hours hunting down every last Rune and Charm as Arcane did a great job of letting you know where they are while still demanding various levels of puzzle-solving to actually acquire. It reminds me of tracking down the optional stars in Mario 64. You know they exist, but must experiment and explore until you finally earn your treasure. Tying these items to such gameplay changing improvements provides excellent motivation and reward. If you’re stuck at a difficult spot in the game, Rune-hunting provides a nice change of pace with the reward of new abilities that could make your next attempts much easier.

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Combat is fast and furious as you balance melee with ranged weapons and a wide variety of abilities. It’s the same simple but demanding system from the previous game. Time your blocks perfectly to stagger the enemy and finish them off with a gory death blow. You can be quickly overwhelmed by even the simplest soldiers if surrounded, but with a calm hand and great timing you’ll be wiping out groups like the trained killer you are. It’s a fantastic balance of empowerment and challenge.

The story progresses into a classic mystery structure, following one clue to the next, almost always requiring an infiltration towards the villain or clue of the moment. It feels like a television series of strong mini arcs and so far the overall story hasn’t grabbed me as much as the smaller moments. I’m at the halfway point and currently struggling to see how most of the elements link together in a meaningful way. The overall narrative could come around by the end but the short-story format works very well for video game sessions. Much like Bioshock, the individual parts and environmental ambience are the real stars of the show. There are plenty of Bioshock moments as you make your way through darkly beautiful levels while a disturbed villain taunts you with character building lore. The story and goals often change as new information is revealed.

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The level design so far has been absolutely superb with tremendous audio/visual atmosphere. Streets feel alive and dwellings feel lived in. Drawers have believable items and there’s always a sense of believable purpose throughout. The micro-stories of each area are very well done, often in subtle ways. The tension runs high as I’ve crept around even the most pedestrian buildings, never knowing quite what to expect in the next room. My first encounter with the abominable Blood Flies was particularly harrowing. I had heard so much from eavesdropping and reading notes, that entering my first condemned building to deal with them was downright terrifying. I had built them up so much in my own mind that I only dared to slowly inch along, just getting close enough to grab my loot and run. Each time they angrily buzzed up at my presence I considered abandoning the quest….Until I attacked and realized they aren’t nearly as dangerous as I thought. However, this is still an excellent example of what Arcane does best with this series.

I’m under ten hours in and feel roughly half done. The experience has been fabulous so far and I can’t imagine the last half dropping the ball so badly that I couldn’t recommend it to anyone who loves stealth combat in magnificent environments.

I’ll post a full review on either Sunday/Monday with video review and discussion to go with it.

Will you be playing Dishonored 2?

Reviewed on a PS4

Check out the first hour of gameplay