What Does Dishonored 2 Really Bring To The Table?

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Dishonored 2 is out and even though I’ve already bough it I probably won’t be able to touch it for a while. It’s one of my most anticipated games for 2016 but I actually haven’t been paying much attention to it. It’s probably because of how the game has been advertised which mostly runs counter to why I’m buying it. How do you advertise parts of a blockbuster game other than combat and deep stories?

Maybe it’s also because I’m in media blackout mode after already being sure I was going to buy Dishonored 2. I’ve played all of developer Arkane Studios’ games and they’ve all been precisely my kind of game. I just know that I wasn’t very interested in the first pieces of footage Arkane showed off at E3 and a little bit after that.

Most of them were about all the cool ways in which you’ll be able to kill people or sneak around them. That kind of is the main selling point of Dishonored — it’s Thief with super powers. It’s just not the reason I’m buying the game. I actually had the most fun with the first game when I played through it without using any powers or weapons at all. It speaks to how much Arkane knows its audience that it will actually give players a choice at the beginning of the sequel to not accept any powers.

But what’s left after that?  Stealth, combat, and exploration through varied and intricately designed levels. And that’s the main reason I’m into Dishonored and Arkane’s other games.

The part about the first Dishonored I liked the most was the initial exploration of each level, discovering new and interesting ways to reach the objectives, or just finding fun things to play around with. Being from one of the designers of the original Deus ExDishonored’s main asset is how it hearkens to an age of action games built on complex, open-ended levels that felt like plausible places. The ball you attend in one level works because of all the components it brings together: the empty city streets surrounding the party, the wine cellar below, the courtyard outside, the party itself happening on different floors, and the restricted areas therein. They all fit to create a coherent vision of a place and an event which enhances the atmosphere with substance. The best fantasy that game sells isn’t the power fantasy, it’s the fantasy of going places you might never visit in real life and doing interesting things there. That’s what Thief was all about for me, and the thing that always stuck with me about System Shock 2 is how real and lived-in the decks of its space ship felt.

I guess we’re starting to get more games that feel like this. You’ve got Metal Gear Solid V and the new Hitman. In the middle of Mankind Divided right now, the only really appealing thing about the game compared to predecessor Human Revolution is its level design. I just like exploring the different areas. That’s what I’m anticipating the most out of Dishonored 2.

The only official video for it so far that tries to advertise this is the “Themed Missions” video which tries to play up the variety of locations you’ll visit in the game. That’s part of the charm of games like this and Hitman actually, anticipating what kind of location you’ll get to see next. I guess Dishonored 2’s initial E3 demonstration tried to do this to by showing off that time travel level. Everything else from the game though is all about the combat and powers. It’s understandable that this is what the largest segment of the user base might be sold on though.

But it begs the question: how do you advertise a game based simply on the places you’ll go in it? The closest example I can remember would be some of the advertisements for Hitman 2: Silent Assassin back in 2002. They said something like “Visit new places, Meet new people, Then kill them.” It was a joke but to me it’s probably the most appealing thing about the Hitman games. I think the new Hitman is being called “assassination tourism” or something. Maybe that’s what Dishonored is too.

BULLETS:

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