A peek through the keyhole of Dishonored 2

Dishonored 2 on Xbox One, PC and PS4 at

Arriving at the Bethesda offices for a sneak (how apt!) preview of Dishonored 2, we were escorted into a vividly decorated boudoir draped in red velvet curtains, portraits of the scarred Corvo and royal Emily hung up on the walls in golden frames, with a central line of monitors and laptops readily set up to capture our first sample of Arkane Studios' newest delight. This setting was bathed in a subtle glow of dimmed lighting - almost giving the feel that we were gaming by candlelight. Very romantic. What was typically the Bethesda Boardroom had gloriously been transformed into what felt like a monarch's private quarters, and as the hum of electricity pulsed through the room, I couldn't wait to get started.

Loading up The Clockwork Mansion, a mission that takes place approximately half way into the game, I decided to begin my adventure into a new world graced with a new narrative, with a new playable character: Emily Kaldwin. The sequel to the original Dishonored is set 15 years after the first, so the young heiress you may have once known is now a grown woman - and a kickass assassin. She wants her throne back, and by golly, is she going to get it! If that means she has to transform into a shadow monster and slice her foes in half, so be it.

It had me and another member of the GAME team have our hands over our mouths exclaiming "OOOHHHH, that was cool!"

Initially what struck me were the landscapes and atmosphere. Graphically, it's gorgeous. Perhaps this level in particular wasn't as decrepit and grungy as its predecessor, but this was only one taster into the world of Karnaca, which has more European-looking coastal surroundings, rather than the plague-ravaged Dunwall. As I rolled up in a rollercoaster carriage, (Pimp My Ride, eat your heart out!) the hazy sun glowed over lush mountainous scenery and stone buildings. I even uttered in amazement, "woooow - that's pretty". It was one of those 'stop progressing through the game and just sit and pan the camera slowly and gawp in wonder' moments.

But I couldn't waste all day staring at the countryside; I had bad guys to kill! Or just incapacitate, depending on your playstyle.

That's the fantastic thing about Dishonored. You can go in like a madman with guns blazing, lobbing grenades at people and causing pure mayhem whilst you manically laugh at their demise. Or, you can stick to the shadows, skirt around corners and balance along ledges, only rendering foes unconscious when you absolutely need to. For the pros out there, you can even enter the building and eliminate your target without a single person even knowing you're there. No matter which way you want to play, the level still continues seamlessly.

Enter The Mansion

Thus begins Emily's objective: rescue your old friend Anton Sokolov who has been kidnapped, and take out the kidnapper himself: Kirin Jindosh, creator of the steampunk, Tim Burton-esque Clockwork Mansion. A feat of puzzle-solving and level design, in order to navigate the area you must pull one of the many levers scattered around which will then transform the building itself into a shifting network of platforms, staircases and walls. I felt a bit like a young Harry Potter hurrying up the Grand Staircase only for it to move and lead him to the third-floor corridor and the perils that lie within. But rather than three-headed Dobermans, The Clockwork Mansion is home to the super creepy Clockwork Soldiers; a part-bird, part-human robot hybrid... thing. With razor-sharp scythes as arms and visual awareness in both the front AND back (so good luck sneaking up behind them), you do NOT want to make these guys mindful of your presence. In my case, cue a frantic sprint around the corridors, swiping my knife as I run, blundering into guards and then getting electrocuted by an Arc Pylon in the middle of a room. Jindosh taunts something like, "and so ends the life of Emily Kaldwin..." Shut up, Jindosh. I'll get you next time.

Clockwork Combat

Slashing your sword desperately is definitely not the way to go in terms of combat. Dishonored 2 allows for a variety of tools and abilities to best take out your foes. The pistol, exploding bullets, grenades and crossbow bolts are essential for being a murderous psychopath, but you also come equipped with sleep darts, stun mines and the ability to strangle your rivals into an unconscious state if you're looking for a more Paragon approach. But take it from me, unleashing a slow motion crossbow bolt to your enemy's skull feels badass - think Fallout's VATS without all of the clipping issues. It had me and another member of the GAME team have our hands over our mouths exclaiming "OOOHHHH, that was cool!"

However, would what would Dishonored be without the variety of awesome supernatural powers at the protagonist's disposal?

As this was a demo of sorts, we were restricted to 3 powers for each character (I say 'restricted to', but it still felt like sufficient variety to deal with the enemies with diverse tactics). Far Reach allows Emily to teleport up to high ledges, evade danger and travel in fast jumps. Domino links together the fates of up to 3 characters, so whatever you do to one person will happen to the next. Super handy for taking out a bunch of guards in one fell swoop. It was very cool to see a headshot on one guard then make the guy's head explode next to him. Fabulous. My personal favourite was Shadow Walk, an ability that transforms Emily into a ghastly creature that crawls across the ground at an accelerated speed and is much harder for enemies to detect. The kill animation whilst in this form is brutal. Human kebab, anyone?

This game is an explorer's paradise with hidden runes and bonecharms strewn about in hard-to-reach nooks and crannies, handwritten notes that piece together subplots and backstories, a piano to tinkle on, a harp to pluck. The attention to detail in Dishonored 2 from what I've seen is sublime, and I utterly can't wait to see the entire game in all of its gory glory.

Written by Lucy Hale

Published: 04/10/2016

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