Catharsis is important. Without it, man may never have evolved past the point of smashing delicate things and nearby people in his fits of rage or sorrow. And of all the themes at play in Dishonored 2 , from abuse of power to class warfare, catharsis emerges as the most relevant to the current moment. It has, by most accounts, been a woeful 2016. You’re likely carrying some baggage, deep down, that needs to go somewhere. Dishonored 2 can be that somewhere. Artful, stirring and immersive, the world and narrative of Dishonored 2 merits two trips, one as Corvo and one as Emily, to entice you to access parts of yourself that may take more than a pass to understand.
If that seems too esoteric, don’t worry. Dishonored 2 is equal parts action and drama. If you don’t want arty-farty themes, relax. It is very much a found world. Rushing through cutscenes and killing everything that moves is as viable a strategy as ghosting and reading and checking the wiki. Although, you’d be best to engage with some of the stealth portion of “stealth action game” to get the most of the systems at play. Try to sneak a little even if it’s clumsy. Guards (and Clock Work soldiers) are more formidable as watchers than fighters, so I recommend you bump up the difficulty if you’re just out to sever heads.
And you should be out to sever heads.
I chose Emily for my merciful, low chaos playthrough. As much as I respect the methodical tedium of a non-lethal stealth approach, it just wasn’t as fun. Again, I come back to catharsis. Really feeling Corvo’s story as someone who just got totally fucked over by the universe and hacking my way through the assholes-as-agents took little effort to enjoy. This is 2016, after all. Spilling loads of blood in Karnaca without consequence is a power no one should have in the real world. But if you had it, how would you use it right now?
Bring that feeling to Dishonored 2 and you will have a grand time.
Unfortunately, the narrative didn’t give as much to my urges as I would’ve liked. I can count on one hand the number of notable dialogue options you get in the whole game. Dishonored 2 isn’t about overt narrative choices, outside of a big moment at the end there aren’t any hand-wringing dilemmas. You either decide you’re going to kill people or not, and adjust your playstyle accordingly. When it comes to story, you get what you give in Dishonored 2 in terms of attention. But I don’t think it’s a fair trade, and you get almost as much for shorting on story as you do for going long and reading the dozens of notes and books scattered through the maps.
Aesthetically, it’s gorgeous no matter how you’re playing. Outside of some heavy clipping here and there my Xbox One version looked great. Players who appreciate art and design will delight in the small but supple details found in things like furniture and flatware. Everything feels precise and purposeful in a way that many open-world experiences are not. And, depending on your mood, it’s great fun smashing the pretty little shinies, too. Chucking a whiskey tumbler into a tray of bottles evokes some real Tennessee Williams melodrama even if no one is watching.
Dishonored 2 is as good a game as 2016 can give us. And it’s worth having on the shelf in case 2017 sucks, too.