Do you like my alliteration? I do.
We’ve slowly been getting details throughout the course of the year, but at Monday’s Bethesda press conference, Arkane’s Harvey Smith (Co-creative Director) gave us a tantalizing look into the next foray into their Game of the Year-winning steampunk world. The presentation guided audience members and streamers through the dusty streets of a paradise-turned-nightmare: Karnaca, capital of the island of Serkonos at the southernmost tip of the empire.
Dishonored 2 opens with Emily Kaldwin, now Empress, and an aged Corvo attending the ceremony that marks the anniversary of the death of Jessamine Kaldwin. We finally get to hear both of their voice actors (Stephen Russel of Thief and Skyrim as Corvo, Erica Lutrell of Steven Universe and Uncharted 4 as Emily) in action and interaction. When the Empire is once again thrust into chaos (the Empire of the Isles seems to deal with that a lot) by the machinations of the so-called “Crown Killer” and a “supernatural usurper,” Emily and Corvo set off to Karnaca to try and put things back together.
Smith demonstrated the slick mid-cinematic choice between the two characters (players will be able to experience the game as either one) but focused on Emily and her brand-new powers for almost all of the conference; Far Reach and Shadow Walk for rapid travel, and Domino and Mesmerize for crowd control.
The first thing I noticed about the gameplay, though, was a much greater emphasis on parkour and movement. Dishonored already had smooth mechanics, and its sequel looks to be even more polished. Emily vaults and climbs like she belongs in a Ubisoft game, and Smith noted that there is a “greater emphasis on vertical space” this time around. The towers are taller, the rooftops are more developed (and guarded), and sneaky alternate paths snake through the buildings. The entire world is designed to be, as Smith put it, “atmospheric and exploration-rich.”
And then we have the genuinely jaw-dropping visuals. Dishonored’s signature art style is on full display, amped up for next-gen with Arkane’s new Void Engine. The player can still see the inspiration that the studio takes from paintings in the backdrops and streets. To illustrate, Smith stated that appropriate lighting was a major focus for the developers and emphasized his point by showing off a city street where sunbeams filtered through a slatted roof. I noticed that, occasionally, a small blip of reflected sunlight would appear on the screen, caught either by the camera or by Emily’s spyglass; quite a nice touch. And while the movement of the game’s AI seemed a little stiff (as with most Bethesda games), it didn’t detract from the overall gorgeousness of Arkane’s broken world.
On the flip side, Karnaca has a seedy side, much like Dunwall. There are segments of the city in squalor, where citizens forced to work in the silver mines toil and the Overseers war with a gang known as the Howlers. In that vein, dust storms kicked up by the overworked miners randomly swirl in and reduce visibility to near-zero. And, in true Dishonored fashion, these are the places Emily/Corvo must frequent.
The first mission of the game has been well-covered already, but Smith also unveiled another intriguing segment a bit later in the conference. A mission called “A Crack in the Slab,” takes place in a dilapidated mansion caught between two timestreams (one where it’s in ruins, one in which guards still patrol opulent halls) as a result of the empire’s constant meddling with the occult. Though her powers won’t work in a place so torn by the Void, the intervention of The Outsider allows Emily to step through time to slip past enemies or to strike without warning. Each mission, according to Arkane, is sculpted with a specific, unique theme in mind, and Smith hinted that there would be more puzzles to solve during exploration.
All in all, Arkane brought a strong showing this year. Preorders are available now, including a beautiful collector’s edition that comes with a replica of Corvo’s mask, Emily’s ring, and the Definitive Edition of the original game, remastered with all the DLC. For a limited time, other preorders will also include the Definitive Edition.
Dishonored 2 comes out November 11. Are you as excited as I am?
Thoughts? Let us know! And, as always, stay tuned and stay shiny!