At Arkane Studios in Lyon we were witnessing how supernatural assassin Corvo returns to the pseudo Victorian-era and in a steampunk world more exaggerated and versatile than ever before. Dishonored 2 finally gives Corvo a voice, and has Emily from the first game fighting alongside him against the tyranny of the aristocrats.
The creative director of the Dishonored games, Harvey Smith, who rose to fame in the game world via his contribution to System Shock and Deus Ex among other things, casually tells us how, after his team had given everything to make Dishonored and its DLCs, he immediately had ideas about how to continue the story. This way the production of Dishonored 2 was able to start right after the first game hit stores. Now, after more than three years of development under the positive pressure brought about by the surprising popularity of the first game, this sequel is shaping up to be impressive, even though it hasn't yet gone entered the beta phase of development. Since the game has diversified its levels and characters (along with their special abilities), the production has been challenging. Nevertheless, Smith is more than proud of the game's current state and he really should be too, because like the first game, Dishonored 2 looks like a living work of art.
If Harvey is the body of Dishonored 2, art director Sebastien Mitton and his unbelievably detailed and unique artistic vision is its beating heart. Mitton, who lives in the middle of Lyon, explains how he is surrounded by reference points and inspiration that helps him create the game's multidimensional world. However, he didn't want to be lazy while creating the art for the sequel and that's why he went around the world in search of the carefully selected details. Mitton mentions that he found architecture in England, clothing and style from Mexico, and lighting from California for example. The handpicked art development team didn't have an easy job, though. For example, all of the main characters were moulded from clay to get the measurements just right, even characters on the periphery are filled with detail. In order to combine the artistic look of the game with realistic lightning so they could achieve the best possible outcome, a new game engine - Void Engine - was built. Mitton who already made an impact with the art in the first Dishonored, points out that the goal of the visuals in Dishonored 2 is to stab generic sequels to the neck with a dagger and make some waves. Based on what we've seen so far indicates that the dagger will sink deep, and the waves will be like a tsunami.
Dishonored 2 begins 15 years after the events of the first game. It starts with a mission played with Emily, whom we all knew under different circumstances in the first Dishonored. Years have turned the little girl into a proficient assassin. After the mission the player needs to choose between Emily and Corvo to play as for the rest of the game. Both of the characters have their own special powers, but Harvey Smith underlines that their powers don't highlight just combat or stealth, rather they leave the way open for players to express themselves. Corvo has the same powers that he had in the first game (with some minor enhancements), and Emily has completely new powers. For example, Emily can grab objects and enemies from a distance and toss them in the air. She can also enchant enemies and link them together to share the same destiny, and death is an obvious destiny in Dishonored. There was also talk of a momentary doppelgänger ability.
The first and the last missions are based in the city of Dunwall, otherwise Dishonored 2 is played in a southern city called Carnaga. Dunwall's gloomy streets are long gone and they're replaced with Spanish style and well-lit streets. Buildings in Carnaga are much taller than they are in Dunwall, thus they create shady hideouts and offer more possibilities for those who like to climb than before. Rats, and the plague that came with them, are also ancient history. Carnaga is still not without pests, and it's bothered by blood flies, that like rats are harmless when alone but deadly in a swarm. Contrary to rats, blood flies don't assist the player by destroying bodies, but rather they lay eggs on them and reproduce. Smith tells us that the more the player leaves bodies behind, the more the game regenerates blood flies to harass the player. Blood flies also have nests that they defend fiercely. Reacting to movement and sound, these insects seem to be quite an annoyance in Carnaga.
In this new setting whale oil features much less prominently than in the first Dishonored, and silver and wood production are the city's principal industries. This is made apparent by decoration framed in wood, and by surprising and dangerous dust storms that blind the city, themselves a result of the extreme silver mining. Naturally the player can take advantage of the dust storms to advance without notice or even kill enemies without drawing much attention.
Unfortunately we couldn't play the game ourselves, but we were offered a good look at what's to come when a handful of missions were shown to us. In one of the missions Emily had to kill a high ranking officer who brought trouble to the whole city, but also to a notorious gang. By taking the dead body of the officer to the gang's leader, Emily earned certain favours from them. She moved along the streets easily, but also without sound as she uses her special abilities, killing enemies easily using the cover of the randomly generated dust storms. Another mission we saw was played with Corvo and it demonstrated the more chaotic situations you encounter in the game. Corvo gets into a fight near the hive of the blood flies and the action is frantic. The winged foes are poking Corvo while he is battling his enemies. The humming of the wings is deafening and once Corvo's energy is running out there was nothing else he could do other than take control on one of the blood flies and fly away from the dangerous situation. Both of the missions offered typical Dishonored action, contrasting the game's polar opposite play-styles. This sequel hasn't changed the basic elements which worked so well last time, but rather emphasises the best features and adds new interesting elements, before wrapping everything up with more style.
Our visit to Arkane Studios convinced us that Dishonored 2 is a rightly anticipated sequel for fans, and a potential gem for all players who love stealth and action games with a twist. The team behind it has not held back at all and if they've made any compromises, we can't see them. Pressure on the devs to explore multiplayer of some sort hasn't affected them, and Smith tells us that they still wholeheartedly believe in exciting story-driven single-player experiences, and that they're trying to do that as best they can. Based on what we've seen, think they're on track to deliver just that when Dishonored 2 lands on PC, PS4 and Xbox One on November 11.