by Michael Wells
Welcome back to another installment of Games to Get Excited About. For a few months now, we’ve been playing around with the format of this column but now that I’m taking it over for the foreseeable future, I’ve decided on a hybrid approach. Each month I’m going to call out an upcoming game that I think is worthy of attention and give a detailed preview of why I think it may be worth paying attention to. After that, I’ll give a brief rundown of any notable releases coming in the month ahead.
So, without further ado, let’s get to it!
Spoiler Warning: This entry discusses the plot and characters of the first Dishonored
Dishonored 2 is the sequel to the 2012 stealth action game Dishonored. Dishonored was a critical success and ended up being a bit of a surprise hit for publisher Bethesda and developer Arkane Studios. After four years Arkane is back with a sequel and is hoping that gamers are going to be up for another trip to the Empire of the Isles.
The wronged Imperial bodyguard of the first game, Corvo Attano, returns as one of two playable characters in the sequel. Players can now choose to experience the story through Corvo’s eyes or through the eyes of his daughter, Empress Emily Kaldwin. Though the levels they explore will be the same, the two characters have different abilities and powers, meaning that they may approach challenges very differently.
So, what’s worth getting excited about? Well, let’s talk about what made the first game so good.
Superb Level Design
A great deal has been written about a particular level in Dishonored. In fact, as soon as I mentioned the game, I’m betting a few readers thought to themselves, “Dishonored, that’s the game with the party, right?” The fourth level of the game, “Lady Boyle’s Last Party,” is often brought up in discussions about truly great gaming levels. It’s easy to see why, too. The level is novel, takes place in an intricately designed space that incorporates not just a mansion but the quarantined streets around it. Players make their way to the party only to discover that it is a masquerade party and they have no need to skulk around as their mask allows them to fit right in.
The level is cheeky, full of sly character moments, and offers a number of ways to dispatch your target. Like the best levels in immersive sims such as Deus Ex, it is full of little discoveries that make you realize that you could have approached your mission in a completely different way and encourages you to play through again to experiment. What I think a lot of people miss though, in their, rush to praise “Lady Boyle’s Last Party,” is that almost every level in the game is as good. They play with your expectations, let you get familiar with the various powers and tools at your disposal, and surprise you by letting you discover how all the pieces fit together.
The thing that I like best about the level design in Dishonored is the way that levels help to tell the story. “The Flooded District” takes place at a time when, as a character, Corvo has been betrayed and left for dead. The level is very long and keeps up a sense of being unprepared in hostile territory. As you scrounge for tools and elixirs you fall into a mindset of desperation which feels like a mirror for what the character must be going through. Later, you return to an area that was previously the game’s mission hub to find it crawling with enemies. Your familiarity with the space and all of its hidden nooks and crannies lets you feel like a canny predator even in the face of overwhelming numbers. It takes what is a moment of triumphant return for the character and makes you, the player, feel powerful and in control.
A Fascinating World
Dishonored takes place in the fantastical city of Dunwall. Dunwall imagines a place where the early excesses of the Industrial Revolution met the horrors of commercial whaling. It is a grim place but it feels fully realized. In both the broad strokes and tiny details Dunwall sucks you in and invites you to discover more of its beauty and depravity. The second game is taking us to a different region of the game’s world. I am hopeful that it will be just as fascinating and intricate as Dunwall.
DLC Done Right
DLC is a sore spot for many gamers but I think that Arkane really got it right for Dishonored. Dishonored has two pieces of story DLC, “The Knife of Dunwall,” and “The Brigmore Witches.” Rather than continue the story of Corvo, the DLC campaign puts you in the roll of one of the game’s antagonists, the assassin Daud. The DLC features all new levels which continue to play with design ideas and new challenges, building on the work of the base game. The DLC campaign also gives Daud a voice as opposed to the mute Corvo. Not only was the DLC and great value, offering another full game’s worth of levels, it also was clear that Arkane was still being incredibly ambitious about what they could do with the Dishonored formula.
More of a Good Thing
Dishonored 2 has some large shoes to fill. Not only is it the follow up to a very impressive title, it’s coming out when gamers are growing increasingly jaded about pre-release hype and developer promises. The information that Arkane has shared so far makes it seem that they paid a lot of attention to how players approached the previous game and want to expand on the elements that players enjoyed. Many players in the first game decided to play the game without using any of Corvo’s supernatural powers. When Arkane saw how popular that play-style was with the player base, they decided to add a specific no powers mode to Dishonored 2 which players can select at the beginning of the game.
In the end, my hope is that Arkane has continued to refine and polish the Dishonored formula just as they did with the first game’s DLC. If they have, and if they have managed to transition to the the new generation of gaming hardware, then Dishonored 2 could be something very special. Dishonored 2 is currently scheduled to release November 11 in North America for the PC, PS4, and XBO.
Notable October Releases:
Dragon Quest Builders
A number of games have tried to capture a bit of Minecraft’s success over the past few years. One of the more high profile attempts is Square Enix’s Dragon Quest Builders. The game takes the familiar monsters and characters of the Dragon Quest series and plops them down in a world of blocky landscapes that will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s ever been in the same room as Minecraft. Impressions from the game’s Japanese release were generally positive so I am thinking about giving this a try.
Paper Mario Color Splash
The Paper Mario series makes its debut on the Wii U late in the system’s life cycle. Paper Mario games have gone through a lot of changes through the years and Color Splash seems to mostly follow in the design footsteps of 3DS series entry Paper Mario Sticker Star. Sticker Star was a divisive entry in the franchise so Color Splash may not be a slam dunk recommendation. Still, it promises to have some great art and the zany writing that has been a hallmark of the series since the beginning. If you’re a fan and you own a Wii U, Color Splash might be worth checking out.
Ok, so this one isn’t a game. The consumer VR revolution continues in October with the Playstation VR. The price tag is lower than its PC competitors but still fairly prohibitive. Preview impressions seems solid with concessions to the PS4’s weaker processing power. Like the Kinect before it, console VR will live or die based on the games that use its functionality. I’m hopeful that it turns out well but we’re going to have to see if the software support is there. Fingers crossed.
That’s it for Games to Get Excited About for October. Are you looking forward to Dishonored 2? What October release are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments.