Emily’s Domino ability might be the best stealth ability ever, sharing the fate of one foe, however brutal, between two or three others in a supernatural chain.
Chris Thursten: Arkane are creating a design legacy worthy of Looking Glass or Ion Storm—appropriate, given that they’re doing more than any other studio to carry the legacy of Thief and System Shock into the modern era. Yet for all that Dishonored 2 owes to the PC’s long history of superlative stealth sims, it’s also a true original. Its fantastic movement systems and dynamic violence can trace their lineage back to Arkane’s underrated Errol Flynn-em-up Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, while its artistic direction ignores games entirely and looks to traditional art and real history. I suspect that I’d love this game for its sense of place even if I didn’t also love it for the freedom it gives me to approach encounters in my own way.
Andy Kelly: The sheer artistry on display in Dishonored 2 is astonishing. Arkane excels at making worlds that feel organic, storied with history and culture, and Karnaca is its greatest creation yet. It’s both a convincing, beautifully realised setting and a detailed, intricate playground for Corvo and Emily’s suite of imaginative supernatural powers. From Kirin Jindosh’s magnificent Clockwork Mansion, whose opulent rooms shift and fold away at the pull of a lever, to the faded beauty of the storm-choked Dust District, it’s an incredible artistic accomplishment. The game is, throughout, a perfect marriage of art and design, using its architecture to both evoke a rich sense of place and give you multiple ways to navigate and exploit its sprawling, complex levels.
Phil Savage: This is a better written game than its predecessor. Not all of the dialogue lands, but the buildings are filled with pages of text that expand your knowledge of the world and its characters. There are hundreds of these stories to be found, to the point where I’ve heard comparisons to Gone Home. That’s not entirely accurate—Gone Home didn’t have spring razor mines—but it is a way for Dishonored 2 to encourage and reward exploration.
James Davenport: I’m halfway through my second playthrough of Dishonored 2 and I’m still finding surprising ways to screw up. Emily’s Domino ability might be the best stealth ability ever, sharing the fate of one foe, however brutal, between two or three others in a supernatural chain. Imagine my surprise when I grabbed one Domino’d guard the moment before his friend took a shot at me. One died in my arms and the other slumped to the ground immediately after. If you’re a monster, summoning a doppleganger at the bottom of a big drop and drop-assassinating it is, um, a handy way to get around. As Corvo, I’m discovering the joy of Blink-kicking guards off of high places and freezing time to arrange a deadly Rube Goldberg machine of crossbow bolts and bodies that turn dangerous situations into horrific contraptions. And the depth of Dishonored 2’s simulation goes beyond guard behaviors and whalepunk stealth abilities. Even when you’re halfway across a level, it’s keeping track of the proliferation of bloodflies between corpses, and if you left a mine somewhere, you may come back to a swarm of deadly insects poking at a pile limbs signifying the former patrol. It’s simply one of the most complex, playful, gorgeous stealth simulations PC gaming has ever seen and likely will for some time.
Phil Savage: A Crack In The Slab is one of the best levels of the year—and this is a year that gave us Titanfall 2’s Effect and Cause, and Hitman’s Sapienza. It also shows off Dishonored 2’s dedication to providing consequences to your actions. James mentions the moment-to-moment depth of the simulation, but there’s a narrative depth too. Dishonored 2 feels reactive, and that lets you enjoy the effect your actions have on the world. This is taken to the extreme in A Crack In The Slab, where the conceit of the level lets you experiment in an ecosystem of cause and effect. Whatever you try, Dishonored 2 has an answer—a way to tip the hat, and acknowledge what you’ve done. Never mind being the best game of the year, this is one of the cleverest of the decade.