Arkane Studios have a way of producing highly intelligent and engaging RPG titles with a great deal of freedom in gameplay. 2012’s Dishonored was a perfect example of when the developers of Thief excelled and made one of the most innovated FPSs on the 7th Generation consoles.

Dishonored 2 begins 15 years after the original game, Emily is now the empress and her father is her royal protector. On the anniversary of her mother’s death, things are about to get worse with the arrival of our antagonist Delilah Copperspoon, who claims she is the rightful heir to the throne. Strangely enough most of the royal guards and the people of Dunwall buy this person’s story and kill off those who try to protect Emily. At this moment we get our first change from the original and can choose from controlling Emily or Corvo throughout the campaign.

Dishonored 2 doesn’t greatly extend on the gameplay of the original, but rather to redefine certain aspects to advance the experience. The design and scale of the worlds have greatly expanded upon, creating more of an immersive sense of exploration and traversal freedom. The worlds are captivating and stunningly beautiful from exploring the streets of Dunwall, Docks of Karnaca and the impressive Clockwork mansion show incredible visual depth. Technically the game runs well for the most part but I did encounter some frame rate issues on larger, busier levels such as the Clockwork Mansion. There was also some graphical clippings on exteriors and backgrounds when I re-positioned my view or simply turned around in another direction as the Void engine tried to load the world before me.

Dishonored 2 pursues engaging mechanics with elegant weaponry, supernatural powers and freedom of choice that help develop the intelligent gameplay at hand. Each character harbours their own powers and perks but play relatively the same. Most of their powers remain similar with a couple of dramatic alterations such as Corvo's ability to freeze time and Emily's shadow walk form. But both have at hand the most useful powers such as Far Reach (Emily) and the classic Blink (Corvo) that allows fast, far distance travel within a blink of an eye. These elements help in many ways, from devastating combat situations to advancing one's own exploration to acquire fantastic rewards or to discover new side quests and interesting set pieces. One of my favourite moments was stumbling onto attempted burglary where I could either stop it or carry it out the robbery and steal a great deal of loot.

This brings me onto what makes Dishonored 2 such an engaging title with the diverse sense of freedom throughout your journey. Whether you take a stealthy approach for a low chaos effect or decide to use full force with your deadly arsenal but risk upsetting the balance in Karnaca. There is a great variation of lethal and nonlethal weapons and tactics to progress through these impressive worlds and their problems. Even though I felt the game is more accustom for players to take a brutal, action orientated approach over stealth. I say this because using stealth as a means to progress is extremely difficult and at times unbalanced. I get it, Dishonored makes you work hard for the “good” ending but the biggest problem with Dishonored 2 is that it’s inconsistent nature and infuriating lack of logic at times.

Partaking in stealth can be soul crushing or just plain unforgiving if you fail. You don’t have a meter to show how visible you while hiding which is annoying when you’re trying to hide in a dark area or how hiding under a small desk next to a patrolling enemy makes you completely invisible. Not to mention the split second time limit for enemies to fully recognise you even if you just peep over cover and expose your face by accident. The crushing amount of resistance you meet when spotted is at times just unbearable, compared to if you go in all guns blazing, using explosives and causing much carnage. This is what makes Dishonored 2 a little tiresome, the over reactive nature of NPCs.

But one side of the coin, I discovered that some of the game’s inhabitants (even if they’re in the next room) don’t react to a loud explosion and screams of their dying allies. But slowly walking along a balcony over an NPC situated at his desk, alerted him into a frenzied and paranoid state. This turned the situation into a mass murdering mess as he hunted me down relentlessly and called for backup when I was spotted. Suddenly I saw a dozen red markers light up and the area’s entire NPC count stormed my position where all-out war took place.

It’s annoying as many triggers or alerts seems illogical or are just dumbfounded. I found it easier in most cases to just run and shoot everyone in my path. If the stealth is meant to be more difficult then that’s understandable. But at times it becomes agonising to try and sneak your way around, considering stealth in first person is never really that easy to begin with. Keep in mind that the NPCs can be absolutely ruthless and if you’re trying for the Ghost ranking, prepare to quick reload a lot.

Not to say that combat isn’t enjoyable, as it’s immensely improved from the previous game and the supernatural elements and brutal weaponry play beautifully into the combat. I vastly enjoyed using grenades, incendiary bolts and even the Void power to clear our groups of enemies. My personal favourite was the Domino perk that allows up to four enemies to have the same fate as one fallen enemy in the group whether you kill or knock them out. It’s handy for both stealth and those overwhelming combat situations and overall the weapons are pretty balanced and your powers can really help you out of a troublesome situation. There's plenty of different foes to encounter from standard City watchmen to those creepy clockwork soldiers in the Clockwork Mansion. There's even a great nod to the original's Granny Rags with a new gang leader who transforms into a pack of hungry rats when attacked.

You can play this with a nonlethal, stealth approach but it’s a gruelling and at ties unfair ordeal. Playing with bloodshed and brutally seems more in flow with the game and I found it the better option to be able to explore the world and fully accustom myself to the wonderful inner workings of this rat infested world. The complaints I have are small in comparison to the impressive experince Dishonored 2 offers as I never stopped investing in this game. I clocked in around 15 hours with Emily with a mixture of stealth and violence and saw much of Corvo’s campaign to decide it had many elements that differ but remained very much the same.

Still, Dishonored 2 ranks in as one of the best games of the year even with some technical issues in presentation and the stealth mechanics feeling a little unbalanced. The world is captivating; the mechanics are well executed and deliver an entertaining experience.

+ Engrossing World
+ Enriching and entertaining gameplay
+ Huge replay value and freedom of choice
+ Domino and Void are awesome powers!

- Inconsistencies with Stealth elements
- Agonising and brutal sense of punishment
- Various glitches and graphical errors

An Xbox One copy of Dishonored was provided by Bethesda for the purpose of this review